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Harvard professor sorry for remark on economist Keynes' sexuality

May 04, 2013|By Michael Mello
  • Harvard history professor and author Niall Ferguson has apologized for his remark Thursday that economist John Maynard Keynes didn't care about the future because he was gay and had no children.
Harvard history professor and author Niall Ferguson has apologized for… (Luca Bruno / Associated…)

Well-known Harvard professor Niall Ferguson apologized Saturday for what he called “stupid and tactless remarks” suggesting sexual orientation influenced the polices of famed economist John Maynard Keynes.

On Thursday, Ferguson suggested that the British economist lacked foresight about future generations because he was childless, and that he was childless because he was gay.

Ferguson made the comments during a conference in Carlsbad, Calif., during a discussion on Keynes’ famous line, “The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.”

Keynes, who died in 1946, is considered one of the most influential economists of the 20th century. During the recent Great Recession, economists recalled Keynes’ idea that in an economic downturn, the government should borrow and spend where the private sector could not.

Ferguson, a former advisor to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has been a critic of the Obama administration’s economic strategies.

“The point I had made in my presentation,” Ferguson wrote in his apology, “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....

“My disagreements with Keynes’ 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.”

A Scot by birth, Ferguson is a history professor who is a senior research fellow at Oxford University and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

He tweeted the apology to his more than 50,000 followers on Twitter and posted it on his blog.

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