Harvard professor Niall Ferguson caused a furore today after reports emerged that he had linked John Maynard Keynes’s economic philosophy to a lack of concern for future generations — a result, Ferguson apparently said, of Keynes’s own lack of children and homosexuality.
Now Ferguson, in an email to Business Insider, apologized for the “stupid” and “insensitive” comments, and posted the apology to his personal website.
Ferguson has also sent out the following Tweet:
I apologise deeply and unreservedly for stupid and tactless remarks about Keynes that I made on Thursday bit.ly/13cZ6B7
— Niall Ferguson (@nfergus) May 4, 2013
Here’s the full apology:
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 apologise.
The swiftness and apparent sincerity of the apology has been noted — Felix Salmon wonders if it could have saved Ferguson’s career:
It’s conceivable that Niall Ferguson managed to rescue his career with this. niallferguson.com/blog/an-unqual…
— felix salmon (@felixsalmon) May 4, 2013