Yesterday I posted on Niall Ferguson’s claim that Keynes was a bad economist because he was gay and a Bloomsbury aesthete. I argued that Ferguson’s claim was consistent with his desire to “naturalize” economics, to make it bear a relation to biological law, and quoted the Ascent of Money to make the argument. And now here’s Jonah Goldberg at the National Review, basically making exactly the same argument, only he’s sorry that the days when you can glibly equate gayness with moral profligacy are mostly over.
In my book Face Value, I try to point out that arguments about money are never simply about money, they’re always arguments about other things, often arguments about the bad genetic character of someone else. From the earliest days of American settlement, arguments about inflation were always arguments about the “wrong kind of people” prospering; very often, those argument used racial terms, in which gold was compared to the anglo saxon race and paper money to artificial equality. As Goldberg notes, this is a very old way of thinking among conservatives.
I posted a similar argument about “gay money” a few months ago, after a homophobic Virginia Congressman demanded Virginia issue its own gold coins. Money issued by gay people isn’t real money because gay people aren’t real people. They are out of the Darwinian loop, unconstrained by the necessity of reproduction.
There is zero doubt that Keynes’s economic theories were related to who he was as a person–who is this NOT true of? Keynes was part of a literary and artistic community, the Bloomsbury group, that was committed to a kind of literary and personal avante garde aesthetics. The creepy part is when this kind of thing gets “biologized,” as if gay people are genetically compelled to spending and black people are genetically incapable of saving. It’s like arguing that women can’t be economists because they love to shop: that is, it’s a bunch of cliches and prejudices masquerading as natural law.[1. for what it’s worth, as a somewhat truculent irish american I’ve always found the whole cult of the Bloomsbury group, redolent of anglophilia, highly irritating. TS Eliot, the most prominent member of the Bloomsbury group, cultivating a Madonna-like fake british accent, is the literary equivalent of Benedict Arnold.]
And as Goldberg notes the really remarkable thing is that Ferguson, after stating what he actually believes, perfectly in line with traditional conservative thinking on money, should apologize.