On the fascinating subject of Niall Ferguson

This bloke, right, \’ee \’rote a famous essay. Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren.

But this bloke, right, \’ee \’re queer. No kids or nuffink.

So, obviously right, \’ee didn\’t fink about the long term at all.

29 thoughts on “On the fascinating subject of Niall Ferguson”

  1. From what I hear, he has been having a lot of Ugandan discussions with his better looking female students.

  2. I had the, ahem, pleasure of meeting Prof Ferguson some years ago. I remember thinking then on the irony of those who believe they suffer fools badly always turning out themselves to be the biggest dickheads.

    Tim adds: given my insufferance of fools on this blog that must make me a WGCE. Thanks for that….not that I disagree.

  3. Presumably if he were still alive, Keynes and the rest of the higher sodomites of Bloomsbury wouldn’ve been Yewtreed by now as well.

    That’s a point actually. Maybe we could organise a damnatio memoriae economic theories by long dead economists who touched an inappropriate buttock or two.

    “Let delta C be the marginal propensity to corrupt…”.

  4. What I would like to know is whether Ferguson believed the guff he was spouting, or whether he believed it was what his audience wanted to hear. Judging from Ian B above, he may rationally, if wrongly, have believed the latter. (I say wrongly, because his audience shopped him.)

  5. Also, I can’t help but feel (regarding Tim’s Forbes article) that the “reason” for homosexuality isn’t really any of this in depth genetic stuff. It’s just part of the suite of normal human behaviour and, as with many things, some people don’t like it at all, some like it a bit, some like it a lot, and some like it so much they don’t do anything else. And that’s probably all there is to it.

  6. So Much for Subtlety

    There is an interesting discussion of how pointing out Keynes homosexuality and childlessness was a mainstay of academic discourse until, oh, about yesterday, here:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/347396/keynes-was-gay-not-theres-anything-wrong

    I do not see that NFs comments were all that out of order. It would be perfectly normal to condemn someone else for being heterosexual. No one would blink and eye.

    And to be honest I expect that Keynes lack of children – whether choice or act of God – and sexual preferences did shape his policies. And that will be true whether NF is a knob or not.

  7. So Much for Subtlety

    I am not all that convinced of Tim-s Forbes article.

    On Monday 10th October 1927, Keynes wrote: [Dearest Lydochka, Well, I have had the telegram – the sad deed is done and my dear little bun has had its throat cut. No more to be said until I see it [you?], except a tender touch where the sweet bun was.]

    Throat cut? That sounds more like an abortion than a miscarriage to me. Are we sure that he wanted children? Are we sure that he was the father of the child that was miscarried? His life may have been a lot more complicated than we think.

    Schumpeter-s obit was not nice, I suppose, but was it wrong? As it turned out Keynesianism became a wholesale loading up of future generations with debt so we can party now. Maybe that is what he always intended?

    The fact that Keynes wrote something called “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren“ is meaningless as he may have chosen the title for PR reasons. Did he mean it?

    Keynes was a man who rejected all moral laws and obligations. To think that his reputation needs this Mary-Whitehouse-style heresy finding is absurd.

    But I will agree NF is probably toast.

  8. So Much for Subtlety

    NF has broken the Golden Rule of Differences – you can talk about differences between populations but only if it makes White heterosexuals look bad.

    Let us see if he pays.

  9. Tim

    1. I’ve never met you and you don’t need my approval anyway.
    2. There is difference between Richard. Murphy or Will Hutton and Keynes.
    3. As I was writing this I just wondered for how long Keynes would have suffered Niall Ferguson.

  10. I was out and about but is this not the ultimate example of a manufactured controversy?

    So Ferguson said something outrageous in response top a question at a lecture. So what!

    Tim, can you point to any fundamental weaknesses in anything that Ferguson has published as a working historian?

    This is like the spats between Trevor-Roper and AJP Taylor in the 50s and 60s…..so last century. get over it!

  11. Bemused Bystander

    The best part of this are the idiots pretending that this incident somehow relegitimises Keynes’ failed economic theories, as though they weren’t laughed out of the building four years ago. Wind your necks in, lads, some people still remember.

  12. The claim is of course nonsense.
    But.
    Thus is missed an opportunity to perpetuate a narrative, structured to discredit Keynesian economics.

    Do you really think those on the other side of the argument would let such a chance go by lightly?

  13. No of course they wouldn’t, but then again they’re arseholes (pun intended).
    :owever, economics shouldn’t be reduced to binary simplicity. Keyne studied, thought an wrote. In doing so he advanced. Our knowledge in the field. Since then others have studies, thought and written. They have pointed the limitations and, ys, faults with his analysis. This doesn’t detract from his legacy, any more than Niall Ferguson’s inane comments do.

  14. Ignoring the gay part, I do think its true that if you don’t have children you are less interested in the very long term (ie after your death). Thats certainly true for me, as a childless single man. As far as I’m concerned if everything continues OK up to the point at which I snuff it, then that will be great, and whatever happens to the world after that isn’t my problem.

  15. Jim

    Its an inexcusably terrible cliché, but my view of everything was changed with the arrival of a couple of squalling brats.

  16. Ironman

    Thanks for reminding us that the quest for knowledge should not be reduced to a child’s argument.

    The problem is when the bastards in Whitehall wish to deprive you and your loved ones of half or more of your hard earned income, depending for an excuse on the works of a long dead scholar, whether or not he is right, has a certain urgency and importance attached.

  17. As far as I’m concerned if everything continues OK up to the point at which I snuff it, then that will be great, and whatever happens to the world after that isn’t my problem.

    Same here.

  18. Ferguson’s remark is hardly original: I first heard that line advanced as if it were a commonplace in the early 70s. It’s a pity that Ferguson has apologised; he should merely have referred to the famous American love of free speech.

    The only suggestion I’ve seen about Keynes in the last two decades that I hadn’t heard before has been the repeated attribution of stupidity to him. This is an idea so dim that it is equivalent to thinking him a secret midget. Indeed, it could serve as an IQ test: if you think Keynes stupid, you are. Mistaken, often; arrogant, habitually; stupid – oh no.

  19. Jim & TimN’s comments provoke a thought.
    Tim W’s argument starts:

    …in a Darwinian sense caring for the future does not require that you have your own children

    Well maybe preserving your genes via family members works on a species level. But there’s been such a concerted effort to replace family by the notion of ‘society’, the last few decades, how much does that hold true? It’s one thing wanting to pass on a world to your brother or sister’s kids. Do we really give a toss what we’re passing on to age (specified), something cohort, or whatever the social workers call it?

  20. My preference was for this (quotes missing for obvious reasons):

    Niall Ferguson is an historian and Harvard professor. If you teach at Harvard or study there, you’ll find that you can coast a great distance on the Harvard name with little effort. Ferguson is determined to reject such complacency and make his own mark as an asshole entirely on his own merits.

  21. So Much for Subtlety

    Matthew L – “Quite a good take on the whole thing here”

    I am not convinced. Because for NF, Keynes homosexuality was central to his complaint. His support for eugenics and mild dislike for Jews was not. If Keynes was writing on a Jewish economist and said his work was crap, his views on Jews in general may be relevant. Otherwise it is not really all that important. The question remains, did Keynes (alleged) lack of interest in future generations shape the way he thought about the long term? His sexual orientation is directly relevant to that.

    The comparison would be a man writing on women-s issues. Should a man write on the sufferings of women? Should a white man write on the sufferings of Blacks? I think a lot of people would suggest not. And if they did, they would probably be criticised for it.

    “I particularly liked the first paragraph, which some people here should read a few times until they understand it.”

    I will have to read it a few more times, because while I understood it, I did not think it all that interesting. It is not true for one thing. Larry Summers lost his job because of something he said that was perfectly true. It just offended da womyns so that was that. Until Mr Hat can explain away that he does not really have a point.

    23 MellorSJ – “If you teach at Harvard or study there, you-ll find that you can coast a great distance on the Harvard name with little effort. Ferguson is determined to reject such complacency and make his own mark as an asshole entirely on his own merits.”

    Which is a nice line but like the rest of the blog asinine. NF was not born to teach at Harvard. He was not a Legacy. He got a job there purely on his own merits – his own talent and hard work. He has risen to the top of the pile of Western historians. He has not been coasting and if he had been, he would not now be there.

    So as I said, asinine.

  22. Keynes quote about how “in the long run we are all dead” is fairly telling about his overall attitude, because while it is indeed true that in 100 years time virtually everyone who is alive today will be dead, it takes no account of generations to come beyond that point.

    After all if our time horizon is limited to the death of the last currently living person, then why are we worried about climate change?

  23. SMFS, give up. You cannot defend NF on this one. He has apologised in grovelling fashion for what he said. So either he was wrong then (as our host thinks – interesting article btw), or he is being spineless now.

    And you miss the point of the snark at 23. Yes, NF got to Harvard by his own unaided efforts. He did not coast. And now he is making a fool of himself, again by his own unaided efforts and talents. And he is not coasting to foolishness, like a cyclist going downhill, but manfully struggling to achieve that end like Bradley Wiggins going up an Alp (or Dolomite).

  24. So Much For Subtlety

    Luke – “You cannot defend NF on this one.”

    I do not see why not. Everyone else was saying it up to about two minutes ago. Even if they were not, as an idea it needs to be debated on its merits. Not serve as a red rag to the usual crowd of PC bullies that are trying to silence debate.

    “He has apologised in grovelling fashion for what he said. So either he was wrong then (as our host thinks

  25. So Much For Subtlety

    Luke – “You cannot defend NF on this one.”

    I do not see why not. Everyone else was saying it up to about two minutes ago. Even if they were not, as an idea it needs to be debated on its merits. Not serve as a red rag to the usual crowd of PC bullies that are trying to silence debate.

    “He has apologised in grovelling fashion for what he said. So either he was wrong then (as our host thinks [] interesting article btw), or he is being spineless now.”

    Well that he is being spineless in no way detracts from the original point – or his right to say it.

    “And now he is making a fool of himself, again by his own unaided efforts and talents. And he is not coasting to foolishness, like a cyclist going downhill, but manfully struggling to achieve that end like Bradley Wiggins going up an Alp (or Dolomite).”

    Then it is not much of a snark as it is not merely irrelevant but illogical. NF is very much a self made success. The coasting comment is just childish. He has crossed the Pink Mafia and will no doubt pay, but that is another argument.

  26. My last two words. SMFS, so you say Ferguson is a spineless wimp. Truly a stalwart defence.

    And no one is saying that he is not a self made man. Just that he is also a self made idiot.

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