Harvard Prof Continues to Embarass the Civilized World

homophobia2Niall Ferguson is one of those right wing “intellectuals” that continually proves why there are few intellectually prepared people to actually argue the idiotic causes of modern ‘conservatives’ cogently. Since there is no real case to be made, the conversation usually turns to some screed against some straw man or some persecuted out group.  Ferguson is a homophobe.  He can’t go long without finding some really stupid way to make being gay an issue in any thing that relates to his diatribes.  He really stepped in it this time. This is from Digby.

There’s a lot of chatter today about Niall Ferguson’s odious comments about John Maynard Keynes.

This is the gist of it:

An excerpt from Lance Roberts’ post at StreetTalkLive.com reporting a question from former PIMCO banker Paul McCulley (in bold) and Robertson’s notes on Ferguson’s response (its not clear whether these notes are verbatim or paraphrased):

Question By Paul McCulley

“The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs…in the long run we are all dead.”

Are we in a liquidity trap, are we at a zero bound of interest rates and stuck at 8% unemployment?

[Ferguson:] Keynes was a homosexual and had no intention of having children. We are NOT dead in the long run…our children are our progeny. It is the economic ideals of Keynes that have gotten us into the problems of today. Short term fixes, with a neglect of the long run, leads to the continuous cycles of booms and busts. Economies that pursue such short term solutions have always suffered not only decline, but destruction, in the long run.

Several details of Ferguson’s remarks that were included in the Financial Advisor story have not been confirmed by other sources. For example, Financial Advisor reported that Ferguson asked his audience how many children Keynes had and “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.” Other sources have not reported that rhetorical question or the additional disparaging remarks in Ferguson’s answer to it. No full transcript or video of Ferguson’s remarks has yet emerged.

WTF? Read this for some folks attending the speech that twittered and blogs his comments.

Basically Keynes doesn’t get the future because he wasn’t a breeder?  This excerpt is from Henry Blodgett at Business Insider.

In addition to the offensive suggestion that those who don’t have children don’t care about the future or society, Professor Ferguson’s reported remarks are bizarre and insulting to Keynes on two levels.

First, this is the first time we have heard a respectable academic tie another economist’s beliefs to his or her personal situation rather than his or her research. Saying that Keynes’ economic philosophy was based on him being childless would be like saying that Ferguson’s own economic philosophy is based on him being rich and famous and therefore not caring about the plight of poor unemployed people.

Second, Keynes’ policies did not suggest that he did not care about future generations. On the contrary. … For the sake of both future generations and current generations, Keynes believed that governments should run deficits during recessions and then run surpluses during economic booms. Politicians have never seemed to be able to follow the second part of Keynes’ proscription — they tend to run deficits at all times — but it seems unfair to blame this latter failing on Keynes.

Ferguson is not the first person to suggest that Keynes did not care about the future, and this sentiment is normally tied to one of Keynes’ most famous sayings:

“… In the long run, we are all dead.”

Importantly, however, in saying this, Keynes was in no way suggesting that the future doesn’t matter. Rather, when this remark is read in context, it is clear that Keynes was chiding economists for ducking responsibility for their own lousy short-term predictions:

In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if, in tempestuous seasons, they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.

So if Ferguson is basing his assertion that Keynes didn’t care about the future on this line, his remark is even more unfair.

For those who are new to the larger economic debate that is the backdrop to these remarks, here’s a snapshot:

Professor Ferguson and other economists have been loudly and consistently warning for years that the deficit spending and debts of most developed countries will eventually end in disaster. Professor Ferguson and other “austerians” suggest that governments should immediately cut spending and balance their budgets, even if this results in a brutal short-term recession and exploding unemployment.

This “austerian” philosophy has been countered by the “Keynesian” philosophy advocated by Paul Krugman and others in which governments enact stimulus and run big deficits during weak economic periods to offset weak private-sector spending and help shore up employment, consumer spending, and social well-being until the private sector recovers. High debts and deficits are a long-term concern that needs to be addressed, Krugman says, but they do not constitute a near-term crisis that requires immense, self-inflicted, short-term pain to alleviate.

In the past five years, the experience of many countries suggests that Krugman’s philosophy is correct, and, as yet, none of the doom predicted by Ferguson and other austerians has come to pass. Meanwhile, countries like the U.K. and Greece, which have cut spending to try to balance their budgets, have been mired in multiple recessions (or, in the case of Greece, a depression). And, notably, because lower economic output leads to less tax revenue, these countries have not made much progress in balancing their budgets.

It’s pretty spurious behavior.  Ferguson has no intellectual, theoretical or empirical evidence for his deficit hysteria so when he has nothing to validate he views, he turns to homophobia.  So, he did apologize.  But it doesn’t mean much because he’s done it before.  That link goes to a page of one of his books.  He has a history of being a jerk on many levels.

Ferguson should be the last person to be casting aspersions on anyone else’s personal life, given that, while still married to someone else, he began an affair with author and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali and knocked her up. He then dumped his wife of over 20 years (they had had three children together) to marry Ali. What a heart-warming demonstration of traditional values!

Ferguson’s slur was ugly indeed — so much so that the no-doubt conservative audience fell into a stunned silence following his remark. But Ferguson — a man for whom the term “hackademic” would surely have been invented, had it not already existed — is part of a long right-wing hack tradition. He is far from the first to take this line of attack. Ferguson likely stole the “childless homosexual” epithet from British wingnut Daniel Johnson (who’s the son of another winger, Paul Johnson. Why do these demon spawn second generation right-wingers tend to be even more appalling than their progenitors? ). The great novelist — and famously nasty conservative — V.S. Naipul has characterized Keynes as a gay exploiter.

Over on this side of the pond, conservative author Mark Steyn attempted to smear Keynes’ ideas by referring to him as — surprise! — a “childless homosexual.” The American Spectator has repeated that slur, as has this contributor to FrontPageMag.com. George Will has also cast the “childless” aspersion (which is pretty clearly a dog whistle for “gay”) against Keynes. So did right-wing economists Greg Mankiw and Joseph Schumpeter. I am reliably informed that William F. Buckley used to gay-bait Keynes as well, although a quick internet search did not produce evidence of this.

Ferguson’s comments are idiotic and offensive on many levels. First of all, there’s his illogical ad hominem style of argument — could not an Oxford-educated Harvard professor done a little bit better? Then there’s the juvenile homophobia — OMG! this faggy fag economist who liked to talk about faggy subjects subjects like poetry and ballet with his wife! — when everyone knows only Real Men can do economics!

But it’s not only the homophobia that’s offensive, it’s the bitchy slur against childless people. I deeply resent the insinuation that, because I haven’t irresponsibly procreated, I care nothing about future generations and would cheerfully assent to the world going to hell in a handbasket.

Anyway, I should know not to take people like Ferguson seriously, but damn it!, the man gets a platform and is at an institution where he gets more status than he deserves.   He’s an obvious example of  affirmative action placement for assholes.  Rich, powerful”conservatives” moan about never seeing one of them in the communist land of academia so universities have to bring in some obvious propaganda-spewing asshole in to fill the ranks.  Ferguson is part of the affirmative action plan of the anti-intellectual intellectual right to stick their asshole views in academia even when they never stand up to rigorous peer review.  Too bad we’ve become so advanced in the idea of equivocation that serious hacks can crawl their way up to the public arena through academia simply because we have to make room for an invalid approach to life, the world, and the meaning of humanity and civilization.  Perhaps Ferguson should just get a shrink and work out his troubled young life in Brit public school with him/her instead of on the rest of us.

27 Comments on “Harvard Prof Continues to Embarass the Civilized World”

  1. jawbone says:

    Bit off topic, but interesting comment from thread at Glenn Greenwald’s post about former FBI agent admitting on CNN, on two separate shows, that the US government is hoovering up ALL our digital communications. The FBI agent said that Tamlerlan’s wife’s statement that she didn’t know about the bombing plan might be verified or her involvement confirmed by going through recordings of calls made on her phone to her husband.

    Forty-three years ago Zbigniew Brzezinski made some predictions which events are proving correct. Including total surveillance of the US public. Yikes.

    MezzoSoprano, 04 May 2013 4:21pm

    Way, way back in 1970, forty-three years ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski was astonishingly prescient:

    The technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities.

    Also prescient was his prediction about our evolving political
    culture and the vapid nature of our political races. He describes
    Obama’s handlers strategy:

    In the technotronic society the trend would seem to be towards the aggregation of the individual support of millions of uncoordinated citizens, easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities exploiting the latest communications techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason.
    Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era

    My emphasis throughout. My horror at how prescient he was is my own.

    Thanks to Susie at Suburban Guerrilla for linking to the Greenwald piece.

    • jawbone says:

      My tags got mixed up. Last two lines are my words, not MezzoSprano’s.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Oops, sorry, jumped the gun. Was about to tell you I linked the Greenwald piece on the morning thread. But I see you’re talking about comments. Very interesting.

      • jawbone says:

        BB–I did a quick read of the earlier posts, but must have missed your link, as in too quick a scan, eh? I keep wondering if the FBI agent is playing us, as in lying about what he’s saying or playing us as in making sure the public is properly afraid of just exactly what the government is doing to our privacy rights. And there may be other factors.

        But what Zbigniew wrote, crikey, but he was so spot on. It almost felt like one of those light bulb moments combined with having one’s breath knocked out of one. Just a moment when the world stands still, and, somehow, will not be seen quite the same ever again.

        Plus, first I’ve seen “technotronic” used.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I linked it in the first comment to the post. Ralph said he didn’t think they would have room to store everything, and the data would be difficult to search. I’ve read over the years that they do gather everything. I don’t know how long the data is kept.

        Whistleblower Thomas Drake, the former NSA senior official who was prosecuted for supposedly revealing classified info to a reporter, says the claims in Greenwald’s piece are true.

        Here’s an article in the New Yorker about Drake, by Jane Mayer.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Drake actually tweeted about it a number of times, linking Greenwald’s Guardian article each time.


      • RalphB says:

        BB, my earlier comment was less about them collecting all the data and more about what they would do with it if they did? It would be like drinking water from a fire hose, from an analytical point of view.

      • bostonboomer says:


        I understand. I quoted you (paraphrased actually), because I respect your opinion. Sorry if I stated it badly. I agree the mass of data would be unwieldy. Drake doesn’t say how long it would be stored either.

        What’s creepy to me is that the telecom companies are turning everything over to the NSA and the FBI/CIA can access the data on any individual when/if they want to.

  2. RalphB says:

    Thank you Dak. I am really sick of these right wing cretins getting a pass for every low-life thing they do or say. Ordinary people don’t get a pass and neither should these doofuses.

    • dakinikat says:

      I was going to write about it last night but saw it way too late and then you reminded me in the morning post of how pissed off this made me last night!

  3. bostonboomer says:

    This isn’t on topic, but interesting.

    I don’t know anything about Keynes biography, but apparently he had quite an extensive sex life. From Wikipedia:

    Keynes’s early romantic and sexual relationships were almost exclusively with men. At Eton and at Cambridge, Keynes had been in many homosexual relationships; significant among these early partners were Dilly Knox and Daniel Macmillan. Keynes was open about his homosexual affairs, and between 1901 to 1915, kept separate diaries in which he tabulated his many sexual encounters. Keynes’s relationship and later close friendship with Macmillan was to be fortuitous; through Dan, Macmillan & Co first published his Economic Consequences of the Peace. Attitudes in the Bloomsbury Group, in which Keynes was avidly involved, were relaxed about homosexuality. Keynes, together with writer Lytton Strachey, had reshaped the Victorian attitudes of the influential Cambridge Apostles; “since [their] time, homosexual relations among the members were for a time common”, wrote Bertrand Russell. One of Keynes’s greatest loves was the artist Duncan Grant, whom he met in 1908. Like Grant, Keynes was also involved with Lytton Strachey, though they were for the most part love rivals, and not lovers. Keynes had won the affections of Arthur Hobhouse, as well as Grant, both times falling out with a jealous Strachey for it. Strachey had previously found himself put off by Keynes, not least because of his manner of “treat[ing] his love affairs statistically”.

    • bostonboomer says:

      He also had heterosexual attractions:

      Ray Costelloe (who would later marry Oliver Strachey) was an early heterosexual interest of Keynes. Of this infatuation, Keynes had written “I seem to have fallen in love with Ray a little bit, but as she isn’t male I haven’t [been] able to think of any suitable steps to take.”

      In 1921, Keynes fell “very much in love” with Lydia Lopokova, a well-known Russian ballerina, and one of the stars of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. For the first years of the courtship, Keynes maintained an affair with a younger man, Sebastian Sprott, in tandem with Lopokova, but eventually chose Lopokova exclusively, on marrying her. They married in 1925. The union was happy, with biographer Peter Clarke writing that the marriage gave Keynes “a new focus, a new emotional stability and a sheer delight of which he never wearied”. Lydia became pregnant in 1927 but miscarried.

      I’ve seen people on twitter claiming he preferred young boys, but I guess that’s a right wing smear?

      • dakinikat says:

        I’m am still plodding through the bio by Skidilisky … I’ll let you know what i read

      • bostonboomer says:

        It sounds like he just had lots of relationships. The calculating and tabulating of sexual acts is a little weird. I wonder if his diaries have been published?

        • dakinikat says:

          I think they are available for viewing … skidilesky had access to them. I think some people sexuality is more fluid than others … maybe something to do with that openness factor in the brain …

  4. bostonboomer says:

    OT, but has everyone seen this NYT article? This must be causing the White House fits! The headline alone is priceless.

    Karzai Says He Was Assured C.I.A. Would Continue Delivering Bags of Cash

  5. RalphB says:

    Atlantic Wire: Niall Ferguson’s History with John Maynard Keynes’ Gayness

    It appears the bigot’s apology may not work so well. Lots of people are pointing out he’s made the same argument for years, just not publicly found out.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    More OT news: Israel is bombing Syria again right now.

    BBC link

    • RalphB says:

      BBC: ‘Israel rockets’ hit Damascus military site

      Syrian state TV says Israeli rockets have hit a military research centre on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.

      Huge explosions have been heard in the Mount Qassioun area of the city. The research centre there was the target of a Israeli strike in January.

      Earlier, Israeli officials speaking on condition of anonymity said that on Friday Israeli aircraft had attacked a shipment of missiles inside Syria.

      The missiles were believed to be destined for Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

      Heavy explosions shook Damascus overnight. Amateur footage posted online claimed to show the explosion near the Jamraya military research facility, with a huge ball of fire seen rising into the night sky.


    • RalphB says:

      Sorry I notice your BBC link BB. That’s a lot of Bs 🙂

  7. dakinikat says:

    gawd, jonah goldberg makes it worse:


    What I find interesting about the Ferguson controversy is how disconnected it is from the past. Even academics I respect reacted to Ferguson’s comments as if they bordered on unimaginable, unheard-of madness. I understand that we live in a moment where any negative comment connected to homosexuality is not only wrong but “gay bashing.” But Ferguson was trafficking in an old theory that was perfectly within the bounds of intellectual discourse not very long ago. Now, because of a combination of indifference to intellectual history and politically correct piety he must don the dunce cap. Good to know.

    Why should there be negative comments about homosexuality? WTF is wrong with these people?

  8. dakinikat says:



    One dead giveaway that someone pretending to be an authority on economics is in fact faking it is misuse of the famous Keynes line about the long run. Here’s the actual quote:

    But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.

    As I’ve written before, Keynes’s point here is that economic models are incomplete, suspect, and not much use if they can’t explain what happens year to year, but can only tell you where things will supposedly end up after a lot of time has passed. It’s an appeal for better analysis, not for ignoring the future; and anyone who tries to make it into some kind of moral indictment of Keynesian thought has forfeited any right to be taken seriously.

    And there’s an important corollary: how you should go about getting to some desired long-run outcome may depend a lot on how you think the economy works in the short run.