Saturday, October 15, 2011

Niall Ferguson: the Ann Coulter of Harvard

Niall Ferguson has a post in the Daily Beast in which he lambasts the Occupy Wall Streeters for blaming "big business" for our ills, rather than the real culprits, which (in his mind) are the Baby Boomers.

For Ferguson, a Harvard professor, it's easier to point a finger at a generation, rather than at the highly compensated Ivy League grads on Wall Street, whose fiscally unsound business practices dragged our economy into a sewer. Here's Ferguson, on the protestors:

"Yet if I were a young American today, occupying Wall St. would not be my objective. Just reflect for a minute on the unbridled economic mayhem that would ensue if the protesters actually succeeded. The headline “Goldman Sachs Under Control of Hip Teenage Revolutionaries” would be the last straw for an already fragile economic recovery."

Ferguson feels the protesters need to shift attention away from Wall Street and focus on Boomers - the source of our ills today is the Boomers' profligate spending, their upcoming age-related illnesses and their inability to die inexpensively after a long and expensive life.

Myself, I am not aware that the goal of OWS is for teens to takeover Goldman Sachs. I was under the impression they wanted Wall Street to clean up its act, not for Lloyd Blankfein to capitulate to those not old enough to drink legally.

But for a Harvard professor, it's easier to be glib and facile and point the finger a a particular generation, rather than examine the serious business flaws within our financial sector (the sector that required an astronomical bailout to "protect" the economy from failing in 2008). Generational discord is Ferguson's snappy retort to those protesting the fraud and corruption of Wall Street.

By doing so, he's become the Ann Coulter of Harvard, a media hound willing to say anything to get attention. Because, after all, it works. Which is not at all "way cool..."


Blissex said...

But you and the (usually despicable) Ferguson are both right: boomers are the primary agent of the current troubles, with their insatiable demands for free capital gains for them and lower wages for everybody else, and at the same time Wall Street made a lot of money screwing everybody taking advantage of the greed and stupidity of most boomers.

Main Street Muse said...

That the American social services designed to protect the elderly will be swamped by the tsunami of Boomer retirees is certainly a concern.

But Ferguson is wrong to say any protest of the corrupt business so common on Wall Street is "not the answer." By focusing on inter-generational discord, he ignores the fact that our financial sector remains perched atop a frail and shoddy foundation of corrupt and terrible business practices, and thus, our economy remains at great risk of another meltdown.

OWS is not protesting against "capitalism" - they've not occupied Apple or Microsoft or Abbott Pharmaceuticals - all powerful corporations filled with boomers themselves. (Steve Jobs was a boomer, after all - and he is mourned far beyond what Lloyd Blankfein can expect when he dies.)

OWS is protesting against a tiny, powerful sector that used their incredible genius to fleece the rest of us. Their shoddy business practices are instrumental in causing a terrible recession. That's something, certainly, to rise up against.

Neil Bates said...

Ferguson was also stupid/dishonest enough to repeat elsewhere the canard that we need the toppers to invest in things. But really it's money itself that underlies investment, not it being concentrated - if the rest of us had more money, then we could invest instead (and whatever more I had that I didn't before, would still be a relative break-even if I lost all of it ...)