By Philip Pilkington, a writer and research assistant at Kingston University in London. You can follow him on Twitter @pilkingtonphil
Over the weekend a leading member of the pro-austerity crowd came out with what is probably their most ludicrous argument yet. Now that Reinhart and Rogoff’s dodgy study has been debunked, the austerity crowd are hunkering down trying to grasp at anything they can to make their discredited case. Enter Niall Ferguson, a Harvard historian who plays at being an economist-cum-scaremonger in his spare time. Ferguson tells us that our economic problems today are due… wait for it…the homosexual tendencies of John Maynard Keynes.
According to Ferguson Keynes was an effete homosexual who spent more time talking poetry with his wife than he did having sex with her (yes, that is reportedly a quote). And what does this have to do with economics? Well, Ferguson implies that people with homosexual tendencies don’t care about the future because they can’t have children. Presumably Ferguson is aware that Keynes’ wife actually miscarried once, in which case we can only assume that Keynes’ seed was too effete, too lacking in “animal spirits” to conceive. Perhaps even Keynes wrote the General Theory out of a sense of childless bitterness in order to doom future generations. When one opens this Pandora’s Box almost any odd fantasy might emerge.
These may seem like completely out-of-this-world claims, but if you scratch the surface they’re not so surprising. There is a fairly well-known conspiracy that claims that Big Guv’ment are trying to spread homosexuality in order to control population growth. Not to say that Ferguson buys into this conspiracy, of course, but it is reflective of a certain aspect of the mind-set of some conservatives – that is, the fear of a masculinity under threat from nefarious and possibly camp forces. The roots of such fear should be obvious to anyone with a passing interest in pop psychology and need not be repeated here.
Indeed such a fantasy shines through in a particularly instructive novel that was published, coincidentally, as the twin degeneracies of Keynesianism and progressive liberalism were at their height. In his 1962 novel The Wanting Seed the conservative author Anthony Burgess writes about a dystopian world in which overpopulation looms large and authoritarian governments use it as an excuse to interfere with peoples’ lives. One way in which they do this is to turn heterosexual relationships into a taboo and promote homosexuality as the new normal. Burgess’ book is a desperately poor piece of literature, replete with the author’s own insecurities that are so manifest as to almost embarrass the reader. Most importantly, however, is that Burgess’ authoritarian state has been taken over to further the homosexual agenda and stifle any manifestations of heterosexual masculinity.
Yes, the character of the effete homosexual who threatens, in some shape or form, one’s own heterosexual relationships is a well-established conservative trope. Whether it is truly just a manifestation of a sort of Jungian shadow that haunts its adherents or whether it is simply bigoted garbage remains to be seen. Ferguson, no doubt under the advice of his publisher, quickly made an apology. But if the debacle has taught us one thing it is that many of the academics on the anti-austerity bus are not primarily arguing from the position of rationality at all. Their work likely relies on, and has always relied on, elements of urban myth and fear. At the end of the day many of them are no more sophisticated than the loony right-wing in the US – the only difference is that they come wearing cloaks and gowns rather than baseball hats with teabags stapled to the front.