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Niall Ferguson


  • Originally published 04/15/2014

    Niall Ferguson says our politicians are failing us

    As a historian, academic and entrepreneur, Ferguson wants governments to start communicating clearly with people, urging governments to "Get real and stop talking in a language no one listens to or understands."

  • Originally published 02/25/2014

    America's Global Retreat

    Never mind the Fed's taper, it's the U.S. geopolitical taper that is stirring world anxiety. From Ukraine to Syria to the Pacific, a hands-off foreign policy invites more trouble.

  • Originally published 06/25/2013

    Niall Ferguson: The Regulated States of America

    In "Democracy in America," published in 1833, Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the way Americans preferred voluntary association to government regulation. "The inhabitant of the United States," he wrote, "has only a defiant and restive regard for social authority and he appeals to it . . . only when he cannot do without it."Unlike Frenchmen, he continued, who instinctively looked to the state to provide economic and social order, Americans relied on their own efforts. "In the United States, they associate for the goals of public security, of commerce and industry, of morality and religion. There is nothing the human will despairs of attaining by the free action of the collective power of individuals."What especially amazed Tocqueville was the sheer range of nongovernmental organizations Americans formed: "Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations . . . but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fetes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools."

  • Originally published 06/18/2013

    Niall Ferguson: Paris could burn this summer

    High youth unemployment in Europe and disappointing growth expectations in the emerging world could mean more mass protests like the ones seen in Brazil, Niall Ferguson told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Tuesday."There are two kinds of city that we could see burn this summer," Ferguson said. "The big European cities with Paris at the top of the list look extremely vulnerable. Paris has a greater tradition of urban rioting than almost any city in the world."Ferguson, a Harvard University professor, said the French economy is bad and "the youth unemployment problem right across Latin Europe is really an explosion waiting to go off."...

  • Originally published 06/18/2013

    Bloomberg: Niall Ferguson is "grumpy" former sex symbol, thinks world is going to hell

    Niall Ferguson has written an old man’s book.Not too many years ago, in “Colossus” (2004), Ferguson was advocating that the U.S. face up to its Imperial destiny. And in “Civilization: The West and the Rest” (2011) he described how “six killer apps” made the West great.No more Churchill’s sunny uplands for us, apparently, as “The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die,” makes clear. Ferguson writes, “My over-arching question is: What exactly has gone wrong in the Western world in our time?”Surely, “everything’s going to hell” is the old man’s lament. Ferguson, who once personified the Oxford history don as sex symbol, turned 49 this year, so “Degeneration” feels a bit rushed, premature. On the other hand, looking at the last five years would depress anyone.

  • Originally published 06/17/2013

    Niall Ferguson on the hot seat

    The often controversial Niall Ferguson, 49, is one of the world’s most prominent historians. A specialist in international and economic history, a professor at Harvard and a senior research fellow at Oxford, Ferguson is the author of The Ascent of Money and Civilization: The West and the Rest, among other works. Married to feminist and atheist activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the British-American scholar is also a vocal critic of U.S. President Barack Obama. Ferguson’s latest book, The Great Degeneration, which originated in 2012 as the BBC’s prestigious Reith Lectures, condemns what he sees as an era of decline in the West, pinning the blame on our deteriorating institutions.Q: You have a reputation, rightly or wrongly, as a Western triumphalist, and now you’re writing about Western decline. Is this an about-turn?

  • Originally published 06/13/2013

    David M. Anderson: Atoning for the Sins of Empire

    David M. Anderson, a professor of African history at the University of Warwick, is the author of “Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire.”WARWICK, England — THE British do not torture. At least, that is what we in Britain have always liked to think. But not anymore. In a historic decision last week, the British government agreed to compensate 5,228 Kenyans who were tortured and abused while detained during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s. Each claimant will receive around £2,670 (about $4,000).

  • Originally published 06/03/2013

    Niall Ferguson and Pierpaolo Barbieri: The E.U.’s Feeble War on Unemployment

    Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard and author of “Civilization: The West and the Rest.” Pierpaolo Barbieri is Ernest May Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. His book, “Hitler’s Shadow Empire: The Nazis and the Spanish Civil War” will be published this fall. EUROPEAN leaders have declared war on youth unemployment. At a meeting we attended in Paris last week organized by the Berggruen Institute on Governance, President François Hollande of France called on his fellow E.U. leaders to “act urgently” to address the problem. Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, warned of an impending “catastrophe” that risks losing “the battle for European unity.” Italy’s labor minister, Enrico Giovannini, added, “We have to rescue an entire generation of young people.” Only a few days ago, his boss, the newish Italian prime minister, Enrico Letta, declared he wanted to make the European summit that begins on June 28 about “the fight” against youth unemployment.

  • Originally published 05/14/2013

    Niall Ferguson Meets with Students; Harvard Faculty Clarify Stance

    Credit: Flickr.UPDATE 12:13PM: David Armitage, chair of the Harvard history department, wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed that the department requested a "post in the modern history of gender and sexuality (jointly with Harvard's program in women and gender studies) long before the recent debate arose." He also pointed to the work of Afsaneh Najmabadi, Nancy Cott, and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich as an example of Harvard's pre-existing strength in the field of gender and sexuality studies.Historian Niall Ferguson, in an attempt to blunt criticism of his recent controversial remarks about John Maynard Keynes's sexuality, spoke on Monday to students at a lunchtime panel at the Harvard College Women's Center.

  • Originally published 05/13/2013

    Committee on LGBT History calls for Harvard to hire tenure-track LGBT historian

    Don Romesburg, co-chair of the Committee on LGBT History, issued the following statement today in reaction to HNN coverage of the Niall Ferguson controversy:[Niall] Ferguson's subsequent attempts to clarify his statement unfortunately show little more understanding of the history of sexuality than his initial comment did. The Committee on LGBT History encourages him to consulting the field’s extensive scholarship, much of which our members have written, to avoid echoing unfounded and discriminatory stereotypes and to deepen his understanding and analysis of the LGBT past. Harvard should show leadership here by, at a minimum, hosting a major conference about LGBT history and encouraging Ferguson to attend. It is also high time that Harvard makes a new tenure-track hire in LGBT history. The incident has underscored the value of teaching and researching LGBT histories. This confronts ignorance about LGBT people, lives, and communities, and in the process, builds a more accurate historical record overall.

  • Originally published 05/13/2013

    Niall Ferguson's Harvard Colleagues Support Him, but Not LGBT Historians

    Credit: Wiki Commons.UPDATE 3:58PM: Don Romesburg, co-chair of the Committee on LGBT History, issued the following statement on Monday to HNN, calling for Harvard to demonstrate its commitment to taking LGBT history seriously:[Niall] Ferguson's subsequent attempts to clarify his statement unfortunately show little more understanding of the history of sexuality than his initial comment did. The Committee on LGBT History encourages him to consulting the field’s extensive scholarship, much of which our members have written, to avoid echoing unfounded and discriminatory stereotypes and to deepen his understanding and analysis of the LGBT past. Harvard should show leadership here by, at a minimum, hosting a major conference about LGBT history and encouraging Ferguson to attend. It is also high time that Harvard makes a new tenure-track hire in LGBT history. The incident has underscored the value of teaching and researching LGBT histories. This confronts ignorance about LGBT people, lives, and communities, and in the process, builds a more accurate historical record overall.

  • Originally published 05/12/2013

    Tristram Hunt: History is Where the Great Battles of Public Life are Now Being Fought

    Tristram Hunt is Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central. He is the author of The English Civil War: At First Hand and the critically acclaimed Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City. A regular history broadcaster, he has authored numerous radio and television series for the BBC and Channel 4. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund.The bullish Harvard historian Niall Ferguson cut an unfamiliar, almost meek figure last week. As reports of his ugly suggestion that John Maynard Keynes's homosexuality had made the great economist indifferent to the prospects of future generations surged across the blogosphere, Ferguson wisely went for a mea culpa.So, in a cringeing piece for Harvard University's student magazine, the professor, who usually so enjoys confronting political correctness, denied he was homophobic or, indeed, racist and antisemitic for good measure.

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Manuel Barcia: Niall Ferguson Does a Romney

    Dr. Manuel Barcia is Deputy Director at the Institute for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Leeds.Over the past few years as gays, lesbians and transsexuals made social gains across the world, they have found themselves at the end of all sorts of accusations from those who see these advances as a threat to their precious status quo. They have been blamed for earthquakes, hurricanes and terrorist attacks. Now, in a very subtle way, the responsibility for the current economic crisis has been blamed on one of them, the famous and well-respected 20th century economist John Maynard Keynes. This time, however, the gay bashing did not come from some religious extremist in the American Midwest or Indonesia, but from Professor Niall Ferguson, a well-known British historian who plies his trade at Harvard University. 

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Reporter of Niall Ferguson's Keynes remarks goes on the record

    Thomas M. Kostigen is coauthor of The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving The Planet One Simple Step at a Time (Three Rivers Press).I was in the audience at the Altegris conference in Carlsbad, Calif., last week when Niall Ferguson, well-known historian, Harvard professor and author, spewed his remarks knocking economist John Maynard Keynes for being homosexual and not having children. Indeed, it was my blog post that drew worldwide attention to the comments. The following day, Ferguson issued an unqualified apology. I thought that was that. But I was wrong.Ferguson issued yesterday an open letter to the Harvard community, explaining himself and qualifying his remarks. He equivocates, and points out that Keynes had said offensive things himself. Ferguson also goes to town on his critics and detractors, and hammers the "blogosphere." Most importantly, he tries to explain how Keynes' homosexuality affected his judgment....

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Paul Krugman on Niall Ferguson

    After his Keynesianism-is-gay remarks got him in trouble, Niall Ferguson did the right thing and offered a straightforward, no excuses apology. Unfortunately, it seems that he has reverted to type; sigh.But this does seem to call for an update on a subject I have written about occasionally: the remarkable way in which the Great Recession, by bringing us back into a world of persistent inadequate demand, has unleashed a sort of reign of error among anti-Keynesian economists and pundits. And I’m not talking about the usual Heritage or Cato hacks; I’m talking about people with serious reputations either for research or for seemingly judicious commentary.Oh, and by “error” I don’t mean “views I disagree with”; I mean raw conceptual or empirical banana-peel episodes, the kind of thing that defenders of these men (who have a lot of defenders) try to justify not by claiming that they were right, but by claiming that they didn’t say what they did, in fact, say....

  • Originally published 05/07/2013

    Harvard historian apologizes for homophobic remark

    The prominent academic and public intellectual Niall Ferguson posted an “unqualified apology” to his blog Saturday after coming under fire for making seemingly anti-gay remarks at a recent public appearance.Ferguson, a historian at Harvard University and regular contributor to Newsweek, told attendees of the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., that the mid-century British economist John Maynard Keynes “didn’t care about future generations” because “he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of ‘poetry’ rather than procreated,” according to a financial journalist who attended the conference....

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Trashing Keynes for Being Gay is Nothing New

    J.M. Keynes (right) and Duncan Grant in 1913.Harvard economic historian Niall Ferguson told a group of financiers and investors last Saturday that John Maynard Keynes was a flawed economist who didn't care about future generations because he was childless and gay.Tom Kostigen, a reporter for Financial Advisor magazine, first reported on the story:Ferguson asked the audience [at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif.] how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of "poetry" rather than procreated. The audience went quiet at the remark. Some attendees later said they found the remarks offensive.It gets worse.

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Niall Ferguson: Keynes was wrong because he was childless and gay

    Harvard Professor and author Niall Ferguson says John Maynard Keynes' economic philosophy was flawed and he didn't care about future generations because he was gay and didn't have children.Speaking at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., in front of a group of more than 500 financial advisors and investors, Ferguson responded to a question about Keynes' famous philosophy of self-interest versus the economic philosophy of Edmund Burke, who believed there was a social contract among the living, as well as the dead. Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of "poetry" rather than procreated. The audience went quiet at the remark. Some attendees later said they found the remarks offensive. It gets worse. Ferguson, who is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, and author of The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, says it's only logical that Keynes would take this selfish worldview because he was an "effete" member of society. Apparently, in Ferguson's world, if you are gay or childless, you cannot care about future generations nor society....

  • Originally published 02/27/2013

    Leading historians back reforms to UK history curriculum

    Some 15 historians gave their backing to Mr Gove's proposals which will see schools teach more facts and events to ensure children develop what the Education Secretary calls a "connected narrative" of history.They wrote in the Times: “While these proposals will no doubt be adapted as a result of full consultation, the essential idea ... is a welcome one.”The new curriculum will see children taught, in chronological order, about key figures in British history that were dropped from the syllabus by the last Labour Government.Pupils will learn about events including the including the Norman Conquest, Henry II’s dispute with Thomas Becket, the Black Death, the Wars of the Roses, and execution of Charles I, the union with Scotland and the rise and fall of the British Empire....

  • Originally published 12/15/2014

    My Response to Mike Konczal ("The Voluntarism Fantasy")

    On Thursday night, a segment of the John Stossel Show (9:00 p.m. eastern) on the Fox Business Channel will air a short "debate" which was taped last week between yours truly and  Mike Konczal on the historical viability, or lack thereof, of non-governmental alternatives to the welfare state.  Several months ago, I wrote a rough draft of a response after Konczal's article, "The Voluntarism Fantasy," appeared in Democracy Journal.  In the segment on the Stossel Show, Konczal (who I found to be quite a pleasant fellow) put forward many of the same points raised in his article.I did not revise my response or publish it because of other priorities.  In anticipation of the show's airing, however, I am putting it up now.  My sources can be found in From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State.  I can also provide them upon request.

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