The safest place in economics is wherever Niall Ferguson isn't
The historian isn't so hot when he's looking forwards in time.
Last week, historian Niall Ferguson made some bizarre remarks about John Maynard Keynes, alleging that the economist was gay, and that because of that and the fact that he didn't have children, he did not care about the future.
Ferguson has since apologised, but Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal puts the comments into the context of the professor's war on Keynesian economics:
Then in May 2011 he wrote for The Daily Beast about "The Great Inflation Of The 2010s."
He actually said in the piece: "Yes, folks, double-digit inflation is back. Pretty soon you’ll be able to figure out the real inflation rate just by moving the decimal point in the core CPI one place to the right."
This was totally incorrect. Double-digit inflation is not back. Hopefully by this point you don't need a chart to show you that.
In February 2010 he predicted a Greek crisis was coming to America. Verdict: Wrong.
And in June 2009, he predicted a painful conflict (imminently) between monetary and fiscal policy. Verdict: wrong.
Meanwhile in more timely silliness, here's a video (via Mike Konczal) in which Niall Ferguson calls it a "law of finance" that when debt passed 90% of GDP, growth slows precipitously. Ferguson is at 1:18 mark. Of course that study has since been debunked after an Excel coding error was found by a grad student.
Weisenthal had the scorecard ready to go after he examined Ferguson's record the last time the historian hit the news, when he penned an attack on Barack Obama which fell apart on examination. As he concludes:
While none of this speaks to his skills as a historian, the crisis and post-crisis period has been characterized by him railing against the Keynesian establishment, and impaling himself at every turn.
Meanwhile, while the Keynesian consensus has utterly failed to collapse, the justification for austerity has. Paul Krugman writes:
Expansionary austerity has been refuted and even the IMF sayis that short-run multipliers are big. The 90 percent red line on debt was an artifact of fuzzy math. The bond vigilantes remain invisible, and the confidence fairy refuses to make an appearance. Clearly, austerian economics has imploded (and some prominent austerians seem to be personally imploding too).
One of the safest bets to make in the last three years is that whatever Niall Ferguson says will happen, won't. If only he would come out and predict the unending dominance of austerity politics, things might even get better.