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Niall Ferguson's latest gaffe

As I discussed in an earlier post, Niall Ferguson, the Harvard historian and author of numerous bad books about economics, is prone to writing and saying completely ignorant things, making one wonder about the intellectual heft of so-called academic "stars" who populate our institutions of higher learning.

The latest bit of idiocy uttered by Ferguson was heard last week when he was speaking at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, California, in front of more than 500 financial advisors and investors. While responding to a question about John Maynard Keynes's 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 married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of "poetry" rather than procreated.

Ferguson went on to say it was only logical that Keynes would take this selfish worldview because he was an "effete" member of society. In other words, if you are gay or childless, you cannot care about future generations nor of society. "Keynes was a homosexual and had no intention of having children. We are not dead in the long run...our children are our progeny," Ferguson remarked. "It is the economic ideals of Keynes that have gotten us into the problems of today."

Two days later, after Ferguson's remarks were reported on, he issued an apology, calling his comments "stupid" and contending he was not a homophobe.

Still, it makes you wonder how any serious intellectual or scholar could reduce someone's economic theories down to whether or not they had children (as it turned out, Keynes' wife had miscarried at least once) or which gender they might sleep with. For Ferguson, who is deeply ideological, his remarks seem to suggest that when it comes to discussing economics, empirical reality is less important than whether or not you want children or whom you want to bed.

What Ferguson was really saying is that the ideas of Keynes are bankrupt, even though Keynes was greatly responsible for offering up a solution to governments to mitigate the horrendous consequences of the Great Depression, where unemployment reached as high as 25 per cent in Canada and the US. Today, with neo-liberalism economic theories having ruined economies around the world, and with decidedly non-Keynsian austerity measures exacerbating the global recession (including sending the UK economy back into the toilet), any notion that Keynes' ideas are responsible for the current state of affairs reveals how divorced from reality Ferguson has become.

In the end, Ferguson cares not about the suffering of working people around the world. To him it's all about preserving the status quo of the richest 1 per cent and the immense wealth and power they have accumulated in the past three decades.

 

 

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