The Political/Economic Fabulism of Niall Ferguson: Keynes, Krugman, Rogoff and Summers. Political Observer comments

Niall Ferguson, in his Sunday Times essay of April 12 , 2020 , features John  Maynard Keynes as its main protagonist.

Keynes appears first an a negotiator of the Treaty of Versailles, who collapses from overwork or The Spanish Flu. Yet Ferguson’s animus to Keynes dates from this 1995 essay in The Spectator:

Click to access let-germany-keep-its-nerve.pdf

Mr. Ferguson makes the charge that Keynes’ sexual attraction to German negotiator Carl Melchior of the Versailles Treaty was determinative:

Even before he arrived as a Treasury representative at Versailles, Keynes believed that any reparations imposed on Germany should be on the low side. There is, however, no question that a series of meetings with Carl Melchior, one of the German representatives at the armistice and peace negotiations, added a vital emo- tional dimension to his position.

Melchior was a partner in the Hamburg bank M.M. Warburg & Co. — ‘a very small man,’ as Keynes described him, `exquisitely clean, very well and neatly dressed, with a high stiff collar . . . The line where his hair ended bound his face and forehead in a very sharply defined and rather noble curve. His eyes gleam. . . , with extraordinary sorrow.’

Ferguson repeats Keynes’ sexual partners year by year, and a confession made by Keynes to Virginia Woolf :

It is not too much to infer from these emotive phrases some kind of sexual attraction. After all, this was a time in Keynes’s life of considerable homosexual activity: a bizarrely meticulous list of sexual encounters from 1915 suggests that he had at least eight male partners in 1911 (including liftboy of Vauxhall’), four in 1912, nine in 1913, five in 1914 and seven in 1915. In the immediate post-war years, he had at least two homosexual relation- ships. This explains Virginia Woolf s amused but not incredulous reaction when, recalling his ‘curious intimacy’ with Melchior some years later, Keynes declared openly that ‘in a sort of way, I was in love with him’.

Homosexual promiscuity and a confession of an ‘unrequited love’ ? by Keynes frames , the remainder of Ferguson’s essay, while his 1995 essay is devoted to portraying Keynes as a collabo of the Germans, in thrall to a disingenuous Melchior. 

Brad DeLong supplies the PDF of the essay, above . And here is the link to the original article, behind a pay wall:

After this clear demonstration of Mr. Ferguson’s sexual prejudice and his adaptation of the less salacious aspects of Keynes’ life, career and his Economics, his essay becomes a defense of Conservative Economists via this question, adapting the title of Keynes’ most infamous/famous work:

Who among today’s great economists will write The Economic Consequences of the Plague?  

Next in order of appearance in his essay: the US Congress, the arch-liberal Paul Krugman, Kenneth Rogoff — one of Harvard’s few conservative professors —,Larry Summers, who lies somewhere between those two ideologically, followed by this declaration:

I am with Rogoff and Summers. This is a disaster, the economic consequences of which cannot be offset by even the biggest monetary and fiscal splurge. Over the past three weeks 16.8 million Americans — slightly over 10% of the workforce — have filed for unemployment benefits. According to our best estimates at my macroeconomic and geopolitical advisory firm Greenmantle, GDP has declined by even more and is currently running at 75%-82% of its level in the last quarter of last year.  

What follows is the protracted Doom-Saying of an Economic Historian, framed by his fealty to the economic wisdom, of his newly minted alliance between Rogoff and Summers,  followed by this return to the kitsch of his opening sentence.

Opening sentence: 

‘Easter never felt more Eastery.’

Closing paragraph:

In short, I can’t honestly wish my readers a happy Easter. In the Bible, Christ’s resurrection happens in just three days. The resurrection of the world economy will take far longer. I only wish Keynes could rise from his eternal rest to tell us exactly how long.

Note that Keynes, from 1995 to the political present, is transmogrified, by Ferguson imaginings, from a promiscuous homosexual, given to reporting his sexual liaisons in his Diaries, to a German callabo, to a modern day Tiresias. The reader should call this by its name Political/Economic Fabulism !

Political Observer






About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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