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Post image for Harvard Professor Apologizes For Claiming Homosexuality At Core Of 2008 Worldwide Economic Meltdown

Harvard Professor Apologizes For Claiming Homosexuality At Core Of 2008 Worldwide Economic Meltdown

by David Badash on May 4, 2013

in Discrimination,Economics,News

A Harvard professor who a decade ago was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world suggested yesterday that gay people are inherently selfish because they do not have children and therefore don’t care about future generations. Niall Ferguson seemingly blamed the 2008 worldwide financial meltdown on Keynesian economics and told a group of investors that John Maynard Keynes’ economic theories are flawed because he was gay. Minutes ago, amid a firestorm prompted by media reports, Ferguson issued an apology.  


Ferguson, a noted historian and author who is also the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College at University of Oxford, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, is known for his controversial comments.

“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,” reported Tom Kostigen at Financial Advisor magazine:

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.

Kostigen adds that Ferguson “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.

This takes gay-bashing to new heights. It even perversely pins the full weight of the financial crisis on the gay community and the barren.

Not only is this intellectually void, it’s mad. And anyone with a moral conscience should be outraged. It is one thing to take issue with a society fueled by self interest and one fueled by a larger ethic. But it’s entirely vulgar to make this argument about sexual preference — and to do so glibly.

Throughout his remarks, Ferguson referred to his “friends” in high places. They should all be embarrassed and ashamed of such a connection to such small-minded thinking. Ferguson says U.S. laws and institutions have become degenerate. Rather, I dare say, it’s Ferguson’s arguments which are.

Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman has called Ferguson a “poseur” whose work is “all style, no comprehension of substance.”

The Tenth Annual Altegris Conference, where Ferguson made his ignorant and homophobic remarks that apparently went wholly unchallenged, sans for the audience going “quiet at the remark,” and some attendees later saying “they found the remarks offensive,” is “an invitation-only exclusive event, open to high net worth individuals, institutional investors, and financial advisors.”

In his apology, Ferguson writes his comments “were as stupid as they were insensitive,” adding:

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.

It’s a pity that no one could muster the moral courage to stand up and call Ferguson out for his ignorance, homophobia, and hate — not that we should blame the audience instead of the speaker.

But someone was required to, and at the very least that was the conference moderator or host. Someone “in charge” in the room was professionally required to respond.

How different is this from from someone saying “that’s so gay” or “fag” in a casual setting? It’s just dressed up homophobia, ignorance, and hate hiding behind a Harvard professorship and a Time magazine “100 most influential people in the world” award — apology or none.

Conference organizers and sponsors should publicly denounce and apologize for Ferguson’s remarks as well. Again, they aren’t to blame, but they have a vested interest in not being associated with Ferguson’s homophobia and false comments, despite his apology.

Krugman’s comments, by the way, were prompted by Ferguson’s 2009 statement:

President Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat. One of the best-loved cartoon characters of the 1920s, Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky. And that pretty much sums up the 44th president of the US …

You can visit Altegris Advisors, call them at 800.828.5225 or send them an email. Altegris is a wholly owned subsidiary of Genworth Financial (NYSE: GNW).

UPDATE: 2:25 PM:
Gawker weighs in, makes important observation:

Overall, Harvard professors are having pretty bad few weeks when it comes to advocating austerity. Earlier this month, Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff were found to have used sloppy data to justify debt reduction. But at least they didn’t insinuate that gay people have no capacity to feel for fellow human beings.

UPDATE 2: 5:15 PM:

Niall Ferguson, Here’s Why Saying Stupid Things Is Dangerous

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{ 5 comments }

Huntercgo May 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Unfortunately for him, while his comments were stupid and insensitive, they were also spontaneous, which leads one to believe that they're what he really believes.

Serenifly May 4, 2013 at 4:57 pm

He is a typical neocon. His only motivation is selfishness, so he thinks everyone is like him.

jchastn May 5, 2013 at 1:07 am

As a pig financial theorist/neocon, he cares only for how much cash he can hoard off-shore. His opinions mean nothing. Noise of a rutting pig. Thats all.

ivegoneswimming May 5, 2013 at 10:01 am

quite the reverse is true – by not adding any more to the population we are in fact improving a planet that is already overpopulated and only going to expand by a further 2 billion in the next few decades.

sam3915 May 5, 2013 at 10:22 am

His apology is bullsh*t. Destroy this evil, Nazi pseudo-Christian, God.

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