Harvard “history” professor Niall Ferguson said that John Maynard Keynes was short-sighted because he was gay and childless. Niall Ferguson is a stain on academia; we should not be surprised that he’s tenured at Harvard.
Every elite university has its share of controversy. Torture memo author John Yoo still works at Boalt, here in Berzerkeley (because, like Prof. Ferguson at Harvard, he already has tenure). NYU president John Sexton lost a no-confidence vote over concerns about his cult-of-personality-driven expansion plans at home and abroad. Columbia Business School dean Glenn Hubbard — when interviewed by a far more admirable (and possibly equally-credentialed) Ferguson — denied the possibility that professors would allow the hundreds of thousands of dollars they receive in consulting fees to cloud their academic honesty, and refused to disclose his own conflicts of interest. But Harvard — as the country’s oldest university — has a history of excellence that magnifies the scandals that a select few of its current professors and administrators create.
The infamous Reinhart-Rogoff paper — written by two Harvard economists, who spawned a legion of austerity junkies quoting their non-peer-reviewed work — was recently put through the metaphorical equivalent of the woodchipper from Fargo thanks to the can-do spirit of a plucky Amherst grad student (this example is the only thing that makes me have a slight amount of faith in economics graduate programs). Coming off of a self-inflicted controversy over searching employees’ emails to find the person who leaked the totally separate cheating scandal to the media, the shredding of Reinhart-Rogoff’s credibility was enough to send Harvard administrators into a sputtering panic; Prof. Ferguson’s remarks have now made the Harvard P.R. room a scene from Fawlty Towers.
Ferguson has at least apologized for the entire substance of his Keynes critique, but misspeaking doesn’t explain the homophobia underlying his decision to use the personal life of a long-dead and enormously influential economist to dismiss said economist’s life’s work. Notice how no mainstream leftists critique Milton Friedman for such-and-such about his marriage and sexual orientation; the fact that he and his Chicago Boys justified the brutal dictatorship of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, however, is 100% fair game. Are we to believe that Niall Ferguson wants us to dismiss the work of, say, a hypothetical unnamed counterfactual-loving Britain-glorifying economic historian due to said tenured elite university professor’s life’s work being an attempt to compensate for some aspect of his personal life?
For those readers who wonder why this article is titled “Encore”, please refer to my post from last year that Prof. Ferguson directly inspired because he had banked on his prestigious credentials to spout false and biased nonsense.
In keeping with full disclosure, Alex Kravitz is about to graduate from UC Berkeley, and is not a paid consultant or operative for any organization. He is an employee of the University of California, but he just works as a security monitor in the residence halls — nothing that would conflict with his public statements. He calls on Niall Ferguson, Glenn Hubbard and their ilk to conclude their editorials with similar disclosures.
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