Austerity, economics and sex
16/05/2013 | OIE24 – Hugo Vázquez
It should not seem strange that after raising doubts about the fact that austerity is the way out of the financial crisis, those who had gained influence by promoting these types of policies are now on the defensive and are using arguments outside of economics to discredit Keynes and his followers. At the end of last year, the IMF owned up to its measurement errors and, more, recently, mistakes were found in the study by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff which had been used to justify the politics of austerity.
“Keynes was a homosexual and had no intention of having children. We are NOT dead in the long run… our children are our progeny. It is the economic ideals of Keynes that have gotten us into the problems of today. Short term fixes, with a neglect of the long run, leads to the continuous cycles of booms and busts”. These were the statements made by Niall Ferguson during the Q&A session at the 10th annual Strategic investment conference (May, 2013), held by Altegris investment and John Mauldin.
Niall Ferguson does have, however, an impressive résumé: University of Harvard Professor, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, Researcher from the Jesus College at the University of Oxford, author of 14 well-selling books, etc.
After five years of economic crisis it´s normal that people are drained and that intolerant reactions spring up among everyday people as well as in the most well prepared minds. After all, “intelligent people do stupid things”, or as Professor Ferguson said in an open letter to the Harvard Community apologizing for what he had said days earlier: “…Even the mighty Keynes occasionally said stupid things. Most professors do. And, let’s face it, so do most students.”
Five years is a long time in an age where the better part of the information is transmitted in “real time”, financial transactions are made in fractions of a second and communication originates and is received on hand-held devices.
Even so, Mr. Ferguson apologized for his homophobic comments: “Last week I said something stupid about John Maynard Keynes…”, he manifested his ignorance, blindness or calculated forgetfulness about Keynes´s work who, for example, in 1930 had written an essay titled “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren” in which his hypothetical grandchildren lived in an “age of abundance and pleasure”.
But these comments about Keynes are not new. In 1946 Joseph Schumpeter said that Keynes “had no children and his philosophy in life was essentially a short-term philosophy”. This declaration of Schumpeter has continued to be cited in spite of being erroneous, on a biographical as well as on a logical level.
Judith Mackrell (biographer of Keynes´s wife, Lydia Lopokova) wrote an article on May 6th, 2013 in The Guardian titled “Naill Ferguson should know that JM Keynes´s marriage was happy – with plenty of sex” and said that there is a large amount of written information that says Keynes´s marriage with Lopokova was a happy one, aside from the physiological reasons why the two of them didn´t have children.
Since human progress is a collective task, it wasn´t necessary for some of those who have molded our history to be parents in order to validate their intellectual contributions. Within the last 2000 years we can cite examples like Jesus Christ or Ludwig van Beethoven.
Economics and sex do not have to be two areas without any relation. On the contrary, economics is not a morally neutral science but one that is intimately linked to the way in which we live. Throughout history there have been frequent associations between usury and sodomy as non-natural methods of obtaining money (usury) and pleasure (sodomy). In the Western hemisphere, Christianity has been especially keen to bring down these activities since they are considered to be sins, which gave some Christians a standpoint from which to repudiate Jews (for usury) and homosexuals (for sodomy) and even to deny them their basic rights.
A long-lasting economic crisis (or just a crisis in general) is usually what brings out the worst (racism, xenophobia) and the best (solidarity, frugalness) in people. The statements from a member of the intellectual elite that confuse the sexual orientation of an economist with selfishness will only bog down the unprejudiced debate that is necessary to be able to implement economic policies that lead us back to the road to recovery.