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Harvard Prof Niall Ferguson Apologizes for Economic Gay Bashing

Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson is apologizing after remarks he made that the economic philosophies of John Maynard Keynes are flawed because Keynes was gay and not uninterested in procreation or future generations.

FA reports: Ferguson

Speaking at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., in front of a group of more than 500 financial advisors and investors, Ferguson responded to a question about Keynes' famous philosophy of self-interest versus the economic philosophy of Edmund Burke, who believed there was a social contract among the living, as well as the dead. Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of "poetry" rather than procreated. The audience went quiet at the remark. Some attendees later said they found the remarks offensive.

It gets worse.

Ferguson, who is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, and author of The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, says it's only logical that Keynes would take this selfish worldview because he was an "effete" member of society. Apparently, in Ferguson's world, if you are gay or childless, you cannot care about future generations nor society.

This takes gay-bashing to new heights. It even perversely pins the full weight of the financial crisis on the gay community and the barren.

Ferguson apologized yesterday on his blog, calling the remarks "stupid" and "insensitive":

I had been asked to comment on Keynes’s famous observation “In the long run we are all dead.” The point I had made in my presentation was that in the long run our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are alive, and will have to deal with the consequences of our economic actions.

But I should not have suggested – in an off-the-cuff response that was not part of my presentation – that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes’s wife Lydia miscarried.

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. As those who know me and my work are well aware, I detest all prejudice, sexual or otherwise.

Andrew Sullivan speaks in Ferguson's defense:

I am obviously an interested party to this. I’ve known Niall as a friend since we studied history together at Oxford. This has not deterred me from criticizing his public arguments on the merits, so I’m not a suck-up. But I have known the man closely for many years – even read Corinthians at his recent wedding – and have never seen or heard or felt an iota of homophobia from him. He has supported me in all aspects of my life – and embraced my husband and my marriage. He said a horribly offensive thing – yes, it profoundly offended me – but he has responded swiftly with an unqualified apology. He cannot unsay something ugly. But he has done everything short of that. I am biased, but that closes the matter for me.

And one other small thing: if he really believed gay men had no interest in future generations, why would he have asked me, a gay man with HIV, to be the godfather to one of his sons? And why would I have accepted?

But has Ferguson been linking Keynes' policies to his sexual orientation for years? Cambridge Professor and economist Michael Kitson and other critics point out that he has.

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Comments

  1. Another horse's ass!

    Posted by: Fahd | May 5, 2013 10:56:09 AM


  2. Ferguson, on the other hand, is so concerned about the future that he runs around inseminating any vadge he can pin down.

    Posted by: Bangin' Hot Somali Tamale! | May 5, 2013 11:06:18 AM


  3. Individuals who speak out with bigotry like this are doing so (1) for immediate publicity, which is quickly followed by (2) the "Please accept my apology..." statement - and he is in no way sincere. The a**hat wouldn't have made the statement in the first place if he didn't actually believe what he was saying.

    To prevent the loss of his job, his reputation, his friends and associates he is willing to brush away his deep seeded bigotry - but it is still there. Privately he is screaming his head off over those dam gays.

    His apology is not accepted. The man should lose his Harvard position. He will then be free to speak the truth about his hated of the gay community.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | May 5, 2013 11:12:02 AM


  4. He said something stupid. He apologised. It's over. Forget it. Next?

    Posted by: UFFDA | May 5, 2013 11:14:29 AM


  5. All joking and outrage aside:

    1) John Maynard Keynes was an effete, over privileged member of a ruling class during the twilight of empire. Those of his demographic also became notorious for becoming agents of communist Russia, some I suppose because they were blackmailed, others because they were amoral, narcissistic sociopaths.

    2) Keynesian economics is SERIOUSLY flawed. Much of our current almost un-fixable structural problems are directly related to Keynesian economics.

    Posted by: ratbastard | May 5, 2013 11:21:00 AM


  6. Ferguson has 3 children from a prior marriage; he doesn't consider divorce "selfish"? Also, being a godparent is ceremonial. Why would someone make a famous, influential person a god father? To curry favor maybe? Finally, no matter how long you may know someone, their innate bigotry could surface at any time.

    Posted by: Jeff Atwood | May 5, 2013 11:21:24 AM


  7. @Sullivan: Why? Because you both can derive value from your mutual social relationship, and that value has more social utility for each of you respectively than being consistent in your personal philosophies.

    But Ferguson is still a bigot.

    Posted by: Sullivan's Tedium | May 5, 2013 11:22:10 AM


  8. Harvard and the Tisch family should disavow him. Andrew should remember that just because Ferguson asked Andrew to read Corinthians at one of his weddings doesn't necessarily mean Niall thinks of Andrew as anything other than a Poodle.

    Posted by: Nancy Reagan's Hairdresser | May 5, 2013 11:23:22 AM


  9. Oh, and by the way, I don't really know anything about history OR economics, even though Keynesian policy just pulled my chestnuts out of the fire.

    Posted by: ratbastard | May 5, 2013 11:25:12 AM


  10. Jonah Lehrer may've been a liar, but at least he did say anything bigoted. Any word about where to get a refund for 'The Ascent of Money' yet?

    Posted by: Money Back Guarantee | May 5, 2013 11:28:46 AM


  11. Oh, and by the way, I don't really know anything about history OR economics, even though Keynesian policy just pulled my chestnuts out of the fire.

    Posted by: ratbastard | May 5, 2013 11:25:12 AM


    ==================

    Not true, and I didn't write the above post.

    Posted by: ratbastard | May 5, 2013 11:30:54 AM


  12. Andrew Sullivan is Uncle Poodle?

    Posted by: ratbastard | May 5, 2013 11:32:21 AM


  13. What a buffoon.

    Posted by: trees | May 5, 2013 11:35:02 AM


  14. Well, gosh, if Andrews says he's OK...

    Posted by: BobN | May 5, 2013 11:35:02 AM


  15. This is sad. I read the first few chapters of his book "Civilization" (taking us throught the ancients, Middle Ages, and Renaissance), and I recognize he has a wonderful grasp of the arc of human history along with a clean, lucid prose style. I have to remind myself that scholars are as susceptible to petty-minded prejudice as anybody else. But I do respect Andrew Sullivan and can forgive Niall based on his personal testament.

    As gay people, we HAVE to forgive the occasional lapse of homophobia in otherwise non-homophobic persons. We have a tendency to be extremely intolerant ourselves. I trust Andrew's character assessment and have to keep in check my own desires to pounce on anybody speaking ill of us.

    Posted by: will | May 5, 2013 11:36:35 AM


  16. Any one who pays taxes (and a homosexual probably pays even more )is contributing to the society. Ferguson IS a bigot, no doubt.

    Posted by: woo | May 5, 2013 11:39:55 AM


  17. "We have a tendency to be extremely intolerant ourselves." No, we have an uncontrollable predisposition for it.

    Posted by: UFFDA | May 5, 2013 11:42:59 AM


  18. When someone shows you who they are, believe them. The first time.

    Run, Somali girl, run. Before the brown-eyed devil does you wrong like he did the last wife.

    Posted by: Mayo Scandalou | May 5, 2013 11:44:49 AM


  19. I don't mind if people demean me, as long as they have a PhD, and do so in measure tones. I have no self-respect whatsoever.

    Posted by: pUFFDA | May 5, 2013 11:48:59 AM


  20. I don't know if he's antigay, but I do know he does not belong at a place like Harvard, or any other serious academic institution. Ferguson has a very rigid world view, and it colors everything he says or does. I know rick/ratbastard etc will say that liberal professors do the same thing, but it's not the same. Ferguson starts at his conclusion and works backwards, deciding which field he'll explore to prove his point, and cherrypicking the facts to get from point A to his foregone conclusion.

    I also don't know why he's stepped into the economic theory arena. He's clearly way over his head, has been predicting calamity for years and has been spectacularly wrong. You can have different theories if they're well researched, like Milton Friedman for example, but you can't make a career out of bashing Keynesian economics, which is really just mainstream economics at this point, with so little knowledge of the subject. And I think that's why he went off on Keynes's personal life. he doesn't know the subject, is too lazy to actually do any research to prove a point, so he resorts to silly namecalling. He belongs at Liberty University, not Harvard.

    Posted by: Brian | May 5, 2013 11:51:19 AM


  21. Wow - I thought this guy was the biggest loser - and then I read Andrew Sullivan's comments.

    Posted by: Paul | May 5, 2013 12:01:52 PM


  22. that's odd - most of my LGBT and queer friends are more concerned about the environment than out hetero counterparts.

    aint it the Right Wing, who keep having tonnes of kids, that don't seem to give a whit about not only economic stability, but environmental issues? oh yeah.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | May 5, 2013 12:02:11 PM


  23. Looks like he had his "Mel Gibson moment." Remember when Gibson got drunk and was arrested for drunk driving? He launched in to an anti-semitic diatribe about the jews controlling everything. He apologized later.

    That's all fine. But sort of person even thinks jews control the world, even when drunk? It means he thinks about it all the time. Same thing here -- what sort of person even thinks that because Keynes was gay we should dismiss his theories. They may be flawed theories for all I know, but they are certainly not flawed because his bisexuality had anything to do with it.

    He said all that stuff during a Q&A session when he was off script. he wasn't even drunk. At best, he could say he was nervous or distracted. When that happens to me, I sometimes get my facts wrong, I ro say something rather silly. But I don't go off os something I have never said or thought of previously.

    When you go on auto pilot, it's the auto pilot stuff that comes out.

    Posted by: Randy | May 5, 2013 12:16:32 PM


  24. If his apology is good enough for Andrew Sullivan its good enough for me. Dont destroy supporters for saying something stupid. Spend your energy on the REAL a$$holes out there, people. There are plenty of worthy adversaries.

    Posted by: Jerry | May 5, 2013 12:40:36 PM


  25. Keynes is right. Austerians are wrong. Homophobia is tired. Next!

    Posted by: mike | May 5, 2013 12:41:49 PM


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