Influential 20th-century economist John Maynard Keynes, an advocate of government spending to boost employment, has his adherents and detractors, but Harvard economics professor Niall Ferguson apologizd today for suggesting one of the chief problems with Keynes is that he was gay.
At a conference of investors and financial professionals in California Thursday, Ferguson said Keynes didn't care about the effect of economic policy on future generations because he was gay and childless, Financial Advisor magazine reports.
"Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had," Financial Advisor contributor Tom Kostigen writes. "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 responded to Ferguson's comments with silence, and some later said they took offense, Kostigen reports. The reporter adds, "This takes gay-bashing to new heights. It even perversely pins the full weight of the financial crisis on the gay community and the barren. Not only is this intellectually void, it's mad. And anyone with a moral conscience should be outraged."
Ferguson issued an apology today on his website, saying "I made comments about John Maynard Keynes that were as stupid as they were insensitive." He said "I deeply and unreservedly apologize."
The full text of his apology appears below:
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.