The other day, Niall Ferguson, a celebrity historian at Harvard, was at an “investors’ conference,” the kind of speaking gig he plays a lot of: You get a ton of money to go see a small number of extremely rich people and tell them something provocative — but not too provocative. So, at this conference of money guys in Carlsbad, somebody brings up the best-known quote from the most influential economist of our age — John Maynard Keynes’s line that “in the long run we are all dead” — and Ferguson responds to the effect that, well, Keynes was a childless homosexual, so he would say that, wouldn’t he? It’s not an original thought: In fact, the only reason I didn’t include it in the passage on Keynes in my book was that I felt it had been done a bazillion times before. But it evidently was so shocking to the California crowd, many of whom undoubtedly have friends who are gay hedge-funders or are thinking of becoming one, that everybody had the vapors about it, and poor old Ferguson found himself instantly transformed from one of Time’s “100 most influential people in the world” into the Todd Akin of Harvard. “This takes gay-bashing to new heights,” shrieked Tom Kostigen of Financial Advisor, who really needs to get out of the house more.
In the long run, Keynes is dead. So Obama was unable to place a Sandra Fluke/Jason Collins supportive phone call to him. But “the Queen of King’s,” as he was known at Cambridge, would have been amused by his newfound status as America’s most bashed gay. In 1917, in Washington for Anglo-American debt talks, Keynes wrote home to his lover Duncan Grant about what a ghastly place it was: “The only really sympathetic and original thing in America is the niggers, who are charming.”