Harvard professor apologises for suggesting that bi economist Keynes was selfish for not having children

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A Harvard professor, broadcaster and Financial Times columnist has apologised for comments he made earlier this week, when he suggested that an economist’s theories were wrong, because the economist had been in same-sex relationships, and therefore too selfish to care for future generations.

Niall Ferguson, tweeted to apologise, and published a full apology on his website, after making comments on Thursday that famed economist John Maynard Keynes, and his economic theories, were inherently selfish because he was bi, married to a ballerina, and had no children.

Speaking at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Ferguson said that Keynes was an “effete” member of society and that he took a selfish world view, and did not care about future generations, because of his sexuality and lack of children.

The audience at the event reportedly then went quiet, and some members said afterwards that they were offended by what the Harvard professor had said, reports the Business Insider.

Ferguson has now admitted that his remarks were “stupid and tactless”, on Twitter.

He also posted an apology on his website, going further to say that the comments were “insensitive”, noting that his comments were even more so, because he had overlooked the fact that Keynes’ wife had miscarried.

During a recent question-and-answer session at a conference in California, I made comments about John Maynard Keynes that were as stupid as they were insensitive.

I had been asked to comment on Keynes’s famous observation “In the long run we are all dead.” The point I had made in my presentation was that in the long run our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are alive, and will have to deal with the consequences of our economic actions.

But 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.

My disagreements with Keynes’s economic philosophy have never had anything to do with his sexual orientation. 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.

My colleagues, students, and friends – straight and gay – have every right to be disappointed in me, as I am in myself. To them, and to everyone who heard my remarks at the conference or has read them since, I deeply and unreservedly apologize.

Niall Ferguson