Niall Ferguson

Discussion of various public figures

Niall Ferguson

Postby Gavin » 24 Jun 2012, 14:26

I nearly put this in the Endgame thread, but that deals mainly with a fairly microscopic analysis of how we think things might unfold in the UK at ground level.

Niall Ferguson writes more macroscopically, as it were, about the decline of the West and he has written so much that I thought I would give him his own thread here.

I must admit I have not yet read any of his books, but I know his angle and I like what I've heard. I've heard him interviewed on the radio and I've just listened to this Reith Lecture. Indeed he seems to be making some headway into the MSM recently.

Sue Lawley, introducing this lecture, tellingly warns her audience that Ferguson is "controversial", there might be "fireworks" and he might "create a stir", as if this is Nick Griffin taking the stage! Of course, the truth is that Ferguson's views are only controversial in the context of a heavily left wing academia, and he is, after all, speaking at the notoriously left wing LSE.

Ferguson says a lot of interesting things in this lecture. There's a transcript available at the link. In the Q&A at the end he also speaks of the naiveté of the Left and about the way it is, unfortunately, "uncool" to be conservative. This is where he delivers the killer line "Being un-cool and right is way better than being cool and wrong".
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Re: Niall Ferguson

Postby Caleb » 27 Jun 2012, 00:48

Niall Ferguson is perhaps my favourite public intellectual at this point in time.

He is an unashamed self-promoter, and as he charmingly points out in this recent lecture, writers don't actually care if you read their books, just that you buy their books.

What he says is so often anathema to modern Westerners, raised on a constant diet of cultural relativism, but I think he's right on the money. I also like that he warns against the intellectual and cultural decline we are in as a civilisation, although I think he overstates the case for East Asia, especially regarding its education system.
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Re: Niall Ferguson

Postby Michael » 27 Aug 2012, 18:57

Ferguson has a fantastic article in Newsweek where he makes an economic argument for Mitt Romney and against Barack Obama: "Obama's Gotta Go".

I highly recommend the article, as well as it's follow up: "Correct This, Bloggers" where he exposes the fallacies, lies and evasions behind the progressive bloggers who did not even try to refute his position before resorting to insults. Most outrageous is the Berkeley professor who demanded (in an op ed for a major newspaper) that Ferguson be fired for voicing his reasoned political opinion.

Excellent proof that the progressive distortions are as present on this side of the Atlantic as on the other.
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Re: Niall Ferguson

Postby Caleb » 30 Aug 2012, 02:43

Frankly, there are shrill voices on both sides of politics in America, and it would leave me completely out in the cold to be an American. The problem, whilst growing, is less pronounced in Australia, I believe.

Honestly, I'm going to be glad when the American election is over. It's largely one bunch of yahoos shouting at another bunch of yahoos, be they in the political parties themselves, or providing commentary from the sidelines in the media, academia, etc. The next election cycle will be even more hysterical. Whilst I really like Ferguson, his ongoing tiff with Paul Krugman (that has been going on for what, eighteen months, two years, at least?) is just a mild form of this. I think they're both in it as much for the sport/ego as to say anything of public importance. Ferguson clearly relishes every response by Krugman, not to mention every mouthbreathing blogger's rant. He loves to be offended. They love to be offended. However, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to hear that Ferguson and Krugman play squash together. It's all part of the game.

Also, almost none of this will do anything to really address any of America's woes. It will be business as usual, and the train will hurtle faster towards the edge of the financial and cultural cliff.

It's all going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
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Re: Niall Ferguson

Postby Gavin » 20 Jan 2013, 22:16

I'm reading Niall Ferguson's excellent book Civilization now. Here are a few quotations from it:

"There are those who dispute that, claiming that all civilizations are in some sense equal, and that the West cannot claim superiority over, say, the East of Eurasia. But such relativism is demonstrably absurd. No previous civilization had ever achieved such dominance as the West achieved over the Rest."


"If it has become slightly clearer than it was when Henry Kissinger was secretary of state whom an American statesman should call when he wants to speak to Europe, it has become harder to say who picks up the phone on behalf of Western civilisation."


"Western civilization has declined and fallen once before. The Roman ruins scattered all over Europe, North Africa and the Near East serve as potent reminders of that."


"Western civilization appears to have lost confidence in itself.

Beginning with Stanford in 1963, a succession of major universities have ceased to offer the classic ‘Western Civ.’ history course to their undergraduates. In schools, too, the grand narrative of Western ascent has fallen out of fashion. Thanks to an educationalists’ fad that elevated ‘historical skills’ above knowledge in the name of ‘New History’ – combined with the unintended consequences of the curriculum-reform process – too many British schoolchildren leave secondary school knowing only unconnected fragments of Western history: Henry VIII and Hitler, with a small dose of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A survey of first-year History undergraduates at one leading British university revealed that only 34 per cent knew who was the English monarch at the time of the Armada, 31 per cent knew the location of the Boer War, 16 per cent knew who commanded the British forces at Waterloo (more than twice that proportion thought it was Nelson rather than Wellington) and 11 per cent could name a single nineteenth-century British prime minister. In a similar poll of English children aged between eleven and eighteen, 17 per cent thought Oliver Cromwell fought at the Battle of Hastings and 25 per cent put the First World War in the wrong century.

Throughout the English-speaking world, moreover, the argument has gained ground that it is other cultures we should study, not our own. The musical sampler sent into outer space with the Voyagerspacecraft in 1977 featured twenty-seven tracks, only ten of them from Western composers, including not only Bach, Mozart and Beethoven but also Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry and Blind Willie Johnson. A history of the world ‘in 100 objects’, published by the Director of the British Museum in 2010, included no more than thirty products of Western civilisation."


"It is only by identifying the true causes of Western ascendancy that we can hope to estimate with any degree of accuracy the imminence of our decline and fall."


I think Prof. Ferguson is right on the side of Dalrymple and the few other public figures who are keen to save western civilisation - and being with Ayaan Hirsi Ali he has no illusions about Islam either.
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Re: Niall Ferguson

Postby Gavin » 25 Feb 2014, 21:08

Here's some more from Civilization, which I just finished this evening:

"The prescriptions of the Communist Manifesto were ... singularly unappealing to the industrial workers they were aimed at. Marx and Engels called for the abolition of private property; the abolition of inheritance; the centralization of credit and communications; the state ownership of all factories and instruments of production; the creation of ‘industrial armies for agriculture’; the abolition of the distinction between town and country; the abolition of the family; ‘community of women’ (wife-swapping) and the abolition of all nationalities.

By contrast, mid-nineteenth-century liberals wanted constitutional government, the freedoms of speech, press and assembly, wider political representation through electoral reform, free trade and, where it was lacking, national self-determination (‘Home Rule’)."


I take it as self-evident that the aims of liberals (not what liberals have become today) were more moral than those of socialists. The excerpt is from a long and interesting section critiquing Marx and Engels (both of whom seem to have been very unpleasant people) and it examines how - while everything was not rosy, of course - personal wealth generally grew while prices were kept down under capitalism during the industrial revolution.

Ferguson finishes the book with the same conclusions that I think TD has suggested: that if the west is crumbling it is less because of external threat than because of internal weakness, ignorance of history and a desertion of the principles that made it great in the first place. Civilization is a good review of how the west became so dominant and why many other countries copied its economic and social patterns. Of course, it mentions the excesses of the west disapprovingly too, but Ferguson still considers our systems to be clearly superior to proffered alternatives (namely socialism or Islam), which tend to be economically and scientifically stultifying and greatly restrictive of personal freedoms.
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