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Economist regrets remarks about Keynes's sex life

Slurs made at presentation in Carlsbad

Harvard professor and economist Niall Ferguson, a stern critic of Keynesian economics, has apologized profusely for linking the late economist's alleged sex life to his economic ideas, according to today's (May 7) New York Times. At a Strategic Investment Conference in Carlsbad Thursday, Ferguson was asked about Keynes's oft-quoted statement "in the long run we are all dead." Ferguson cracked that Keynes was "effete" and that his marriage to a Russian ballerina was probably more about "poetry" than procreation. The implication was that since Keynes did not have children, he was indifferent to the long-term future. It has always been reported that Keynes had homosexual experiences. On his blog post, notes the Times, Ferguson says that people without children do care about the long term, and he noted that Keynes's spouse had once had a miscarriage. Said a contrite Ferguson, "It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that [Keynes's] approach to economic policy was inspired by aspect of his personal life."

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Harvard professor and economist Niall Ferguson, a stern critic of Keynesian economics, has apologized profusely for linking the late economist's alleged sex life to his economic ideas, according to today's (May 7) New York Times. At a Strategic Investment Conference in Carlsbad Thursday, Ferguson was asked about Keynes's oft-quoted statement "in the long run we are all dead." Ferguson cracked that Keynes was "effete" and that his marriage to a Russian ballerina was probably more about "poetry" than procreation. The implication was that since Keynes did not have children, he was indifferent to the long-term future. It has always been reported that Keynes had homosexual experiences. On his blog post, notes the Times, Ferguson says that people without children do care about the long term, and he noted that Keynes's spouse had once had a miscarriage. Said a contrite Ferguson, "It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that [Keynes's] approach to economic policy was inspired by aspect of his personal life."

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Comments
9

Okay, but maybe Ferguson has a point concerning his economic criticisms of Keynes. Wouldn't Keynes' failure at procreation negate or at least call into question the "multiplier effect"? (rimshot)

May 8, 2013

David Dodd: But Ferguson now says that he was wrong stating that people without children have no interest in the long term. Ferguson has also said that it is wrong to say that Keynes's personal life had anything to do with his economic policy. An economist may easily conclude that Keynesian nostrums are deleterious to the future, but it is wrong to blame that on his lack of procreation. It has always seemed to me that the problems of Keynesian economics should arguably be blamed on Keynes's followers, not on him. Best, Don Bauder

May 8, 2013

Friedrich Hayek had two children. Maybe Ferguson was drawing that comparison. It should be noted, however, that Hayek and Keynes did share a friendship and agreed on a lot of economic theory. I have no idea why Ferguson brought up Keynes' sex life, that was silly.

May 8, 2013

David Dodd: Sometimes economists feel they have to be like shock jocks to liven up an economic forum that is getting dreadfully dull. If that's the case, Ferguson misfired. Best, Don Bauder

May 8, 2013

The problem with every economic theory is that conditions change, and yesterday's medicine turns into today's addiction. Right now the problem is a collapse in demand, and there is consensus in our politics that Keynesian stimulus will be provided short term. The debate is where that stimulus should be applied, which taxes should be cut, which spending will be increased. May I suggest that Mr. Ferguson's irrelevant blather might be caused directly by his professional sex life, that of brown nosing the rich. No one now proposes a balanced budget. Keynes wins again, because demand collapsed again.

May 9, 2013

Psycholizard: Consumer spending is more than 70% of the U.S. economy. But between 1966 and 2011, inflation-adjusted incomes of the lower 90% grew by only $59 while incomes for the top ten percent soared by $116,071. For the weak recovery years of 2009-2011, the average net worth of the richest 7% soared by 28%, while household wealth of the bottom 93% dropped by 4%. And anybody wonders why the economy is weak? One of several major reasons for the continuing widening of the gap between haves and have-nots is current Federal Reserve policy. The Fed has driven short and long rates so low that both bonds and cash are essentially dead money unless we go into a depression. The government and Fed put a gun to your head and force you to buy stocks. But the rising stock market only boosts wealth of the top 10%, who own 90% of stocks. I am not sure Keynes, father of Keynesianism, or Milton Friedman, champion of monetarism, would approve of this outcome. Fed policy is NOT helping Main Street. That is fine with Wall Street, which is feasting off Main Street's pain. I agree with the Keynesians that experiences in Europe and elsewhere show that austerity is not the answer. But I agree with conservatives that public and private debt could one day be our ruination, although the U.S. remains better off than most major countries on the globe, and the woes could be several years down the road. Both the Keynesians and the monetarists are running out of ammunition. And economists' sexual proclivities have nothing to do with this. Don't fight it; buy American blue chip stocks yielding 3.5% or more. There is no alternative -- now. A crash will come, but I don't think it is near. Best, Don Bauder

May 10, 2013

Long term deficits concern all economists, deficits mean more money, and more money means inflation when inventories are gone, but so long as product rots on the shelf prices won't rise, so we shouldn't worry about deficits now. We should be concerned about foolish spending always, and deficit hawks do good work when they find waste. Foolish lending now is more the problem. Lending, like government spending, changes our country's direction, and we have been led into disaster by foolish lending, as has been well documented here.

I disagree that there are few further remedies. Restoring Glass Steagle, loaning directly to students and others are fixes on the monetarist side. For the Keynesians, the year 1943, the best year ever for US employment, has a grab bag of tools no one is suggesting now, such as forced government hiring of ten million, and price controls. Many now suggest world war of course.

May 11, 2013

Psycholizard: I am all for restoring Glass Steagall. I am for forcing split-ups of the largest banks so there will be no too big to fail. In 1943 we were in the middle of a world war; I am not sure it is a good model for today. I do believe we need massive infrastructure projects; these could lead to mass government hiring. We should have done that five years ago. Best, Don Bauder

May 11, 2013

We can do more to stimulate employment, but I doubt we will, due to politics. Nations that hoard money, such as China and Germany, could help and if they wake up, could finally give a shot to the World Economy; The low wages in these exporting countries are a major problem, because they keep wages low everywhere. If these countries would practice balanced trade, that could fix many problems.

May 12, 2013

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