Professor Ferguson, There’s This Thing Called “Google”….

Niall Ferguson, May 4th:

My disagreements with Keynes’s economic philosophy have never had anything to do with his sexual orientation. It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life.

Niall Ferguson, May 7th:

Not for one moment did I mean to suggest that Keynesian economics as a body of thought was simply a function of Keynes’ sexuality. But nor can it be true—as some of my critics apparently believe—that his sexuality is totally irrelevant to our historical understanding of the man. My very first book dealt with the German hyperinflation of 1923, a historical calamity in which Keynes played a minor but important role. In that particular context, Keynes’ sexual orientation did have historical significance. The strong attraction he felt for the German banker Carl Melchior undoubtedly played a part in shaping Keynes’ views on the Treaty of Versailles and its aftermath.


  1. Paul Goodman says

    “It’s simply false to suggest, as I did, that…”

    Is this a misquote? I’ve seen it elsewhere as well. Maybe he just misspoke or made a typo, but it sounds like he’s calling himself a liar…

    • Jonathan Zasloff says

      It was part of his “unqualified apology,” so he was blaming himself. 72 hours later, with fewer people looking, he decided to qualify it.

      • Warren Terra says

        His “unqualified apology” was well written and seemingly without reservation. But his sincerity was always dubious, especially because it rapidly became clear that he’d been making his pathetic pathetic ad hominem slurs against Keynes repeatedly and for years. Still: good apology, and if he’d kept his trap otherwise shut the apology might have worked. And indeed: a couple of days later he vents his spleen in a spectacular fashion, whining about how unfair it is that he’s being held accountable for his vileness.

        It really is that ridiculous “undoubtedly” that sells it, though. There is no conceivable way he could justify the claim, so it’s clearly just his bile boiling over. As has been clear for years – see the Felix The Cat incident, for example – Ferguson is an over-promoted, twistedly bitter man.

        PS His Reith Lectures of a couple of years ago, in theory one of the greatest honours Britain can offer to a public intellectual, were completely unlistenable – sheer mendacity piled as high as he could from beginning to end, straight out of the fever dreams of Fox News.

      • Ken Rhodes says

        “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

        Emerson, of course, did not have to face up to the Internet making it easy to check on him.

  2. Colin says

    I took Ferguson’s comment about Keynes’ family life as a sign he’s spent so much time with wingnuts that he’s ‘gone native’. It’s the kind of theory that only makes sense in the bizarre, non-reality-based world of ‘movement conservatives’, where gay people are somehow conspiring to destroy heterosexual families and society.

    • mazuma says

      …he’s spent so much time with wingnuts that he’s ‘gone native’.

      Absolutely. Do you remember that piece The NY Magazine ran on Jeff Greene before the election? Greene is a Dem. billionaire who was arguing at the time for higher taxes on the 1%. Here are the key paragraphs in regard to Ferguson:

      Greene grew up middle class, and like many in his tax bracket, he’s since lost some perspective. But he insists his values remain as solid as ever. “I try to think when I go to bed every night, how much good did I do in the world?” he says. During his time on the campaign trail, he told the Milken audience, he caught a glimpse of how some of the 99 percent were living, and it was chilling. “I went to one living room in Liberty City; she was a single mom, 45 years old, 300 pounds,” he recounted. “All she was talking about was her $646 check which was coming in three days which she ­needed to buy more food.” This got the crowd’s attention, and the room filled with the sound of harrumphs. But it wasn’t this woman that set Greene’s mind on fire. It was her children. “One had been shot, one was in jail, two had gang problems.” He trailed off. “The role models those kids have—gang ­members—of course those kids are going to go in the wrong ­direction.” If the kids were given access to ­education, he continued, to ­after-school programs—

      “Dream on,” Ferguson drawled in response, and the audience broke out in applause. “Dream. On.”

      Greene gets this kind of reaction a lot. “Nobody gets it,” he grumbles, gunning over the boardwalk that leads from his boathouse to the beach. “I see David Koch a lot of the time. His policies are ridiculous. I don’t think he’s ever been to one of these schools where they have a rolling cart, where one computer has to go to different classrooms, and it can make so much difference, a $700 computer! I don’t think these guys realize, this is what they’re cutting off? To say to those kids, ‘Too bad, every man for himself’?”

      Ferguson is a callous bastard. A beastie-boy. He deserves no respect. To call him “Professor” is to denigrate the word.

  3. Ebenezer Scrooge says

    What Colin sez.

    The funniest thing about the whole flap to me is that, if anything, it is us breeders who destroy the future. There are very few breeders who are universalistic about their own children–most of us will fight like crazed weasels to get any small advantage for our progeny, the rest of future society be damned. Plutocrats, of course, can fight very effectively to perpetuate their descendants’ status, leading ultimately to a caste system. (They managed to get the Rule against Perpetuities repealed in many states, as a particularly egregious example. Not to mention the estate tax.)

    I guess that the proper conclusion, if one takes Ferguson’s logic seriously, is that only childless gay people should be allowed to be rich. Not, of course, that Peter Thiel is any better than the standard plutocrat.

  4. marcel says

    JZ: “Professor Ferguson, There’s This Thing Called “Google”….”
    NF: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?”

  5. Barbara says

    There are very few things in life that make you more present minded than the need to feed, clothe and otherwise provide for your children. The notion that you think long term or “put things off” so as to make the future a better place than the present is absolutely untrue in a world where present success is absolutely necessary for you to give your children any future at all. It is of course also countered by the many and depressing examples of people who are parents refusing to acknowledge a need for changes to make the future better for their children or grandchildren. Of course, Ferguson, a father (no doubt) made the best case against his lazy prejudice, by making an incredibly stupid statement for the short term frisson it was supposed to extract from his immediate audience at the expense of his longer term interest in, presumably, maintaining some semblance of intellectual credibility. Vile is not too harsh a word.

    • marcel says

      Actually, given the size of his “lecture” fees nowadays and the beliefs of the audience that is paying them, this entire brouhaha has likely been of long term benefit to NF[1] far outweighing any hit to his remaining intellectual credibility.

      [1] By now, it is hard to believe that he is likely to leave any long term intellectual legacy no matter what he does, certainly none that concerns him, so any cost here must be multiplied by a very low probability to get its expected value.

      • Barbara says

        It makes me wonder why Harvard extends tenure to people like this who are basically not much more than celebrities posing as scholars. Does Harvard not enter into short term contracts with politicians or visiting scholars for a fixed term so that it doesn’t have to worry so much about extracting itself from relationships with people who make their living giving speeches more so than doing real scholarship?

        • NCG says

          I think Americans have a real weakness for British accents. It is one of the many varieties of affirmative action for white people. Listen to the radio some time, they’re all over there. Not that I don’t, you know, love Brits. I do. Just sayin.

  6. paul says

    I went off the rails at “minor but important”. Does this twit even read what he writes?

    For the catholics and other moralists among us, meanwhile, there are few things worse than a deliberately false confession.