Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wow the Ferguson/gay/long-run train wreck has history!

HT Brad DeLong:

Ferguson claims that Keynes's:
belief in "the ideas contained in The Economic Consequences of the Peace" "owed as much to his homosexuality as to his Germanophilia…" for "there is no question that the attraction Keynes felt for [Carl Melchior] strongly influenced his judgment…"
What is it with Niall Ferguson? And what's this about "Germanophilia"? Throughout the whole book his point is that even though the Allies rightly detested Germany's actions it made no sense to pursue the a Carthaginian Peace. Sure he dedicates ink to the suffering of the German people. I always thought that just meant that Keynes was a deeply empathetic individual. I never got the impression Germanophilia motivated any of it.

This is all related to the "in the long run..." point I made earlier.

Pick up the book and read it people. The argument is that the long run is a poor guide to "current affairs" - that economists set themselves to too easy and too useless a task if all they can do is say that when the storm has passed the sea is calm again.

This is not a particularly revolutionary point, although it's well written in this case. Economists are always more interested in the transitional dynamics than the long run equilibrium.

Somebody needs to mail Niall Ferguson a copy of Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren too.

How did this myth of not caring about the long-run ever get started in the first place. Somebody needs to do some sleuthing to determine the first person who bitched and moaned about this. I'm guessing he probably has a "von" in his name and that it first surfaced a long time ago indeed.


  1. To clarify - when I say "pick up the book and read it", it's a different book.

    The long-run comment is in his Tract on Monetary Reform (1923), Economic Consequences of the Peace was 1919. And the Economic Possibilities for Our Grand Children was just an essay that came later in 1930 I believe. It was published in Essays in Persuasion - it might have been published elsewhere first (Essays in Persuasion is a collection of earlier writings), and I believe he also delivered it as a lecture in many venues before publishing.

    So - separate stuff. All of this should be available online too I'm sure.

  2. Two words for Niall Ferguson right now: Oh boy...

  3. Supposedly Schumpeter was the first person to make that remark about Keynes excessively discounting the future.

  4. That's right Wonks Anonymous, see:


  5. On the other hand, the opinion of Britain's leading right-wing Marxist....



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