Niall Ferguson (April 22, 1995):
It is not too much to infer from these emotive phrases some kind of sexual attraction [for Carl Melchior]…. [T]here is no question that the attraction Keynes felt for him strongly influenced his judgment…. [T]hose familiar with Bloomsbury will appreciate why Keynes fell so hard for the representative of an enemy power. Only those--like Robert Skidelsky--who seek to rescue his reputation as a monetary theorist may find Keynes's conduct less easy to account for.
Though his work at the Treasury gratified his sense of self-importance, the war itself made Keynes deeply unhappy. Even his sex life went into a decline, perhaps because the boys he liked to pick up in London all joined up…
Last week I said something stupid about John Maynard Keynes…. I was duly attacked for my remarks and offered an immediate and unqualified apology. But this did not suffice for some critics, who insisted that I was guilty not just of stupidity but also of homophobia…. To be accused of prejudice is one of the occupational hazards of public life nowadays. There are a remarkable number of people who appear to make a living from pouncing on any utterance that can be construed as evidence of bigotry….
Keynes’ sexual orientation did have historical significance. The strong attraction he felt for the German banker Carl Melchior undoubtedly played a part in shaping Keynes’ views on the Treaty of Versailles and its aftermath….
I have labored long and hard to expose precisely what was wrong about the theories that condemned homosexuals, Jews and others to discrimination and death. I have also tried to explain what made those theories so lethally appealing…. I doubt very much that any of my vituperative online critics have made a comparable effort to understand the nature and dire consequences of prejudice. For the self-appointed inquisitors of internet, it is always easier to accuse than seriously to inquire. In the long run we are all indeed dead, at least as individuals. Perhaps Keynes was lucky to pre-decease the bloggers because, for all his brilliance, was also prone to moments of what we would now call political incorrectness….
What the self-appointed speech police of the blogosphere forget is that to err occasionally is an integral part of the learning process. And one of the things I learnt from my stupidity last week is that those who seek to demonize error, rather than forgive it, are among the most insidious enemies of academic freedom.