The Corner

Re: Keynes Was Gay — Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That

Jonah, re the outrageous homophobic gay-bashing hatey-hatey hate speech by Professor Niall Ferguson, you neglected to include me in your pantheon of shame. In my book After America I wrote (page 111):

In his pithiest maxim, John Maynard Keynes, the most influential economist of the 20th century social-democratic state and the patron saint of “stimulus”, offered a characteristically offhand dismissal of any obligation to the future: “In the long run we are all dead.” The Greeks are Keynesians to a man: The mob is rioting for the right to carry on suspending reality until they’re all dead. After that, who cares?

And again:

Absolved from having to pay for their own defense, Continentals beat their swords into welfare checks, and erected huge cradle-to-grave entitlements. Even under the US security umbrella, they proved unsustainable. Why? Well, like Keynes said, in the long run we are all dead – so why not bilk the future? We won’t be here, and our creditors won’t have a forwarding address. No one has engaged in transgenerational theft on the scale that Europe has.

But I wasn’t just talking about the economics. In Greece, 100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren, which means the country’s lenders are betting that 42 people will pay off the debts run up by 100. The Keynesian social-democratic state is also increasingly childless. In Europe, some of the oldest nations on earth have death-bed demographics from which no society has ever recovered. They are Keynesian, and they are barren:

“In the long run we are all dead”: Keynes’ flippancy disguises his radicalism. For most of human history, functioning societies honored the long run: It’s why millions of people have children, build houses, plant gardens, start businesses, make wills, put up beautiful churches in ordinary villages, fight and if necessary die for king and country… It’s why extraordinary men create great works of art – or did in the Europe of old. A nation, a society, a community is a compact between past, present and future, in which the citizens, in Tom Wolfe’s words, “conceive of themselves, however unconsciously, as part of a great biological stream…”

Europe climbed out of the stream. You don’t need to make material sacrifices: the state takes care of all that. You don’t need to have children. And you certainly don’t need to die for king and country. But a society that has nothing to die for has nothing to live for: It’s no longer a stream, but a stagnant pool.

The only reason I didn’t do the “Keynes was a childless homosexual” riff was not because I thought it was a career-ender (being already washed up, I’m insouciant about that) but because I thought everybody and his uncle had done it a zillion times, since, at least, Malcolm Muggeridge half-a-century ago. The idea that it would come as such a novel thought to our ahistorical present-tense culture that it could instantly transform dear old Niall Ferguson into the Todd Akin of Harvard never occurred to me, even in these exquisitely sensitive times. However, I did mention it on the radio with the late Frank Pastore, which I see is enough to earn me an honorable mention in this lady’s excitable column, under the fabulous headline “There’s Wrong, There’s Very Wrong, And Then There’s Niall Ferguson.”

Her keyboard seems jammed on wingnuttynuttywingnutnut, so I doubt she’s ever heard of the Bloomsbury Group. I knew some of their younger members in their dotage (my father had a few paintings by Keynes’s lover Duncan Grant and some of the rest of the gang), and they were as far removed from a pair of suburban gay dads wheeling their bairns across a Connecticut town common to the local Congregational church as you can imagine. In one of the indignities of our illiterate times, a ’tween-wars Bloomsbury aesthete is having an approved contemporary American gay identity posthumously imposed on him by the PC enforcers. Sad and parochial.

As for Professor Ferguson’s abject apology, that’s a grim surrender. No functioning society can tiptoe around on eggshells this thin.

(P.S. An Australian reader, while enjoying After America, nevertheless disagreed with my Keynes-bashing.) 

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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