Parallel between Syria and Economics?

In contemplating the latest crises in Syria I found helpful Thomas Freidman’s article, “Same War, Different Country,” (New York Times, Sept. 8, 2013). Referring to Syria and other countries in the Arab world he wrote,
“The center exists in these countries, but is weak and unorganized. It’s because there are pluralistic societies – mixtures of tribes and religious sects, namely Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, Kurds, Druze and Turkmen – but they lack any sense of citizenship or deep ethic of pluralism. That is tolerance, cooperation and compromise. They could hold together as long as there was a dictator to protect (and divide) everyone from everyone else. But when the dictator goes, and you are a pluralist society but lack pluralism, you can’t build anything because there is never enough trust for one community to cede power to another – not without an army of the center to protect everyone from everyone. In short, the problem now across the Arab East is not just poison gas, but poisoned hearts. Each tribe or sect believes it is in a rule-or-die struggle against the next, and when everyone believes this, it becomes self-fulfilling.”
Friedman’s insights also elucidate the current situation in economics. Neoclassical economics has defined the contours of education, has peremptorily dictated what is acceptable economics, and has “bullied” our students into thinking like economists. Neoclassical economics by usurping a dictatorial role has extirpated dissent and sullied heterodox economics as non-economics, thus preventing a genuine holistic and pluralist economics from providing workable solutions, and constricting economics to proselytize rather than educate. I do not naïvely assume pluralism is necessary and sufficient to stabilize Syria; nor a panacea for economics, but the opposite, at least for economics, a continued dictatorship of one view and extirpation of dissenting views indeed ‘poisons the hearts’ and is not tolerable.

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