Philip Pilkington: Homosexuality Leading Cause of Economic Crisis, Harvard’s Niall Ferguson Reports

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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.

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  1. Newtownian

    Why didn’t Ferguson do a sympathetic re-evaluation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

    I knew he was bit flaky but this sounds mind boggling.

    Are you sure it isn’t a bad joke gone even worse? He always seems to appear as having tabs on himself enough to think he has a sense of humor.

    Alternatively maybe he has been a parody all along and he is about to reveal that a clown and practical joker can become a Harvard Economics professor provided he says the correct words.

  2. JDM

    Not only not a joke, it’s not the first time he’s said it, or written it. And he’s not the only conservative to do so either.

    1. SóloSéQueNoSéNada

      What would Niall say of Peter Thiel, el billionaire anarco-capitalist fanatic who is famous for his wild gay parties in which servers walk around wearing nothing but aprons?

    1. sd

      Ferguson has made other, similar, remarks for 14 years. He just has happened to apologize for this one particular instance.

  3. Working Class Nero

    There is crystal clear proof that Ferguson has no clue what he is talking about and that Keynes was indeed very concerned about the fitness of future generations. Keynes was the director of the British Eugenics Society for seven years; the very definition of eugenics is caring about the future. Apparently Keynes and some of his pals were worried that the nascent welfare state they were designing would have dysgenic tendencies on society and they worked hard to find ways to avoid destroying the genetic fitness of future generations.

    Doesn’t sound very effete to me….

  4. Paul Tioxon

    Niall Ferguson is teaming up with Anthony Bourdain to do a Zombie Deconstruction-a-thon with Glenn Beck on line. Topic for discussion is Hollywood’s A List fetish with all things zombie. The new Sci-Fi apocalyptic “WORLD WAR Z” will be analyzed for not-so cryptic New World Order meme’s and secret subliminals of homoerotica. Neil Patrick Harris emcees.

    1. Phil Perspective

      So Ferguson has a good many more apologies and retractions to perform. One hopes he gets on with it.

      That people are only now finding Ferguson’s putrid crap from 15 years ago tells me the only people who ever cared what he had to say are fellow VSP’s.

  5. Elliot

    I always thought Ferguson was gay. (Though that wouldn’t keep him from being bigoted, I guess; he seems pretty much hate-filled, whatever his orientation.) I can’t believe people take him seriously, he’s so obviously lying about so much of the history he mangles.

    …What do the conservative types who fall for the “people with no children don’t care about the future” thing think about Catholic priests? Nuns?

    1. Ben Johannson

      Ditto. I’ve assumed he was in the closet since I first saw him speak five years ago.

    2. digi_owl

      The biggest public nay-sayers about any activity is likely to be doing that exact activity behind closed doors. It may well be a cry for help, absolution, or simply a way to chastise themselves.

        1. Binky Bear

          The difference is liberals can look in a mirror and see a version of the truth; conservatives just wonder how to cut a hole in it so they can boink the one person who really loves them.

      1. from Mexico

        That’s certainly been my experience.

        The clergy and politicians who are closet queens are some of the most prominent soldiers in the anti-gay jihad.

  6. pws

    If I explain, then you will see, I am not at fault. My Poverty Eradication Plan was meant to bring prosperity to the City, to rid us of those scoundrels who waste their days in filth and drink, without homes or occupations other than to beg for the coin for which the rest of us toil.

    And it was a simple plan – bring the disease bearing rats from the Pandyssian Continent – and let them take care of the poor for us. The plan worked perfectly. At first. But the rats – it was if they sought to undo me. They hid from the catchers, and bred at a sickening rate. Soon it didn’t matter, rich, poor, all were falling sick.

    And then people began to ask questions. The Empress assigned me to investigate whether the rats had been imported by a foreign power. I knew the truth would come out eventually. So there was no other way than to be rid of her, and take power myself. She had to die, you see. SHE HAD TO DIE.

    Bringing about the death of an Empress is not an easy thing, but it gave me the chance to attack the plague with some real authority. Quarantines! Deportation of the sick! But there’s always some idiot woman searching for her wretched lost babe, or some sniveling workman searching for his missing wife. And then quarantine is broken!

    But you can see how my plan should have worked? Would have worked! If everyone had just followed orders.

    — Hiram Burrows, Regent, Dishonored

  7. LifelongLib

    Philip Pilkington, you need to re-evaluate Burgess. Try “A Dead Man in Deptford”.

    1. Ben Johannson

      It wasn’t like Ferguson slipped when he intended to say,”Keynes was an old hag”. He made a structured argument blaming sexual preference for societal ills, which tells me the apology was for getting pushback, not for the content of the remark.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Somebody should ask Ferguson if he feels that Keynes should have been chemically castrated, as Alan Turing was (repeating from other thread).

        Also too, I’m guessing that in all but edge cases, discussing poetry, if done seriously, takes longer than sex does. Perhaps Ferguson does not know much about either?

    2. annie

      the strategy of the apology is to pretend to an off-cuff remark. reports show this not true.

  8. prufrock

    There is a point regarding the fact hat it seems so difficult to call an idiot… idiot. Instead he seems to have some interest in such a “high level institution” as Harvard supposedly is (but the same holds for any university around).
    So the point is: why is so difficult to get rid of idiots, especially well-paid idiots?

  9. Jim in SC

    I had never heard Anthony Burgess described as a conservative before. He was an important novelist and thinker a generation ago. “A Clockwork Orange”, the movie, was considered a movie masterpiece when I was in high school, though I didn’t exactly get it. It was a dystopia, of course, where anti-social personalities were re-educated through operant conditioning. Remember the mechanical eyelid holders?

    Burgess was a writer in residence at UNC-Chapel Hill sometime in the early to mid 70s. One of my teachers had been his student, and he told me a story about Burgess playing the piano over many beers and reciting pages and pages of ‘Finnegan’s Wake’. Burgess was a serious writer. His interest in dystopias came from his wife’s brutal murder by a gang of thugs, which became a scene in ‘A Clockwork Orange.’

    1. Mark Pawelek

      I’m thinking of tweeting these stories under #idioteconomics Harvard seems to specialise in these people. Do you need to pass an exam in idiocy to get a job there?

    2. James Cole

      None of what you describe is inconsistent with Burgess’s being conservative. Think of what the underlying argument of Clockwork Orange really is. Hint: it has something to do with intrusive government.

      1. banger

        In the time of Burgess being a “conservative” was not an indication of idiocy as it is now. Today’s allegedly “conservative” ideology is not in the least bit conservative by standards that were in place a few decades ago. Their stance today has a name–it’s called nihilism.

  10. Chris Engel

    The most telling and unstressed angle of this story is that, as any conservative or ex-conservative knows, this is par for the course for the casual bigotry that comes along with being a “true” Western conservative.

    Except that most conservatives keep that kind of racist, homophobic, classist talk under wraps, and save it usually for country club or locker-room banter.

    This “slip” of a comment by Ferguson to an audience that he may not have thought would have held him accountable, is a rare glimpse for liberals into the private thought process and social perspective of conservatives.

    I’m not suggesting Ferguson is the worst of bigoted conservatives (he does have a black feminist Somali wife after all), but it is still rather indicative of the conservative mindstate, the way they’re brought up, the way they think. I know because I used to be one of the bunch — even if the racism/sexism/homophobia isn’t overt in low-brow insults, it comes out in the “logic” that is used to analyze many issues, and bleeds through to every-day life and behavior.

    That aside, the man wrote an A+ apology and we should move on from berating the poor guy. The gays have already demonstrated they’re a powerful political and social force with many allies to be reckoned with, they don’t need to flex their muscle to put Fergie through any more of a hell than he’s going through now. Now is the time to show compassion.

    1. Chris Rogers


      There is only one fundamental flaw with your analysis, and that is the fact that Ferguson has been utilising such language since the late 1990’s – on this occasion though, he was hoisted by his own petard.

      As it stands, his apology means little – indeed, as a ‘Brit’ I’m rather surprised he actually retracted his statement, had he still been teaching in Oxford, he’d have not given one iota, nor issued an apology for this outburst.

      Obviously, teaching the US Elite, he now has to censor his opinions for fear of upsetting the parents of the wealthy elite he instructs with his imperialist babble – I suppose its one way of making yourself feel good in the face of the realities of the day, that is, the USA is a barbarous and dangerously overextended empire.

      Perhaps instead of slagging off Keynes, who by the way was and remains a greater intellect and clear thinker than our Niall, perhaps he’d be better off teaching Paul Kennedy’s ‘Rise and Fall of the Great Powers’, or something by AJP Taylor.

      I’m all for populist history, but opposed to remarks that are better suited behind the covers of Mein Kampf, rather than repeated often by someone who really should know better.

      Thank God I went to a provincial ‘red brick’ university is all I can say, and that taught me in a timeframe similar to Mr. Ferguson’s own undergraduates years, that someones sexuality means absolutely ‘F–K all’ in reality and should be no business whatsoever of me, or anyone else for that matter.

      What next, his students having Anal examinations to make sure they too are not deviants!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2. pws

      It’s a class indicator.

      The lower the social class of the conservative, the more likely he will be openly bigoted.

      However, it’s also an age thing. Homosexuality was so hated in my youth that you would hear open bigotry about it from people who were more careful on the subject of race (though they found ways to indicate their feelings on that, too).

  11. c.raghavan

    “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.”

    wonder whether “anti-austerity” here is a typo, or is Pilkington is suggesting that those on opposite side, like Krugman, aren’t doing so from position of rationality?

  12. Moneta

    The cost of living in the Western world, never mind all the rules around childrearing, pretty much gives you a good incentive not to have too many kids.

    The fact we still have kids just goes to show how strong the instinct to procreate really is.

    No need for conspiracy theories.

  13. J Sterling

    Everybody’s all scandalized that Niall Ferguson called Keynes a gay man who didn’t care about the future. I was scandalized before Ferguson even got to the gay part, that he lied about the “didn’t care about the future” part. This is based on Ferguson’s pretending to only know the eight quoted words “in the long run, we are all dead”. The full quote on the Quantity Theory of Money is:

    But the Theory has often been expounded on the further assumption that a mere change in the quantity of the currency cannot affect k, r, and k’,—that is to say, in mathematical parlance, that n is an independent variable in relation to these quantities. It would follow from this that an arbitrary doubling of n, since this in itself is assumed not to affect k, r, and k’, must have the effect of raising p to double what it would have been otherwise. The Quantity Theory is often stated in this, or a similar, form.

    Now “in the long run” this is probably true. If, after the American Civil War, the American dollar had been stabilized and defined by law at 10 per cent below its present value, it would be safe to assume n and p would now be just 10 per cent greater than they actually are, and that the present values of k, r, and k’ would be entirely unaffected. But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again. In actual experience, a change in n is liable to have a reaction both on k and k’ and on r.

    k and k’ are value in cash and value in the bank
    r is proportion of bank value in cash
    p is the price level and n is the quantity of money
    The italics are Keynes’s. What Keynes is saying here is that a theory that only speaks of the equilibrium conditions far from any actual events is like a theory of aerodynamics that is content only to describe the air far behind an actual plane. In order to design a plane that doesn’t make the passengers sick, you need to be able to describe the flow of air over the wings and inside the engine.

    If Niall Ferguson is not just a liar, then he hasn’t done what any historian should know how to do, and read the text. You can find the facsimile by googling. He has made this thesis a part of his speeches several times over the years, without anyone in his audience apparently correcting him about the quote, or about Keynes’s wife’s pregnancy. Or if anyone corrected him, he just ignored them. So why does Ferguson get paid more by Harvard than I get, for apparently not being able to do the most basic historical spadework?

  14. Samuel Conner

    Perhaps next it will be proposed that the National Accounts Identity was invented by homosexual accountants.

    Freshwater is discredited, saltwater becoming discredited.

    Perhaps the last perspective standing will be “muddy water”.

  15. allcoppedout

    Niall was trying to be funny. We should pity him as we would a stand-up dying on stage. He’s wrong on the biology. Most bees don’t do sex at all – but their genes carry into the future. The 17th century Italian aristocracy were almost exclusively gay – but didn’t die out as they used women as breeding vehicles. In economic biology we suggest gay brothers give advantage to the non-gay brothers (fight for them etc.) and ‘reproduce’ through the genes they share – ‘sperm wars’ are not dissimilar as groups get together to promote the chance of their ‘leader’.
    I don’t know or care if Niall is straight or gay. His argument is on holiday with the Palm Sisters as usual.

    1. skippy

      Niall was trying to be funny – allcoppedout

      That’s what happens when you try and copy the Dronator in Chiefs comedic prowess at elitist gatherings.

      Skippy… Dada Dizz Knee Land

      PS. was that Niall on top of a mushroom… was it a mushroom[???]

  16. IronButterfly

    Well folks, my father, Frank Pestana, was an ardent leftist, Marxist, and civil rights lawyer. He was the attorney that represented Morris Kight in a civil rights defense case when Morris was arrest for having sex in a public bathroom. Frank and His Wife (my Mother) Jean Kidwell went to Mississippi to struggle against Jim Crow Laws in that state in the early 60’s. However, that didn’t stop him from throwing me, his son, out of his house when I told him I was gay. He was in fact a virulent homophobe and claimed that I had identified with a “bourgeois element”. He also stated that “queers should have slits cut in there ears and be hung by them”. So you see not withstanding his political activities, philosophy, and proclivities, he was a bigot and a liar.
    I agree with those who hold Niall Ferguson accountable for his past remarks and discount this latest apology which has come far too late and is far to convenient given the recent shifts in public opinion about gay marriage and the like. However, I believe that homophobia has deeper roots than suggested by those whom associate Ferguson’s remarks with his Conservatism. No doubt they are related, but exclusively dependent on one another.

    1. IronButterfly

      pardon me, that should read “not exclusively dependent on one another”.

    2. Mark Pawelek

      To IronButterfly:
      There were various criminal sanctions against homosexulality back then so you can’t compare the 1960s with today. In the 1920s and 30s euthanasia and racism were regarded as acceptable in many left and liberal circles. I believe homophobia today is mostly spread by religion and by those people with a strong sense of identity, which conservatives, marxians and the rest of us may all share in. Identity is, first of all, always about what we are not.

      1. from Mexico

        Eric Hoffers said:

        Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.

        Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.

  17. craazyman

    shows you what I know about economics. I thought Keynes was a womanizer! Holy Bunghole Batman! Maybe that was Hayek or Mises or even Milton Friedman (that’s hard to visualize, not that I’d want to, frankly).

    I also thought gay guys wanted to get rich quick as bad as straight guys, which should make their economic tools just as good.

    The only pecker up my rear is the Wall Street/Justice Department/Fed pecker. I’m not sure if those dudes are gay but I suspect not. Or if they are, who cares.

    1. craazyman

      Also, obviously Professor Ferguson is a dork-butt. I mean really. If he was cool and suave he wouldn’t give a flying f*ck about this stuff. If he was a New Yorker, for example, he’d laugh at the homophobe buttheads, like I do. He really needs an entire course in “being cool” because he’s not. He may have to get his GED first, just to prepare for the coursework, which consists of hitting parties with gay friends who attract the women like lights attract moths. Then, when they see you’re the gay guy’s friend and you’re straight, it’s like fishing in a trout pond with live bait. ahahahahah

  18. Frank Miata

    Niall has already apologized for those remarks. He characterized is own comments on Keynes sexual orientation as stupid and insensitive. He is right about that. Now all he has to do admit that his work as a whole is bonk.
    Give him credit for “manning up.”

  19. Ernesto Lyon

    Homosexuality (noun) : erotic activity in which big banks screw us all over.

  20. Herman Sniffles

    One of the leading theories of why homosexuality evolved in humans is that it can be – from a “selfish gene” perspective – more productive for the homosexual to help raise his/her sibling’s offspring than it would be to raise his/her own offspring. The idea being that in stressful conditions where food is limited it’s better for the extended family to put lots of effort into rearing just a few brats than it is to spread the effort thinly over a whole screeching pile of brats (more brats survive to pass on their genes with the first strategy because fewer perish). Because the homosexual shares lots of genes with his sibling’s chidren, he/she helps pass on lots of his own genes with this behavior. So the homosexual “has” children whose future he/she cares about very much. Keynes was most certainly an ass, but not because he was a homosexual. He was basically – like the evil Rubin – just a heartless speculator who saw the great bulk of humanity as pawns to be manipulated and paracitised by a privileged elite. What really melted Keynes’ butter was neo-feudalism. That was his thing. If you read his books that becomes very apparent. And, by the way, that’s what we have right now.

  21. larry

    Ferguson has also in his disgusting mea culpa claimed that he “forgot” that Lydia had had a miscarriage. Ferguson has no understanding of Keynes’ later independence from the Bloomsbury group and the problems with his so-called friends his marriage caused him. The entire episode shows Ferguson to be intellectually disreputable and incredibly shallow.

    1. William C

      Sadly the Oxford History School tends to favour the brilliant essayist rather than the careful scholar. The result is a tendency to encourage superficial cleverness at the expense of true scholarship. There are plenty of exceptions of course but I fear Ferguson is not one.

  22. ChrisPacific

    I’m not sure that this is worthy of a top-level article on NC. Yes, I think that we can all agree that Ferguson is a twit, and I’m sure there is some truth in Pilkington’s assertions about how ‘some’ conservatives think or what might motivate them to take irrational positions. But ultimately, it’s the positions themselves that we need to evaluate. If austerity is wrong, it’s wrong for good scientific and evidence-based reasons, not because Ferguson is a homophobe. Conversely, if the opposing position is right, it wouldn’t become less right if it was discovered that some of the leading proponents were Nazi sympathisers or believed in alien abductions.

    Ultimately theories stand or fall on their own merits and on how well they describe and predict reality. We might have good reasons to believe a particular theory is flawed in certain ways based on the biases and prejudices of its authors, but the existence of those biases and prejudices is not sufficient evidence in and of itself. We still need to examine the theory and validate whether the flaw actually exists. That – not a discussion of the author’s credentials – is the crucial step, and (in my opinion) what NC excels at. It’s fun to skewer extreme and indefensible positions on the opposing side, and it plays well to a sympathetic audience, but it doesn’t necessarily get us any closer to the truth.

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