I don’t want this to be a regular feature but I wanted to briefly comment on Ferguson’s open letter regarding the Keynes-was-a-ballet-and-poetry-loving-poof remarks he made the other day at that conference of financial advisors.

Ferguson reiterates that his remarks were “stupid.” The question then arises: He’s a smart guy, how did he end up saying such stupid things? Ferguson has a history of saying high-profile stupid things, and they always seem to be when he’s trying to make some sort of political point.

I’m still going with my theory that Ferguson misjudged his audience; he thought they’d appreciate an anti-Keynes remark, maybe he even thought they were the kind of crowd that would enjoy cracks about gay people who like ballet and poetry. No go.

I’m not trying to nail the guy to the cross for this. We all make mistakes; in fact, we all make mistakes, of some sort, repeatedly. It’s just interesting to think about what made him say this stuff in the first place. He’s not any kind of “gay-basher” (in his words), but he still thought this sort of thing would work. So maybe he was trying a bit too hard to please the crowd. He should remember that, however entertaining he is as a speaker, however good he looks on TV, his ultimate qualifications come from his historical research.

Perhaps the case interests me so much because Ferguson, like me, is an academic researcher who likes to speak to popular audiences.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.