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May 04, 2013 9:56 AM “There’s wrong, there’s very wrong and then there’s Niall Ferguson.”

By Kathleen Geier

“There’s wrong, there’s very wrong and then there’s Niall Ferguson.” - economist John Aziz on Twitter

Aziz tweeted that earlier this week, before Ferguson made yesterday’s instantly infamous homophobic attack on John Maynard Keynes at a talk for financiers:

Harvard Professor and author Niall Ferguson says John Maynard Keynes’ economic philosophy was flawed and he didn’t care about future generations because he was gay and didn’t have children.
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.

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, according to the report, 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 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 handcart. In some ways, it’s precisely because I don’t have kids that I am committed to helping build a better world. Rather than children, what I will leave behind me are whatever small ways I’ve helped individual people and the activist causes and organizations to which I devote my time and labor. At any rate, I strongly suspect that the “childless” gibe may have been directed not so much at Keynes as at another famous economist for whom Ferguson apparently has an obsession — and who happens to be childless.

The other thing that’s so nasty about Ferguson’s remarks is his mischaracterization of Keynes’ personal life, which reveals his utter lack of empathy for the man. In the pre-Stonewall era it was not uncommon for gay people to marry opposite sex partners; this happens even today. LGBTQ people who lived openly with same-sex partners faced extraordinary stigma. Let’s not forget that Keynes lived in a society where you could do hard time for sodomy. Also, Keynes and his wife Lydia Lopokova did attempt to have a child, but she suffered a no-doubt painful miscarriage. I don’t doubt that Keynes was fundamentally gay, but by all accounts, he loved his wife and the couple were happy together. That may seem hard to understand, especially today. But people are complicated. Given the choices he’s made in his own personal life, Niall Ferguson should be the first person to recognize this.

UPDATE: Ferguson has apologized for his remarks.

MORE UPDATES: 1) It wasn’t ol’ Niall’s first time at this particular rodeo. More of Ferguson’s gay-baiting of Keynes can be found here and here. Apparently he didn’t get it from Daniel Johnson after all.

2) Brad DeLong notes that wingnutty historian Gertrude Himmelfarb (and mother of demon spawn William Kristol) was an important transmitter of the “Keynes the evil homo” meme.

3) Media Matters provides a useful recap of some of Ferguson’s other greatest hits:

This is not the first time Ferguson has been the subject of scrutiny following an offensive comment. He was harshly criticized for a 2009 column in which he compared Obama to the cartoon character Felix the Cat, writing that Obama was “not only black” but “also very, very lucky.” More recently he claimed that New York Times columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman’s supposed “inability to debate a question without insulting his opponent suggests some kind of deep insecurity perhaps the result of a childhood trauma.”

4) I’m also reminded of this immensely satisfying takedown of Ferguson by the brilliant Pankaj Mishra in the London Review of Books. It kicks off by comparing Ferguson to The Great Gatsby’s Tom Buchanan and just keeps getting better from there. This kind of article is exactly the reason why I subscribe to the LRB. The piece struck a nerve with Ferguson, so much so that he threatened to sue the LRB for libel (he never followed through with the suit).

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

Comments

  • ere on May 04, 2013 12:07 PM:

    Um, that American Spectator reference is a letter to the editor. Pretty intellectually dishonest of you to ascribe the content of a letter to the editor to the magazine itself.

  • Gandalf on May 04, 2013 12:34 PM:

    ere- pretty hard to point fingers when you don't know if it's a letter or a letter referring to an article in American Spectator.

  • rrk1 on May 04, 2013 12:38 PM:

    It's disappointing to hear such facile homophobia from a Harvard professor. Academics certainly know how to be vicious, and often direct their viciousness at their peers or rivals, but Ferguson is hardly the only "hackademic" at Harvard. Alan Dershowitz comes immediately to mind.

    Perhaps the silence that greeted Ferguson's stupidity suggests that homophobia isn't as popular as it once was even to a conservative audience. At least there's some progress there.

  • beb on May 04, 2013 12:39 PM:

    If childlessness is a sign of raging homosexuality than Niall Ferguson has totally outed Sen. Lindsay Graham. Oh, feel the burn!

  • Luke Lea on May 04, 2013 12:39 PM:

    Pretty hard to argue with the idea that having children makes one more concerned about the next generation. Presentism is a common characteristic of the homosexual lifestyle. Grow up and get real.

  • Christiaan Hofman on May 04, 2013 12:42 PM:

    Part of this, I think, is that many Republicans seem to only support something when it is affecting them personally or their family. Think Rob Portman. Moreover, Republicans tend to think that others have the same motivation they have.

  • c u n d gulag on May 04, 2013 12:47 PM:

    Niall, you pompous, intolerant twit - two can play at this game.
    Answer me this:

    We've had over 1,500 years of (allegedly) celibate Pope's and priests (and, listen guys, celibacy ain't just meanin' women - it's supposed to include not playing hide-the-mitre while young schtupping young boys, too), does that mean that the Popes, who are supposedly infallible, were/are flawed and that the Pope's, and the priests, who were/are all supposed to be childless, didnít/don't care about future generations, because they didnít have any children?

    I believe the British have a nice epithet for an @$$hole like Niall - the term is, "twat."

    And what is it with Harvard, and all of the @$$holes that come from there lately?

    Some good folks, too - but lately, with "TedTalks 'n Talks 'n Talks" Cruz, and other assorted morons, jackasses, and fools, I'm starting to wonder if our upper classes aren't suffering from too much inbreeding?

    Look, American Blue Bloods - may I suggest having the illegitimate children you have with your maids/butlers, or Admins, or personal trainers, be allowed in as legacies, too?

    You need some new blood at those Ivy League schools, desperately.

    Or else, soon, you'll have snaggle-tooted morons like the British Royal Family running America's corporations.
    And you're doing enough damage, without still more generations of inbreeding.


  • Bill D. on May 04, 2013 12:53 PM:

    Brava kathy G, and well said! My Brother is gay, so there's that. And I am straight, and childless, so there's that too. I do not understand this right wing mindset that so requires one to combine being offensive and stupid. And there is a very instructive scene in Crichton's "Andromeda Strain." There was a key given to the group of scientists who were going into the bunker to save the world. If anything went really wrong they were supposed to use the key to destroy the area...and save the world. The key was entrusted to the only single male in the group, because extensive studies had shown that people with families did not have the same objective "greater good perspective" as single people when it came to death and destruction.
    So there's that too! Take that Ferguson!

  • Pete Shanks on May 04, 2013 12:54 PM:

    @Luke Lea: What a childish comment. Have you not observed the political and social variety demonstrated among people who (sometimes or always) have same-sex partners? Are you also not aware of the social, and genetic, relationships that all of us have beyond our direct descendants? Yes, there are some people who live only in the moment, with no regard for the long-term consequences of their actions. Most of them are very young and grow out of it. Sexual orientation is irrelevant to that.

  • martin on May 04, 2013 1:05 PM:

    I guess one should also point out that Keynes has been proven right about economics more than Ferguson has ever been.

  • jim filyaw on May 04, 2013 1:15 PM:

    i'll admit that until a couple of years ago, i didn't know niall ferguson from massey-ferguson. after reading an attempted take down of progressive programs in newsweek, i dismissed him as just another garden variety right winger of the tedious school. the only curiosity i've had of him since is why he was taken seriously in the first place. are there really that many 'very serious people' out there?

  • Robert Waldmann on May 04, 2013 1:55 PM:

    @robertwaldmann
    Shorter Niall Ferguson: Keynes was bi so he would never write about economic possibilities for our grandchildren http://bit.ly/11JF6Eq

  • Barbara on May 04, 2013 2:01 PM:

    I suppose that if you never had an altruistic thought of love and concern for anyone who is not a member of your immediate family you might universalize your experience to conclude that people without children don't care about anyone at all, as if only parenthood conferred empathy for one's fellow humans. I had six great aunts who never married. It was like having six more grandmothers.

    It's just hard to imagine saying something that could be more offensive.

    OTOH, Maybe Ferguson decided that he needed a spike in his personal controversy meter in order to keep his name out there. Certainly, this ought to do it at Harvard.

  • Steve J. on May 04, 2013 2:07 PM:

    It's not Keynes or his homsexuality, it's Capitalism itself that is anti-family, according to Schumpeter in his Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy,first published in 1942.


    On pages 157-58 Schumpter notes that the calculations of Homo Economicus lead to the conclusion that having children simply doesn't pay:

    Still more important however is another "internal cause," viz. the disintegration of the bourgeois family. ... To men and women in modern capitalist societies, family life and parenthood mean less than they meant before and hence are less powerful molders of behavior;

    As soon as men and women learn the utilitarian lesson and refuse to take for granted the traditional arrangements that their social environment makes for them, as soon as they acquire the habit of weighing the individual advantages and disadvantages of any prospective course of action--or, as we might also put it, as soon as they introduce into their private life a sort of inarticulate system of cost accounting -they cannot fail to become aware of the heavy personal sacrifices that family ties and especially parenthood entail under modern conditions and of the fact that at the same time, excepting the cases of farmers and peasants, children cease to be economic assets. These sacrifices do not consist only of the items that come within the reach of the measuring rod of money but comprise in addition an indefinite amount of loss of comfort, of freedom from care, and opportunity to enjoy alternatives of increasing attractiveness and variety-alternatives to be compared with joys of parenthood that are being subjected to a critical analysis of increasing severity.

  • Gene O'Grady on May 04, 2013 2:09 PM:

    In point of fact Keynes wrote eloquently about what we were leaving for future generations. I'm not sure that our gay/straight dichotomy makes a lot of sense for the group (beyond Bloomsbury, by the way) that Keynes was a part of. If you look at A D Knox, great classical scholar and cryptographer, and apparently Keynes boy friend at one time, who did marry and have children, because it was important to him, it has been remarked that he and his wife loved each other for 25 years (Knox died young) but never understood each other -- perhaps not surprising given the social system they'd grown up in.

    One might reflect that Keynes' good friend T S Eliot, quite conservative in many ways, one of the few members of his circle who had no problems with Keynes marrying Lydia Lopukova, also had no children. So what? Or one can read the painful memoirs of the classical scholar E R Doods, whose childlessness was probably parallel to but more painful than Keynes', for a little more understanding.

    Or, to be all-American, one can look at the Bryn Mawr homoerotic friend (I doubt lesbian makes sense for 1890's college students, although it does for their teachers like Katherine Lee Bates) of Mark Twain's daughter Suzie, who died young. Apparently Twain kept in touch with her for the rest of her life and I believe she named her daughter after Suzie Clemens.

    But then I'm prejudiced because too many heterosexual members of my family have been shits to my children when they were in need, as opposed to my gay co-workers in San Francisco, who were always kind and were supportive when they were sick.

  • q on May 04, 2013 2:17 PM:

    I have to confess I know next to nothing about Edmund Burke, but what's the conservative fascination with him? The "social contract" bit doesn't sound like their thing.

  • Nancy Cadet on May 04, 2013 2:19 PM:

    Ms Geier, thanks for the quick tour of anti-Keynes hate talk, and also for introducing me to the term "hack ademic." Great--- and unfortunately very useful.

    Though I knew Keynes was a member of the Bloomsbury circle, I really had no interest in his personal life, and had no idea this absurd talking point linking credibility and sexuality was being circulated. As someone who cares about good jobs, decent working conditions and wages for others, however, I am interested in his economic theories. I also appreciate some of the witty remarks he's made that get passed around -- like the one that mocks gold bugs .

    I guess Ferguson is auditioning for Ann Coulter's role in our degraded public discourse . His non-apology is up on his website, no doubt driving some more traffic there. Elite universities use "visibility" as one criteria for their profs' performance (ie. citations, being interviewed or quoted in the press)....so like ROGOFF and REINHART we have an object lesson in how to succeed by giving the dominant class what it wants to hear, until it doesn't .

  • Citizen Alan on May 04, 2013 2:31 PM:

    "Pretty hard to argue with the idea that having children makes one more concerned about the next generation. Presentism is a common characteristic of the homosexual lifestyle. Grow up and get real. "

    I think it's pretty easy to argue against that fallacy by pointing to the vast numbers of people who don't give a shit about their own children, much less future generations? I see no evidence whatsoever that childbearing couples are, in general, more concerned about future generations than individuals without children. In fact, an obvious counter-example springs to mind -- the Quiverfulls, a Christianist movement that encourages couples to have as many children as possible (to the point of becoming dependent on charity and welfare) but which also believes that we are living in the End Times and so concern for future generations is misplaced.

  • Citizen Alan on May 04, 2013 2:36 PM:

    Also, the apology was interesting. Obviously insincere, of course. You can't say the things Ferguson said and then, in a different forum, expect people to believe the following: "As those who know me and my work are well aware, I detest all prejudice, sexual or otherwise."

    Niall Ferguson is a creature of the Right, and prejudice (sexual or otherwise) is so deeply ingrained in conservative thought as to be inextricable. The real story here is that in 2013, homophobia is so outside the mainstream that a darling of the Right like Ferguson would feel compelled to apologize for statements that would have been greeted with applause if he'd said them in a Republicans-only venue.

  • DRF on May 04, 2013 3:21 PM:

    I agree with Citizen Alan--the apology, although very straightforward, is insincere. Ferguson's comments about Keynes weren't sloppy language or awkwardly stated; he know exactly what he was saying and said it deliberately. That's hardly a mistake.

    I suspect he realized that his Harvard career, and perhaps other aspects of his professional career and social standing, were about to come crashing down on him--speaking engagements drying up, trouble with students in his classes, perhaps having Harvard make it uncomfortable for him to stay there. This was damage control, plain and simple.

    By the way, Geier's comments about Ferguson's own personal life were gratuitous and inappropriate. Morally questionable though his love life may have been (and, frankly, we really don't know the full story), it has nothing to do with his offensive statement about Keynes or the point he was making. Ferguson saying (to paraphrase) "Keynes' economic beliefs aren't credible because, as a childless homosexual, he had no concern for the future" is not rebutted by saying (again to paraphrase), "well, Ferguson cheated on his wife".

  • jrosen on May 04, 2013 4:44 PM:

    My introduction to Ferguson was his book on WWI "The Pity of War", which title he cribbed from Wilfred Owen, who knew what war was like and who encapsulated it for us in some of the best English poetry of the century: e.g.

    What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?
    Only the monstrous anger of the guns
    Only the stuttering rifles' rapid ratle
    Can patter out their hasty orisons.
    No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells
    Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, --
    The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells;
    And bugles calling for them them from sad shires.

    What candles may be held to speed them all?
    Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
    Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
    The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
    Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
    And each slow dusk the drawing-down of blinds.

    Ferguson's opus devoted a good deal of time and effort to the parsing of economic statistics, coming to a conclusion that briefly stated amounted to: It wasn't so bad after all.

    Could anything be more revealing of a creature lacking a soul? Instead of poring over the financial returns of 1917, one might tour the military cemeteries of Flanders Fields, or walk in the tunnels of the forts around Verdun, where a million men died for gain of a few square miles of blood-soaked mud. And ponder how that war, for which this day no one has determined --- despite oceans of effort --- a rational cause; and the scars of which still throb and fester today (viz. Bosnia, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, not to mention the whole history of Bolshevism and Nazism).

    BTW, Wilfred Owen was gay too.

    If I were still living in Cambridge I would be looking to ride Lord Ferguson out of town on a rail.

  • Steve on May 04, 2013 7:21 PM:

    I live about four miles from the site of this conference here in Carlsbad, California.

    I only wish I had known of this earlier, as I unfortunately composted a couple of overripe tomatoes which could have been put to good use.

  • biggerbox on May 04, 2013 9:13 PM:

    I'm glad that Ferguson has apologized and is now willing to acknowledge that his comments were stupid and offensive. But I'm still trying to understand what train of thought got him there in the first place, and his apology about the "in the end we are all dead" comment doesn't make sense to me.

    Do you know who else was childless? Sir Isaac Newton. Does anyone think that fact has anything to do with the validity of modern physics or calculus? Of course not. Would anyone raise it in a conversation about Newton's work? No.

    Ferguson can pretend he's against bigotry, but his own thoughts betray him. He was indeed being stupid and offensive, but it wasn't an accident - it's the way he thinks.

  • Philat on May 05, 2013 4:49 AM:

    Niall Ferguson is an academic of talent--though less than he thinks he is--who substitutes solid scholarship with flamboyant attacks on conventional scholarship, as evidenced by his first book. In other words, he's an attention getter--see me!--type whose stay at Newsweek was embarrassing to those knew anything about the topics he wrote about.

  • Barry on May 05, 2013 8:28 AM:

    Apparently Niall Ferguson doesn't care about future generations because he is giving them a sub standard education.

    The Harvard administration should fire this 'man'. What a black eye on an institution.

  • Anna Lee on May 05, 2013 9:10 AM:

    From the information here and in links, I have concluded that I may not have known that intellectual skinheads exist but apparently their leader is Ferguson. (Either Harvard is having problems with the quality of their faculty or it is joining the modern era that we already have with the media. Namely, facts are those things that stick to wall once they are made up or, in a pinch, the result of selective data analysis.)

  • Earl North on May 05, 2013 9:46 AM:

    Ferguson was wrong, his comment was offensive and illogical. Somehow that morphed into a series of attacks on people that are not well substantiated (reliable people told you about William Buckley?). Everything that happens or is said is not about everything else, and shouldn't be the basis for extrapolation to try and make a case. Ferguson was a jerk, perhaps he is always a jerk. End of story.

  • Aaron t. on May 05, 2013 9:48 AM:

    What a load of over-the-top bullcrap. Keynes was an anti-Semite and hated blacks to boot. ardly a great human being.

  • aimai on May 05, 2013 9:49 AM:

    On the subject of whether an excavation of ferguson's private life is an appropriate replique to his ad hominem smear of Keynes: of course it is. At its best Ferguson is pretending to make an argument: there is, he says, a direct link between Keynes' theories of the economy and of society and his private sexual orientation. Its masquerading as an argument: because gay = short sighted and not interested in community, society, posterity in this reading. Its not an offhand remark. Its a basic component to the entire talk. Apparently Ferguson et al are unable to refute Keynes's propositions and his economic argument in any other way than ascribing it to gay malevolence and short sightedness. If Ferguson had a stronger argument, one tethered, perhaps, to actual history or numbers, surely he would have advanced it?

    If Keynes' private life proves this theorem why is not Ferguson's own? You can see that it is because Ferguson's friends and supporters rush to distinguish his own case of abandoning his children for his career and, later, for his lover from scrutiny. But Ferguson himself admits that he priviliged economic and social success over the wellbeing of his children and even over his presumed important (present and future) identity as a parent. Far from allowing his children's needs to dictate his own short and long term plans he chose his own career and later his sexual satisfaction and romantic inclinations over theirs. In fact Ferguson's own inability to control his reproduction and his production of a second family with Ali Ayaan Hirsi puts him squarely in the camp of heedless teenagers who get pregnant accidentally and thus face economic consequences, or push the consequences off on their children by diminishing their children's chances for success. Sure, Ferguson and Hirsi, belonging as they do to the upper classes in terms of income, can probably afford their second family. But Ferguson's first family probably suffered quite a diminishment in income and status with the divorce. How very future minded of Ferguson.

  • blaise on May 05, 2013 11:02 AM:

    lots of hate evident in the anti-homophobic community.

  • Th on May 05, 2013 11:05 AM:

    Bigotry aside, does a Harvard history professor not know the context of the "in the end we are all dead" quote?

  • Dutch311 on May 05, 2013 11:40 AM:

    I have 4 children for whom I would lay down my life. No one else though. It's biological that a species shows more concern for its own progeny than others. Ferguson is right that people without children would be less concerned for the future. Not that they don't care but without children most people are not willing to make sacrifices they would make for thief own flesh and blood. Basic human nature which liberals continue to try to deny in so many ways.

  • Steve P on May 05, 2013 11:41 AM:

    Every Commonwealth country has a small body of literature describing its own "cultural cringe" and the rejection of same. That's why the US gets these people--the old Empire has long since wised up.
    A joke or washed up at Home, they cross the Atlantic, latter-day remittance men and women, bringing a glossy veneer covering a hollow interior, wafting from think tank to talk show.
    All the venues in Britain being exhausted. They all have the equivalent of Mishra's evisceration in their baggage, but it happened back home. You could fill a Best of Private Eye/Spitting Image/Not The Nine o'Clock News with satires of Ariana Stassinopolous-Huffington or Tina Brown and their epic careers in British media. A single review by Clive James would suffice for Paul Johnson--"Intellectuals"; look it up some time. And the Venerable Christopher Hitchens had little left to leave behind after his "friend" Martin Amis included his table talk in "Koba the Dread".
    Only sorry you missed out on Andrew Roberts, another slightly promising academic who sold the pass by churning out polemics and popular--and unnecessary--histories. The Wall Street Journal readers enjoying his pro-empire articles are probably not aware of his earlier Hate America First career writing for the Daily Express: "It is because with their own record of killing 12 million American Indians and supporting slavery for four decades after the British abolished it, Americans wish to project their own historical guilt onto someone else.'

  • Michael S. Olsen on May 05, 2013 12:31 PM:

    "No one else though. It's biological that a species shows more concern for its own progeny than others. Ferguson is right that people without children would be less concerned for the future"

    So, I guess if your siblings or parents were on the line you'd give no fucks at all? Or even your partner? Great, you're not insane at all.

  • Tofu on May 05, 2013 12:35 PM:

    So homosexuality is completely genetic and part of who you are, but suggesting it can then inform your beliefs is homophobic. Wow.

    Wow.

    Logic fail.

  • Nigel Roberts on May 05, 2013 12:41 PM:

    There are few things more entertaining than observing how a perceived slight on the part of the left brings out the hate.

    "Keynes was a childless homosexual" is a "slur"? Sounds like a dispassionate statement of fact to me.

    These hateful comments from lefties illustrate perfectly why their politics invariably leads to the gulag and the killing fields.

    And after penning these poisonous comments, they will all drive home in their cars sporting bumper stickers that preach tolerance.

  • Michael S. Olsen. on May 05, 2013 1:35 PM:

    "Keynes was a childless homosexual" is a "slur"?

    Yeah, it kinda is when there's no reason to otherwise bring it up.

  • Barbara on May 05, 2013 1:50 PM:

    When "being a childless homosexual" is used as a stand in for an argument as to why Keynesian economics is wrong, it's a slur, first, because it suggests that being "childless" deprives one of human empathy and second, because it suggests that this "lack" is particularly likely when the cause of childlessness is due to being gay (as opposed to infertility or deliberate celibacy). It turns out that Keynes and his wife tried to procreate, which surely muddies Ferguson's point, and taken to its ultimate logic, it casts aspersions on a lot of other people, not just Keynes. Pace Aimai, normally I don't really factor one's own family blunders into how I view someone's arguments, but it burns me that people like Ferguson (and many others) get to play this double standard whereby the "other side's" perceived family inadequacies explain everything but then demand that their own be respected as private choices that be left out of the discussion. If life is "complicated" for him and his wives, it is for everyone else too, and surely, it was a sight more complicated for John Maynard Keynes than it has been for Ferguson. Imagine if Ferguson pulled off his choices in the 20s and 30s, when people were not nearly so forgiving. He probably wouldn't have much of a career anywhere as an academic.

  • aimai on May 05, 2013 2:06 PM:

    "I have 4 children for whom I would lay down my life. No one else though. It's biological that a species shows more concern for its own progeny than others. Ferguson is right that people without children would be less concerned for the future. Not that they don't care but without children most people are not willing to make sacrifices they would make for thief own flesh and blood. Basic human nature which liberals continue to try to deny in so many ways."

    This is rather spectacularly wrong, almost fractally wrong.
    1) As human history shows us many people have children and abandon them--infanticide is a millenia old solution to the problem parents face in not being able to care for their own children.
    2) Parents often abandon their children, or abandon some of their children, viz: slave owners and their progeny with their slaves, the fate of illegitimate children, etc...
    3)As everyone has pointed out upthread Catholicism priviliges celibacy--proscribes it, in fact, and yet Ferguson does not accuse the Pope or the Catholic Hierarchy of "being less concerned with the future."
    4) Infertile people and gay people have historically adopted children who are not of their blood and reared them sucessfully and with an eye to the future.
    5) The poster's own self description is not, in fact, particularly future oriented and certainly has nothing to say about the economy or society. It resolves itself into nothing more moral than the argument of the "selfish gene" or "fuck you world, I got my progeny." Neither "laying down your life" nor, presumably, selfishly attempting to gain benefits specifically for your own children can be seen as at all relevant to major arguments about the orientation of economists, or scientists, or doctors, or politicians to the future. You can't get from your own petty personal circumstances to a particular philosophical stance on society. To do so is to make a crude and easily falsified statement that biology and/or biography is destiny.

  • Dantes on May 05, 2013 2:39 PM:

    Childless homosexual is a descriptive fact, not a slur. What else would you call him? These days, we're supposed to grant special consideration to heterosexual mothers as having some special political insight...is that a slur too?

  • nostalgiac on May 05, 2013 5:12 PM:

    Ms Geier's huffy-puffy self-righteous histrionics are at least worth a chuckle or two.

  • S.C. on May 05, 2013 5:23 PM:

    It is interesting, though, that the Europeans, the most dutiful followers of Keynes, are dying off.

  • Noah Campbell on May 05, 2013 7:09 PM:

    Umm, has no one here ever heard of a bisexual? That's what I was under the impression Keynes was.

    I'm no expert on the issue but I'm pretty sure you can be a procreating "Real Man" and simultaneously like to have sex with a dude now and then.

  • HMDK on May 05, 2013 7:24 PM:

    "It is interesting, though, that the Europeans, the most dutiful followers of Keynes, are dying off. "

    Dying off? Interesting? Keynes? Europeans? Are you just running words through a blender or are you really as dumb and/or bigoted as you sound?

  • John on May 05, 2013 7:35 PM:

    Thanks for the link to the Naipaul article. From there, it was just a couple easy clicks to the truth!

  • Jack Archer on May 05, 2013 7:59 PM:

    Haha! I was struggling to understand the vituperative tone of this article until this bit: "I deeply resent the insinuation that, because I havenít irresponsibly procreated, I care nothing about future generations." The lady doth protest too much. Poor Nial. He repeated a well known fact of history, but he hadn't realized the ground has shifted. Today, everyone is selfishly childless and gay, whether hetero or homosexual. Pointing it out stings everyone in the audience. I'm the only adult at my office or on my street (not counting the old retired folks) - everyone else is a creature out of "Frazier" these days.

  • blais on May 05, 2013 8:09 PM:

    Mr Archer is getting too close to the truth, so be prepared to be destroyed (in this space), Mr Archer.

  • Barbara on May 05, 2013 8:41 PM:

    Well I have three children and I completely agree with Kathleen. Nanny nanny boo boo!

    Gosh, using this as an organizing principle for who is trustworthy on the subject of taking care of future generations is going to really turn some people's thinking upside down. Karl Marx had lots of children, but you know who else is/was childless? Ayn Rand and Allen Greenspan. I can't wait for the critical reassessment to begin in 4, 3, 2, 1 . . . .

  • DB1954x on May 05, 2013 10:21 PM:

    I can't even begin to get my head around or understand Ms. Geier's contention that Professor Ferguson has given the late JM Keynes offense. I suppose that in our 'fundamentally transformed' culture today, it's a grave offense to speak the truth about certain iconic figures. The fact is, Keynes WAS gay and childless. As for Ferguson's response to the question, that's what historians do when asked for historical facts and an interpretation of those facts. Is it not even remotely possible that Ferguson might have been correct, especially since we have the testimony of VS Naipul and others as to the character of Keynes? In fact, Ms Geier is the one who speculates as to the true nature of Keynes' marriage and feelings for his wife. If one accepts Keynes' sexual orientation as homosexual, it seems to me that chances are, Keynes lied to his wife about his proclivity for same sex relationships. IF true, that would make him both an adulterer and a liar. You still insist that JM Keynes was a man of high moral character? You also offer no facts to rebut Naipul's characterization of Keynes as a pedophile. You simply attack Naipul ad hominem. Ms. Geier, is it your position that gay and lesbian persons should be altogether excused or exempt from even the most universal of moral standards?

  • Michael S. Olsen on May 05, 2013 11:01 PM:

    Jacvk archer; "Today, everyone is selfishly childless and gay, whether hetero or homosexual. Pointing it out stings everyone in the audience. I'm the only adult at my office or on my street (not counting the old retired folks) - everyone else is a creature out of "Frazier" these days."

    What the hell is selfishly childless and/or gay?
    No, seriously, how is it selfish to be either gay or not want children? Or both? (And you seem to ignore that many gay people DO want to raise children, but that's par for the course for idiots).

  • Pete Shanks on May 06, 2013 12:05 AM:

    Wow. Ferguson has given an unqualified apology for his remarks (the link is above), calling them "doubly stupid" and saying that: "It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life." And most of these comments defending him were posted after he apologized. It's hilarious, really. Many of these people are literally defending someone who has called his own speech indefensible.

  • wankette on May 06, 2013 12:40 AM:

    Kathy: Take a valium and read Mark Steyn.

  • Anonymous on May 06, 2013 3:07 AM:

    "In some ways, itís precisely because I donít have kids that I am committed to helping build a better world. Rather than children, what I will leave behind me are whatever small ways Iíve helped individual people and the activist causes and organizations to which I devote my time and labor."

    Ms Geier is offending parents everywhere with her remarks. OUTRAGE!

  • Rich R. on May 06, 2013 6:39 AM:

    Why is it offensive to say that John Maynard Keynesí economic philosophy was flawed and that he didnít care about future generations because he was gay and didnít have children, but it is not offensive to refer to people with whom you disagree as "wing nuts", "wingers," "demon spawn second generation right-wingers," and, once more, "demon spawns."

    And how journalistically responsible is this: "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"? Accusations without evidence is worse than anything you're complaining about, especially when you "deeply resent insinuations" that you imagine are directed at yourself.

    Rich R.

  • Ho Hum on May 06, 2013 8:31 AM:

    Wow. Get out the pitchforks. Someone has expressed an opinion that the perpetually outraged disagree with. Burn the witch!
    As far as it goes, the opinion that Keynes' lifestyle and the philosophy of the Bloomsbury Group (look 'em up) had an effect, perhaps (gasp) negative, on their economic theories is, yawn, about 50 years to late to excited about.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/347409/re-keynes-was-gay-not-theres-anything-wrong

  • Barbara on May 06, 2013 11:38 AM:

    Reading these comments gives a good sense of why Ferguson thought he could get away with spouting such drivel.

  • smartalek on May 06, 2013 12:12 PM:

    @Barbara:
    Truly.
    There seems to be nothing that brings out the worst like the chance to revel in hating on Teh Ghey.
    Even the race-baiting opportunities don't generate nearly as many haters, nor such levels of ugly.
    Their parents must be so proud.
    One thing they all have in common, though -- we're the *real haters*. How dare we refuse to tolerate intolerance! How hypocritical! How rude!

  • Brennan on May 07, 2013 6:02 AM:

    "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."

    Printing an accusation for which you claim to have found no evidence after "a quick internet search" is the very definition of hackery.

    Send in the clowns? Don't bother--she's here.