Daily Beast contributor Niall Ferguson has offered an “unqualified apology” for suggesting that John Maynard Keynes, the British economist whose theories are the basis of macroeconomics and the foundation of progressive economic policy, was unconcerned with future generations because he was gay and childless.
Ferguson, a Harvard history professor who has issued flawed denunciations of President Obama's economic policies, made his original comments during a May 2 speech. According to a May 3report by Financial Advisor magazine (emphasis added):
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.
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.
Ferguson quickly came under fire following the publication of the Financial Advisor piece. On May 4, he acknowledged on his website that his comments were “as stupid as they were insensitive.” He wrote:
But I 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.
Ferguson further stated that he “detest[s] all prejudice, sexual or otherwise,” but that his colleagues, students, and friends “have every right to be disappointed in me, as I am in myself.” He concluded: “To them, and to everyone who heard my remarks at the conference or has read them since, I deeply and unreservedly apologize.”
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.”