Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Niall Ferguson is an Ass

Or so Brad DeLong sets out to demonstrate at considerable length. He persuaded me.

The starting point:

Is James Fallows allowed to be this snarky?

"Black, and very, very lucky." - James Fallows: have had my disagreements with Niall Ferguson, as chronicled several times -- here, here, here, and here. But I had thought they were simply on the merits -- how to interpret the financial and strategic tensions between China and America, whether there was any serious historical parallel to be drawn between the rising China of Hu Jintao and the rising Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm. (Ferguson said Yes; I said No.)

Everything about such discussions is conditioned by Ferguson's constant reminders that he is a professional academic historian and therefore deserves deference for whatever historical connections he sees. This morning in the Financial Times he once again shows off the insight that professional training can bring. The essay on American politics begins:

President Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat. One of the best-loved cartoon characters of the 1920s, Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky. And that pretty much sums up the 44th president of the US as he takes a well-earned summer break after just over six months in the world's biggest and toughest job.

Brad assembles a lot more evidence in what follows.

One problem with being a Harvard professor is that you can get pretty damn stupid or crazy before people starting pointing it out.