Extolling a great historian
Niall Ferguson is currently a senior fellow at Hoover Institution, Stanford University. A prolific author and a brilliant mind. His virtues are numerous, but let me elucidate a few here.
Even when he ends up being wrong, he changes his mind to become right. He should have been a scientist. Scientists make predictions or draw conclusions based on the data they observe. If they are wrong, scientists do not hesitate to change their mind and say
oops I was wrong. Two instances below
He was against Brexit before the vote and then became for Brexit after the vote.
He was against Trump before the vote and then he became pro-Trump after the vote. https://twitter.com/nfergus/status/799492345561489410
I am in awe of this person. He is right so many levels that he changes his mind to be right all the time. Isn’t that amazing. How many historians do you see
eating crow with such frequency?
Diversity of opinion
Though he is a historian, he has very profound views on topics ranging from fracking to economics. He knows so much about these things that he does not even hesitate to call out the experts. Examples below:
John Marnard Keynes
Niall is so knowledgable that he has the courage to challenge Keynes. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/05/niall-ferguson-john-maynard-keynes-gay-harvard-crimson/315524/
And then again he metamorphoses into being right.
It is amazing the frequency of how many times Niall becomes right.
In 2012, Niall Ferguson was debating Josh fox on “Real Time with Bill Maher” about fracking. Josh Fox, a reporter made a documentary on the dangers of fracking. Niall was right in challenging him with some excellent points and questions
- Niall questions Josh Fox on his qualifications for the right to talk about fracking. Being a brilliant historian (Harvard and Stanford professorship) Niall is definitely qualified to have an opinion on the economics and science of fracking. Niall is right when he asked Josh in a denigrating tone, the following question: “What qualifies you to do this apart from being a film maker?”
- Niall then states that the economic benefits of fracking outweigh the ecological problems. How dare he (Josh Fox) portray that the environment is important? How dare Josh highlight the problems arising from fracking? Being a historian, Niall is right on the economics of fracking.
- Niall then rightly points out that the beneficiaries of the
faux controversy of frackingis the documentary itself. How dare Josh make points that benefit his documentary? Niall being an acclaimed historian has the right to make points that benefit him and his books. Niall also rightly points out Josh is
undeservingof the air time he receives.
- When Bill Maher points out water contamination and questions Niall’s stance (being parents of children) on how he could be
forcontaminated water, Niall rightfully becomes incensed and rebukes Bill with very strong words like ‘cheap shot’ . Isn’t it amazing that for someone who is a literary giant, he can use the strongest possible words that the common humans can understand? I am impressed by his ability to hurl simple insults when he could make educated arguments and lose an audience.
Opposing viewpoints on the above mentioned episode
As a historian, Niall has written numerous books and is a proponent of the idea that an Imperialistic Britain was the best thing to have happened. He has written multiple books, polemics and articles on this topic. To illustrate his strength of language and self-defense, below are a few instances
- In 2004, at an Intelligence Squared debate, when Yasmin Alibhai-Brown points out that the British used the Indian Caste system to stay in power and perched themselves at the top of the hierarchy, Niall chastises her strongly and strongly condemns the remarks as “racist, classless & cheap”. Such a powerful rebuke!! I never cease to be amazed at the economy of words from Niall.
- Niall is right in that if Britain hadn’t had an empire, we would have lost the war. So what if the British Empire thrived on slave trade and looting colonies? They did the right thing by freeing the colonies and abolishing slave trade. So past sins should be pardoned, buried, forgotten, and ignored.
- Niall’s defense of Churchill is commendable. Churchill’s decision to feed his sturdy and well supplied troops elsewhere in the world at the cost starving the Indian farmers should never be called in to question. After all it was the soldiers who won the war. The millions who died in the Indian famine was
- Pankaj Mishra reviewed his book on London Review of Books in 2011 https://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n21/pankaj-mishra/watch-this-man . Niall rightfully got angry when Pankaj disagreed with his view points. How dare a
hacklike Pankaj Mishra criticize a great historian like Niall Ferguson? It is unfair to accuse Niall of having a thin skin on his reaction to criticism. All said and done, Niall is human. The credibility Niall built in his servility to the empire is rivaled by very few so folks should stop criticizing him on his rightful unctuous flattery of the British empire. Mishra goes on to point out Niall’s instinct to
bow down to the conquerer of the moment and say whatever seems resonant and persuasive at any given hour.Niall does nothing of that kind. He is just someone who is always right or changes his mind to become right. Why is a change in stance wrong? Niall had filed a libel lawsuit against Pankaj Mishra and I am waiting to hear what happened of it.
- In his book, Square and the Tower, Niall elaborates on the power and influence of networks over hierarchies. People who have read this book think Niall has ignored the power of networks in various freedom struggles and also in automobile industry. So what if the automobile industry gave us Lean processes or Software Industry gave us agile; so what if these processes are driven by networks of people doing great things. Niall is right in ignoring these
I could go for a long time extolling Niall Ferguson, but that would end up being a boring read.
In case you haven’t realized, this post is facetious. I look forward to reactions and flames.