Skip to main content


Myths and Myth-making around the life and contributions to economics of A W H Phillips


Speaker:James Forder, University of Oxford
Date: Friday 31 March 2017
Time: 15.30
Location: Matrix Lecture Theatre, Building One

Further details

Phillips is known as the supposed discoverer of an inflation/unemployment relationship which led to inflationist policy in the 1960s and the 1970s. That historical story is meritless, as argued in Forder, Macroeconomics and the Phillips curve myth, OUP 2014. Phillips’ life and other work has also been quite widely discussed, but a collection of poor interpretations have become commonplace here as well. In various respects several authors have shown a pronounced tendency to heroize Phillips and exaggerate the importance and/or impact of his work. I consider Phillips’ biography, the Phillips machine, briefly the curve, and his work on control theory and econometrics. Much of it is of undoubted quality, if now dated, but the more interesting points concern the ways in which biographers have painted these things. It is as if authors have overcompensated for the demeaning caricature of him which arose in connection with the curve, by presenting him as a hero, perhaps a saint, certainly a genius, and a man of great influence. They present these things so as to make another caricature.