British historian Niall Ferguson apologized on Saturday for remarks suggesting that economist John Maynard Keynes did not care about future generations because he was gay and childless.
The academic and author, a professor at Harvard University, described as “stupid” the comments at a conference in California on Thursday, made in an “off-the-cuff” answer following a presentation.
He said he was asked about Keynes’ famous observation that “In the long run we are all dead.”
A blogger present posted a transcript on the remarks, while other attendees also voiced surprise.
“Keynes was a homosexual and had no intention of having children. We are NOT dead in the long run, our children are our progeny,” Ferguson was quoted as saying by blogger Lance Reports on his StreetTalk Live Web site.
“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,” he added.
Ferguson apologized on his own blog on Saturday, saying: “I should not have suggested ... 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’ wife Lydia miscarried,” he said.
Keynes, whose theories influenced government policy and macroeconmic theory, married Russian ballerina Lydia Lopokova despite being openly gay. He died in 1946.
Ferguson’s apology continued: “My disagreements with Keynes’ 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,” he said.
“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 or has read them since, I deeply and unreservedly apologize,” he added.
As well as being a history professor at Harvard, Ferguson holds post as the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California and is a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, England.