Economic historian Nial Ferguson–a well-known author and Harvard professor–has come under fire after he suggested that John Maynard Keynes’s sexuality may have influenced his economic theories.
Jonah Goldberg questions whether the controversy is justifiable at National Review Online:
There’s a brouhaha a-brewin’ over comments by Niall Ferguson at an investor conference. Ferguson suggested that because John Maynard Keynes was gay, effete, and childless he might have lacked concern for posterity. After all, Keynes famously proclaimed ”in the long run we’re all dead.” In a nigh-upon hysterical and terribly written item, Tom Kostigen of Financial Advisor says Ferguson took “gay-bashing to new heights.” He adds, “Apparently, in Ferguson’s world, if you are gay or childless, you cannot care about future generations nor society.”
Now, I don’t know exctly what Ferguson said, and I don’t trust Kostigen’s version of events either. There are few full quotes and virtually nothing like proper context to anything (for instance, he seems to think “effete” and “gay” are synonyms). But Ferguson has offered an abject and total apology, which I take to be sincere.
Still, I am a little surprised that so many people have never heard this idea before or that the mere mention of it is now a potential career killer (Felix Salmon of Reuters tweeted in response to Ferguson’s apology, ”It’s conceivable that Niall Ferguson managed to rescue his career with this” (emphasis mine).
I don’t endorse the theory and completely understand why it offends people. But it’s hardly as if it’s unheard-of in academia to speculate that one’s sexual orientation (or race, or gender, etc.) can influence a person’s views on public policy. Is it really nuts now to think that having kids changes a person’s time horizons?
Read the full story here.
This “controversy” strikes us as a wee bit hypocritical. After all, liberals have created entire academic fields such as “Gender Studies” and “Gay and Lesbian Studies”–based on the assumption that contemplating sexual orientation is essential to understanding intellectual history.
Why is it that when a conservative professor mentions the sexual orientation of a famous economist, in the context of explaining that economist’s worldview, that the liberal academics who created these new academic fields suddenly rise up to condemn such inquiry as “gay bashing?” Yet, when they, as liberals, do the same thing–it’s called the “gay and lesbian studies department,” and it’s praised, esteemed, and given a million dollar annual budget.
Either it’s wrong to consider a scholar’s sexual orientation in the course of academic inquiry all the time, or it’s right all the time. It can’t be acceptable only when liberals are doing it. Otherwise, it’s just another form of censorship and liberal bias, masquerading as fairness and “sensitivity.”