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Overdosing on Heterodoxy Can Kill You

CAMBRIDGE – Ever since the 2008 financial crisis, it has been common to chastise economists for not having predicted the disaster, for having offered the wrong prescriptions to prevent it, or for having failed to fix it after it happened. The call for new economic thinking has been persistent – and justified. But all that is new may not be good, and that all that is good may not be new.

The 50th anniversary of China’s Cultural Revolution is a reminder of what can happen when all orthodoxy is tossed out the window. Venezuela’s current catastrophe is another: A country that should be rich is suffering the world’s deepest recession, highest inflation, and worst deterioration of social indicators. Its citizens, who live on top of the world’s largest oil reserves, are literally starving and dying for lack of food and medicine.

While this disaster was brewing, Venezuela won accolades from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the Economic Commission for Latin America, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the US Center for Economic Policy Research, among others.

So what should the world learn from the country’s descent into misery? In short, Venezuela is the poster child of the perils of rejecting economic fundamentals.