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By now, you should probably know that Niall Ferguson is a conservative troll. Last summer, when Tina Brown's Newsweek couldn't find a story about a Muslim woman breastfeeding her child while fellating a vegetable (because we all know that would have been Brown's DREAM cover), the friendly folks at Newsweek decided to run a factually-challenged screed against the Affordable Care Act by Niall.  Paul Krugman harshly criticized the column, noting, "We're not talking about ideology or even economic analysis here — just a plain misrepresentation of the facts, with an august publication letting itself be used to misinform readers."

If you don't remember Ferguson from that, you may remember him because of his long history of imperialist apologetics, his paeans to the British Empire for bringing freedom and democracy to the "primitive" peoples of the world.   Never mind the use of concentration camps in the Boer War.  Never mind the gulags, murder, and torture in Kenya.  Never mind the countless atrocities committed in India.  Never mind the continued and often brutal resistance to allowing genuine self-rule in the colonies.  They just couldn't understand "freedom" as the Brits could.

Anyways, I'm bringing up Ferguson because of the latest example of his ignorance and conservative trolldom.

According to Financial Advisor's Tom Kostigen, at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, California, Niall Ferguson argued that Keynesianism is wrong because of Keynes's sexuality:

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.

It gets worse.

Ferguson, who is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, and author of The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, says it's only logical that Keynes would take this selfish worldview because he was an "effete" member of society. Apparently, in Ferguson's world, if you are gay or childless, you cannot care about future generations nor society.

First of all, this is an ad hominem attack.  As anyone who knows the smallest bit about logic or rhetoric remembers, this is a logical fallacy that has no place in reasoned debate.

Second, there is a factual error.  John Maynard Keynes was bisexual; he had relationships with both men and women.  He was married to a woman, the aforementioned ballerina.  His wife unfortunately had a miscarriage, so Keynes did, in fact, almost have a child.

More importantly, the argument that people cannot care about future generations unless they have children is simply offensive and groundless.  I have to wonder if Ferguson would similarly de-legitimize the entirety of Catholic social teaching.  Thomas Aquinas, another childless man who wrote on economics, argued for just wage and against predatory pricing, and his writings lay the foundation for the development of Catholic social justice teaching.  Monsignor John Ryan, again childless, modernized and expanded upon such teachings for the industrial age in the Progressive Era and was one of the most prominent social reformers in New York City at the time.  According to Ferguson, neither of them could have had any regard for future generations because they produced no children of their own.

Continuing that thread, would Ferguson also say that the historical figure Joshua ben Joseph, known as Jesus, whose moral teachings are regarded by his followers, adherents of other faiths, and non-believers alike, could have had no regard for future generations because he had no children?

Additionally, I've often thought that Keynes's artistic bent had a positive connection to his economic thought.  Full employment, a prime objective of Keynes's economic thought and policy recommendations, is essential if one wants to achieve a "beautiful society," rid of the stains of poverty and hunger.  A society that achieves full employment will certainly improve the lives of the next generation by improving the current lives of their forbears.

But why argue with a troll?  

1:10 PM PT: So, apparently, a few hours ago, Niall Ferguson issued an apology on his website: http://www.niallferguson.com/....  I'm guessing that his bosses at Harvard forced him into doing so.  I find the art of the public apology to be rather amusing.  There are cases in which you say something that is misinterpreted, and in those cases, an apology is necessary to return to mutual understanding.  But when you say something that is both offensive and logically unsound--in front of a large group of people--you probably meant it.

The most hilarious part of his apology is the line "I detest all prejudice," a comment belied by his neo-imperialism and neoconservatism.


Originally posted to Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees on Sat May 04, 2013 at 09:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Keynesian Kossacks.

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