Harvard University professor Niall Ferguson apologized on Saturday for his earlier suggestion that economist (and fellow Brit) John Maynard Keynes was not concerned about future generations because Keynes was gay and had no children.
Ferguson created the fine, politically-incorrect mess during a question-and-answer session at the Altegris Strategic Investment Conference in Carlsbad, Calif. last week, reports Boston.com. Over 500 financial advisers and investors were present at the conference.
Ferguson was answering a question about Keynes’s well-known quip that thinking too far into the future about economic policy can be unproductive because “in the long run we are all dead.”
Tom Kostigen of the website Financial Advisor provides the details of Ferguson’s remarks.
“Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had,” recounts Kostigen. “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.”
In the “unqualified” apology that Ferguson has since posted on his personal website, he explains that he disagrees with Keynes not on the basis of sexuality but because, the historian argues, current economic policy can seriously burden the economic situation of future generations.
“I should not have suggested,” Ferguson writes, “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.”
Ferguson noted that people who have no children can and do care about future generations. He also said he forgot that Keynes’s wife had suffered a miscarriage.
“My disagreements with Keynes’s economic philosophy have never had anything to do with his sexual orientation.” Ferguson also says. “It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life. As those who know me and my work are well aware, I detest all prejudice, sexual or otherwise.”
Keynes is widely considered one of the most significant economists of the 20th century. He died in 1946. In recent years, both the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve have generally followed some of his most famous guidance: to borrow and spend vast sums of money during an economic downturn.
Ferguson is the Laurence A. Tisch professor of history at Harvard. He is also a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a senior research fellow at Oxford University. He was an adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and has criticized the Obama administration’s economic policies.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Ferguson also tweeted his apology to over 50,000 Twitter followers.