Niall Ferguson, Climate Smear Artist

Don't Buy A Used Car From This Man
Don’t Buy A Used Car From This Man

Big kerfluffle over the weekend concerning remarks by right-wing Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson, who claimed that Keynesian economics is not concerned about the future because Keynes himself was gay and didn’t have children.  Now, not only is this bigoted, but it is untrue on its own terms: Keynes was married, he was childless because his wife had a tragic miscarriage, and the man himself was deeply committed to future generations; he wrote an essay called “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.”

To his credit, Ferguson has apologized.  To his discredit — and thus, a reason not to take his apology at face value — he has a history of homophobic comments and bizarre statements touching on race, not to mention serious intellectual dishonesty and a complete failure to have his economic predictions come true.  Could it get any worse?

Yes!  It turns out that Ferguson has also slandered those concerned with climate change as modern-day eugenics advocates.  Referring to infamous eugenics advocate Francis Galton, Ferguson commented:

The important point to note is that 100 years ago, work like Galton’s was at the cutting edge of scientific research. Racism wasn’t some backward-looking reactionary ideology: it was the state of the art and people then believed in it as readily as people today buy the theory of man-made climate change.

This is a classic smear tactic.  If pressed, I’m sure Ferguson would say, “I’m not saying that those fighting climate change actually are eugenicists — just that they have these traits in common.”  It’s like saying Hitler was a vegetarian.  (Note of course that it also makes no logical sense).

The irony is that there have been those on the fringe of environmental movement who have endorsed extreme measures.  But that’s the point — they are extreme.  It’s like saying that Republicans hate science because a few extreme figures, like the chair of the House Science Committee, want to politicize science.  Or that the Republican Party stands for selfishness and the belief that most people are worthless parasites because an extreme figure, like the House Budget Chair and 2012 Vice-Presidential candidate, made his interns read Ayn Rand and declared her to be his inspiration for entering politics.

In any event, once upon a time Niall Ferguson had legitimate pretensions to being a serious intellectual.  He is now a punch line, and deservedly so.

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Reader Comments

6 Replies to “Niall Ferguson, Climate Smear Artist”

  1. Dear Jonathan,
    Blaming Niall Ferguson and Republicans for the collapse of the climate change movement misses the real reason for this debacle. There is absolutely no scientific proof, nor any solid evidence, which objectively demonstrates that carbon credits, carbon taxes, and other carbon dioxide regulations would have any measurable effect whatsoever in slowing global warming.

    All the carbon taxes and credits on earth combined would not reduce the average global atmospheric temperature by even one trillionth of a degree centigrade. All of your proposed “solutions” are totally ineffective, fraudulent and dishonest.

    This is why there are no carbon credits available today that offer the buyer a bonded and verifiable performance guarantee which certifies an actual and tangible slowing effect on global warming. All carbon credits are bogus !

    Republicans and so-called “deniers” are not your problem. The greatest obstacle for the climate hysteria movement (and the California environmental bar) is an educated and skeptical public that has learned how to recognize regulatory fraud and abuse.

  2. Dear Jonathan,
    Blaming Niall Ferguson and Republicans for the collapse of the climate change movement misses the real reason for this debacle. There is absolutely no scientific proof, nor any solid evidence, which objectively demonstrates that carbon credits, carbon taxes, and other carbon dioxide regulations would have any measurable effect whatsoever in slowing global warming.

    All the carbon taxes and credits on earth combined would not reduce the average global atmospheric temperature by even one trillionth of a degree centigrade. All of your proposed “solutions” are totally ineffective, fraudulent and dishonest.

    This is why there are no carbon credits available today that offer the buyer a bonded and verifiable performance guarantee which certifies an actual and tangible slowing effect on global warming. All carbon credits are bogus !

    Republicans and so-called “deniers” are not your problem. The greatest obstacle for the climate hysteria movement (and the California environmental bar) is an educated and skeptical public that has learned how to recognize regulatory fraud and abuse.

  3. The last thing I ever wanted to do is defend Niall Ferguson, but I must offer a mild rejoinder to your criticism of his eugenics comparison.

    The point, I believe, was not to establish some moral equivalence between eugenicists and climatologists. Rather the point (or should I say the valid point to be made) was to illustrate man’s natural hubris and, our capacity to be so wrong despite our otherwise confident predictions. To a very, very limited degree, this is always a valid point, and applies not just to climate change but to every theoretical explanation of natural phenomena..

    In other words, its always good advice not to get too cocky.

  4. The last thing I ever wanted to do is defend Niall Ferguson, but I must offer a mild rejoinder to your criticism of his eugenics comparison.

    The point, I believe, was not to establish some moral equivalence between eugenicists and climatologists. Rather the point (or should I say the valid point to be made) was to illustrate man’s natural hubris and, our capacity to be so wrong despite our otherwise confident predictions. To a very, very limited degree, this is always a valid point, and applies not just to climate change but to every theoretical explanation of natural phenomena..

    In other words, its always good advice not to get too cocky.

  5. @Bernard King — this is why Ferguson is a smear artist. He isn’t saying that climate scientists are eugenicists. But his point is to associate the two. He could have said that eugenics was cutting-edge science, like quantum gravity is now. (In fact that would have been a better analogy, because climate scientist has vast amount of empirical justification that eugenics never had). Why didn’t he say that? Because he is trying to associate climate activists with eugenicists, all the while maintaining plausible deniability.

    It’s sort of in the manner of Glenn Beck: “you know who also believed in Keynesian economics? Hitler.” Thus, Keynesians are linked with Nazis. And am I saying that Niall Ferguson is like Glenn Beck? Yup.

  6. @Bernard King — this is why Ferguson is a smear artist. He isn’t saying that climate scientists are eugenicists. But his point is to associate the two. He could have said that eugenics was cutting-edge science, like quantum gravity is now. (In fact that would have been a better analogy, because climate scientist has vast amount of empirical justification that eugenics never had). Why didn’t he say that? Because he is trying to associate climate activists with eugenicists, all the while maintaining plausible deniability.

    It’s sort of in the manner of Glenn Beck: “you know who also believed in Keynesian economics? Hitler.” Thus, Keynesians are linked with Nazis. And am I saying that Niall Ferguson is like Glenn Beck? Yup.

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Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic – Land Use, the Environment and Loc…

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