May 4, 2013

What Niall Ferguson said about John Maynard Keynes being gay and therefore not caring about the future.

I feel compelled to do a post about this story:
Perhaps in an effort to save his job at Harvard, or his gig with the Daily Beast, or just his professional dignity, Ferguson apologized Saturday for his "tactless" and "off the cuff" remarks. "I should not have suggested... that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay," Ferguson wrote on his website. He called his assertion "doubly stupid" because of course people without children care about future generations and "I had forgotten that Keynes’s wife Lydia miscarried." Right, yes. That's why his remarks were dumb. Because Keynes tried to have a baby and failed....

65 comments:

Malesch Morocco said...

I was just going to comment on your previous post that it was kinda nice that you hadn't posted since 12:42 PM because it showed that you had a life outside of blogging, and then you posted this. Oh well.

chuck said...

Sounds like a bad relationship, poor Niall is walking on eggshells all the time. He needs a divorce from the harridan academia.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I see the homophone tag, but I haven't been able to pick it from the text.

Ignorance is Bliss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Basta! said...

Eye yam homophonic.

I denounce myself

Gahrie said...

People have been making the same arguement in scholarly work for decades without controversey.

AJ Lynch said...

The long purple knives are out for ferguson. He is guilty of two sins: mocking gays and favoring reduced govt spending. Those are now capital offenses.

bagoh20 said...

He could still be gay, and he could still not give a shit about the future, but I don't see what one has to do with the other. Most Democrats are straight, so that pretty much severs that connection.

Chip S. said...

Not impressed w/ the logical skills of the Atlantic writer, who summarized Ferguson's argument like so:

He [Keynes] also didn't care about future members of society because he didn't have any children. And these facts, therefore, discredited his economic theories.

Um, no. The argument is that people w/ children place more weight on the future than people w/o them do. Not zero. Just .... less.

And that's offered by Ferguson as a partial explanation of Keynesianism, not a discreditation of it. The criticism of Keynesianism is made on the basis of observed outcomes regarding sovereign debt, not Keynes's sexuality.

But mere logic can't stop the outrage train once it leaves the station.

AJ Lynch said...

Ferguson thought he could get away with that comment? Who does he think he is. Joe Biden?

SteveR said...

"Mr Ferguson, a Mr. Kurtz is on the line for you."

Jason said...

But with this Maynard Keynes guy, we have a homosexual who's articulate... And cleeeeaaaan! It's storybook, man!!!

Freeman Hunt said...

This is liberal catnip. (Liberals are supposed to be the cat people, yes? Limbaugh notwithstanding.) One can roar with righteous indignation not only on behalf of future-loving gay people everywhere but on behalf of the father of the spendthrift economics so favored by modern Democrats.

Kansas City said...

Wrong time to say anything bad about gays.

To me, the underlying issue is interesting. If Keynes was gay, childless and a supporter of eugenics (none of which I know to be true), then why shouldn't that be considered in looking at his theories? It does not mean the theories were right or wrong, but the information is of some relevance in attempting to judge the man and his theories.

Overall, I think it is too soon to assess his theories. We have not yet seen the long range effect. They may still turn out to be tragically wrong.

But I suppose we should be at the point where we should be assessing Keynes theories without worrying about his gayness or his motives.

John said...

I first heard this back in 78 or so in an economy class. I have since discussed it in various economy classes I have taught.

Keynes single most famous statement is "in the long run we are all dead" he meant that it is ok to mortgage the future to pay for today.

In the long run a childless person is dead. Those of us with children live on in them and their children.

Why the Hell is this controversial?

All the times ive heard and discussed this nobody has said boo. It is like saying rain is wet.

BTW you all do know tthat Keynes was married right?
John henry

Lucien said...

What Keynes said was (paraphrasing from memory) "Our science [economics] is too weak and puny if all that it can say is that after the tempest has past, the seas will be calm again. In the long run we are all dead."

SO the point he was making is that economic theory has to be robust enough to help policy makers figure out what to do-- in the short run -- rather than focus on static models of equilibria.

And I hate it. HATE IT, when people only quote the last part of the statement, without context.

John said...

Damnable spell check

For economy read economics class

John henry

John said...

Lucien

I don't think the first part of the statement changes anything.

Keynesian economics is ALL about worrying about the short run and the Hell with the future.

Great for the political class. Rather hard on the rest of us suckers, though.

John Henry

Jack Wayne said...

Dear KC - "Overall, I think it is too soon to assess his theories. We have not yet seen the long range effect. They may still turn out to be tragically wrong."

No, it's not too soon. His theory says that politicians have to save in the good times and spend in the bad times. What politician have you ever heard of that will act so contrary to their nature? Case closed. Keynes was idealistic to the extreme and his theories/policies are a big fail.

Jason (the commenter) said...

A Harvard professor, using ad hominem attacks and going after people for being gay.

The cream of the intellectual elites!

Lem said...

Sounds like a bad relationship, poor Niall is walking on eggshells all the time.

Something about an earlier story today of the woman taking out a $50,000 loan to freeze her eggs... tied with something an MSNBC contributor had says about the children somehow belonging to the community... and the
Keynesian theory about government spending paints a very bleak picture for me... Some painters use eggs to... I forget... I think its to liven up the colors or something.

But, right now I'm too tired to attempt to flesh out a coherent thought slamming the left.

Chip S. said...

Jason, props for a nicely executed parody of the Atlantic piece.

Kansas City said...

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.

My interpretation (admittedly not expert):

Stupid quote with a pithy line that is long remembered. It was some type of criticism of models that had a long term perspective rather than focusing on short term. Seems like just an attempt to support his short term theory.

David said...

Worried about losing his job at Harvard?

Is there an exception to tenure protection if you are insulting to homosexuals?

Certainly they can't fire him just for being insulting and insensitive to just anyone. They would lose a large percentage of their faculty if that were the standard.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Chip S.: Jason, props for a nicely executed parody of the Atlantic piece.

Colleges are supposed to teach students the errors of logical fallacies, not to rely on them.

Even the people writing the article don't seem to get that.

Chip S. said...

Even the people writing the article don't seem to get that.

Change "even" to "especially" and I'm in full agreement.

urpower said...

The Keynes thing was argued in a chapter of an interesting book, Degenerate Moderns: Modernity as Rationalized Sexual Misbehavior by E Michael Jones.

n.n said...

The validity of Keynes's theories cannot be determined by scrutinizing his behavior. This is the same problem encountered when judging any philosophy or religion. Each can only be properly judged by the principles they engender, and not the behavior of their proponents.

As for his marriage, as long as he was honest and faithful to his wife, then it should be noted that he attempted to be productive in all facets of life.

Was he honest and faithful, or was he an empty shell, whose behavior today would be considered "heroic"?

Chip S. said...

From the NYT review of the letters b/w JMK and Lydia Lopokova:

Amid the Bloomsbury minuet of shifting liaisons, sexless marriages and menages a trois and quatre, the once-homosexual economist and the hardly virginal ballerina offer a radiant if improbable example of heterosexual devotion and stability.

Keynes was a fascinating figure and prolific author. The General Theory was unquestionably his worst-written book, which some take as an indication of his inability to construct a coherent theory.

I think there are more plausible explanations for that than Keynes's sexual preferences or lack of children, but I also don't think people should be attacked for offering non-PC speculation about what conscious or subconscious forces influenced him.

William said...

The criticism sounds fairly innocuous. If he had made a bullshit comment about how Keynes' homosexuality gave him some special insight into the plight of the underdog, then these same people would be applauding Ferguson's acumen. Ferguson's a fine writer who can make a book about Rothschild bond issues lucid and interesting. His remark here isn't particularly insightful, but, my goodness, how much outrage does a remark like that deserve?

bgates said...

I'm straight, I have no children, and I don't care about this story right now.

traditionalguy said...

Niall Ferguson is a confrontational writer who enjoys taking cheap shots at whomever he is writing about.

Fine. He toughens up the targets while he tickles the easy biases of his audience. That's Harvard for you, especially when his targets are well known Americans.

But he has been called out for using this Modus Operandi on gay folks.

Finding good in a heterosexual person has now become a signal of Gayism. Interesting stuff.









caplight45 said...

Can I just go ahead and reserve a place at the reeducation camp? Some time this summer would be convenient. Do I bring my own dunce cap and self-condemning signs to hang around my neck or are they provided?

rhhardin said...

There are trip-wires all over.

They must be good media stories, about saying the wrong thing to somebody and then they hate you.

Women's concerns rule.

tim maguire said...

If you are a person of decency and integrity, then you don't have to worry about making embarrassing comments at inconvenient moments. And you won't have to rely on Althouse commenters to come to your defense with the argument that all insults against gays, baseless or not, are really ok because most gays are liberal.

DEEBEE said...

A country accumulating debt at a ferocious rate not giving a crap about future generations crosses all sorts of boundaries -- not just sexual orientation ones. Hey its even bi-partisan.

Rusty said...

tim maguire said...
If you are a person of decency and integrity, then you don't have to worry about making embarrassing comments at inconvenient moments. And you won't have to rely on Althouse commenters to come to your defense with the argument that all insults against gays, baseless or not, are really ok because most gays are liberal.

No. With the exception of a few homosexuals that post here, most gays are annoying. The fact that they are liberals merely shows their lack of critical thinking skills.

Freeman Hunt said...

Tim, who argued that?

creeley23 said...

Ferguson offered an immediate, clear and sincere apology taking full responsibility -- not a "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" weasel response.

What's the issue here?

edutcher said...

The issue is not homosexuality, it's economics.

Next to Father Karl and Uncle Saul, Sister John is a god to the Lefties. They can't let him be ridiculed in any way.

Ferg delenda est!

Kansas City said...

Wrong time to say anything bad about gays.

That's been so ever since the melodrama of Matthew Shepard.

MikeAdamson said...

@creeley23

The issue was Ferguson's ststement that gays don't care about the future because they don't have kids while Keynes obviously tried to father at least one child and straights without kids would be in the same position. I agree that,with the apology,the immediate matter is closed although we'll continue to take some shots with tangential items.

El Pollo Real said...

In one sense, we are all Keynesians now; in another, nobody is any longer a Keynesian was Milton's famous aphorism regarding the lost paradise of Bloombury ethos.

El Pollo Real said...

The problem with modern Keynesian economics is that nearly all accountability went out the window. This occurred in my lifetime, in my living memory. Nobody even keeps track anymore.

And if Keynes' disregard for the future wasn't the problem, how do you explain his disregard for the future?

Michael said...

It is irrelevant that Keynes tried to have a child and couldn't. The fact remains he was childless and people without children have a different take on the future than those that do. Ferguson's point is correct taking out the unnecessary referral to homosexuality. Homosexual couples with children have a different view of the future than those who do not. If you do not see this you either have no children or do not know those who do.

Michael said...

It is irrelevant that Keynes tried to have a child and couldn't. The fact remains he was childless and people without children have a different take on the future than those that do. Ferguson's point is correct taking out the unnecessary referral to homosexuality. Homosexual couples with children have a different view of the future than those who do not. If you do not see this you either have no children or do not know those who do.

Kansas City said...

This is a great assessment of the controversy and shows how this debate about Keynes "immorality" has been discussed for years.

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

garage mahal said...

"Keynes is gay" is one of the better critiques of Keynes from conservatives.

SMGalbraith said...

When you make comments that sound like something Maureen Dowd would say you'd better start thinking about what the hell is going on inside your brain.

The problem, it seems to me, with this is how utterly dumb it is. Amateur psychoanalysis, and bad analysis at that.

Leave this stuff to Ms. Dowd.

Pastafarian said...

It is horrible to suggest that someone's core belief system and attitudes about sexuality might color their attitudes on economics. "Stupid", as Althouse so astutely tagged.

Like that dunce and bigot who suggested that conservatives' favoring saving over spending was merely an artifact of their Protestant upbringing, with its tendencies toward delayed gratification.

That dunce and bigot, Keynes. Oh bitter irony.

I wonder: If things keep going as they are, will we be able to state that gay men actually put their wieners up each other's squeak holes? Or will that statement of the obvious be deemed a slur, an outrageous slander, like something out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

William said...

I think a Ven diagram of the intersecting affairs of the Bloomsbury crowd would look like a plate of spaghetti. Their sexual orientation operated more like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle than the compass. Keynes took up with a ballerina and Vita Sackville-West was happily married to a gay man. Such people resist classification, and if you do classify them as gay, you have to cut off a lot of their limbs to fondle them on your Procrustean bed......I'm pretty sure that Keynes sexuality had something to do with his economics. Why wouldn't it?

Chip S. said...

garage mahal said...
"Keynes is gay" is one of the better critiques of Keynes from conservatives.

This notion that saying someone's gay is a criticism seems to be a recurring motif in your comments.

You would do well to stop projecting your phobias onto others. But I'm sure you won't.

If Keynes were around and reading this blog he'd likely say that you were caught in a stupidity trap.

El Pollo Real said...

If Keynes were around and reading this blog he'd likely say that you were caught in a stupidity trap.

Solid criticism, Chip.

Joe said...

Isn't this a living example of why Keynes not only refused to give up on his idiotic ideas, but doubled down?

SteveR said...

If Keynes were around and reading this blog he'd likely say that you were caught in a stupidity trap.

A judgement held by many. I'd like to think its an act but garage fancies himself clever.

Henry said...

Maybe Ferguson could get fired from his high profile gigs and actually write a primary-researched book again. He used to write very good books.

jr565 said...

Live fast die young.
Hope I die before I get old.
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, live for today.

That seems to be the mantra of a good portion of the left and the 60's generation, too.


Would it be ok of we targeted liberals or baby boomers with the chaarge that their view doesn't seem to be based on posterity, but rather on immediate gratifcation and a deification of youth and the here and now?

If so, then, why coulndn't a case be made that gays have the same mindset? Note, I'm not saying I agree with the statement. I'm just wondering why Althouse thinks it must never be stated ABOUT GAYS.

Can we state it about non gays? Well, I just did. Why are gays such a protected class in Althouse's mind?

jr565 said...

"Speaking in front of about 500 financial advisers at a conference in Carlsbad, California, Financial Adviser's Tom Kostigen reported Ferguson said Keynes was "effete" and liked reading "poetry" to his ballerina wife. He also didn't care about future members of society because he didn't have any children. And these facts, therefore, discredited his economic theories. Keynes once famously said "in the long run we are all dead," and his detractors usually point to that as evidence that he didn't care about what happens to future generations. But no one has ever tried to connect his economics to what he did socially."


So, suppose Ferguson made the charge that Keynes was childless and that he didn't care for the future because he didn't have any children. Would THAT be an ok critique for Althouse?
If Ferguson just concentrated on his lack of offspring.
Would Althouse be so up in arms about this rank bigotry?
Methinks, her gay militancy is blinding her to the idea of discourse being allowed. And as such, she is holding a standard towards gays that she wouldn't hold towards non gays.
Which in fact is a coddling one. Gays must be protected. We musn't make a negative statement of gays.

Now, I don't happen to think Ferguson adequately made the case myself (though it perhaps might be an intereseting psychological topic to delve into and not just concerning gays). But so what? He's allowed to make the case. And , as Goldberg pointed out, he wasn't the first to make the case. Nor was the case that incendiary a case to make previously.
And if Althouse didn't have a separate standard for gays what Ferguson said would not even rise to a blog post (ie. if this was said about a conservative by a liberal for example).

El Pollo Real said...

Methinks, her gay militancy is blinding her to the idea of discourse being allowed. And as such, she is holding a standard towards gays that she wouldn't hold towards non gays.
Which in fact is a coddling one. Gays must be protected. We musn't make a negative statement of gays.


She does verge on gay militancy, but I ascribe that to her influences. For example, she consistently defends actual gay militants like Dan Savage. The record here shows that.

Commenters like Palladian are able to show a more cruel neutrality towards gay nuttiness whereas Althouse sometimes give the impression that such excess doesn't exist.

Kansas City said...

What about the argument that Keynes was so weird even for his times that we should take that into account in considering his theories? I agree that it is not necessary to examine his theories, but it is at least intersting. Remarkable that a guy with his baggage became such an acclaimed figure. How did that happen?

I suppose his disgusting support for eugentics refuses the idea that as a childless gay guy he did not care about the future.

Geoff Matthews said...

So, Keynes was gay, fell in love with a lady, and was no longer gay because he met the right lady.
Is reality offensive?

gregq said...

How many kids did "In the Long Run, we'll all be dead" Keynes have? 0.

He had no personal investment in the future. And he made a habit of criticizing saving, and those who DID care about the future, and not just immediate gratification.

Was that because he was gay? I don't know.

Should that question be out of bounds?

Only if you're an intellectual fascist.

El Pollo Real said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
El Pollo Real said...

How many kids did "In the Long Run, we'll all be dead" Keynes have? 0.

Yes, but a "militant childless" would answer: "but look how Keynes lives in the future."

And after all, we, mere strangers, are talking about him two or three generations after he died. But Keynes was the exception. Most of the childless will not be so remembered and will extinguish a succession of genetic continuity going all the way back.

It's hard for me to image how they bear that with such nonchalance and aplomb. Another commenter, kchicker, scoffed at the notion that people change when they have kids. Maybe they actually live emotionally through their pets. To me, that's a bit like saying that you don't somehow change when a loving parent dies. For people who have never experience it, it's hard to describe. For those who say it never affected them--well I think they're either lying or deceiving themselves.

redwood509 said...

He was right in what he said, though knowing they are after him, unaware that some fruitcakes were attending, like Romney did not know the waiter could have a video camera, he should have been more artful with his words, after all he is a "Professor", now he makes himself look like like a jerk, he also affirms and validates the politically correct patrols, making it impossible to speak one's mind, I have no doubt he could have said the same thing in a way that would not give an opening to his tormentors to go after him, but the man needs to grow up, when?

gregq said...

"Yes, but a "militant childless" would answer: "but look how Keynes lives in the future." "

Yep, he complete f'ed up the future, with his short term thinking.

Leaving that aside, so what that he's remembered? Does it matter to him? Why? He's dead. His friends are dead.

If his followers are hurt because of what he said, why does he care?

You have children? You have a significant part of you that's living on afterwards. You put effort into raising those children? Then you have a significant part of you, that you put an investment into that shows you cared, that lives on after you.

What did Keynes do that demonstrated his investment in the future? Well, the answer to that is he's most famous for saying "the hell with the future, give me immediate gratification."

If you're going to claim that no one can legitimately even ASK if his homosexuality had anything to do with that, then you're an intellectual fascist, someone who puts pushing a political agenda over understanding the universe.

Bu in a world where "diversity" is supposedly enhanced by bringing in homosexuals, it's the height of intellectual incoherence to turn around and say "no, you can't ask if his homosexuality affected his economics." Because if there's no chance it did, then there's no reason to believe you advance intellectual diversity by bringing in homosexuals.