Controversial British expatriate author and Harvard professor Niall Ferguson said on Friday that economist John Maynard Keynes’ ideas were fundamentally flawed and lacked concern for future generations because Keynes was gay and childless. According to Financial Advisor magazine, Ferguson (who is no relation to this reporter) made the offensive remarks at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, California before an audience of some 500-plus financial advisors and investors.
The author was responding to a question from an audience member about Keynes’ philosophy as opposed to the economic theories of conservative economist Edmund Burke. Ferguson argued that Keynes, who was married to a ballerina, spent time talking “poetry” with his wife as opposed to producing children, and was therefore incapable of considering the needs of future generations.
Financial Advisor‘s Tom Kostigen wrote, “Apparently, in Ferguson’s world, if you are gay or childless, you cannot care about future generations nor society.”
“This takes gay-bashing to new heights,” Kostigen continued. “It even perversely pins the full weight of the financial crisis on the gay community and the barren.”
The Daily Beast came under fire this past week when media critic Howard Kurtz published a factually inaccurate, anti-gay column about NBA player Jason Collins, who recently came out of the closet. The Beast was forced to correct the column, then retract it altogether.
UPDATE: Ferguson has offered an “unqualified apology” via his blog at NiallFerguson.com. It reads, in part, “During a recent question-and-answer session at a conference in California, I made comments about John Maynard Keynes that were as stupid as they were insensitive.”
He went on to say that he should not have “suggested – in an off-the-cuff response that was not part of my presentation – that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes’s wife Lydia miscarried.”
“My colleagues, students, and friends – straight and gay – have every right to be disappointed in me, as I am in myself. To them, and to everyone who heard my remarks at the conference or has read them since, I deeply and unreservedly apologize,” he concluded.
UPDATE 2: While Ferguson may be backing off the aspersions he cast at Keynes as a brief moment of public misspeech, economist Justin Wolfers pointed readers to this excerpt from Ferguson’s The Pity of War, in which takes a gratuitously homophobic swipe at Keynes, insinuating that the economist’s misgivings about World War I were traceable to the lack of anonymous gay sex in London.
“Though his work in the Treasury gratified his sense of self-importance,” Ferguson wrote, “the war itself made Keynes deeply unhappy. Even his sex life went into a decline, perhaps because the boys he liked to pick up in London all joined up.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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