Niall Ferguson, fully Niall Campbell Douglas Ferguson

Niall
Ferguson, fully Niall Campbell Douglas Ferguson
1964

British Historian, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford

Author Quotes

The floodwaters unleashed by Katrina may be receding. But the economic aftershock of the disaster may still lie ahead.

Unlike most European critics of the United States?I believe the world needs an effective liberal empire and that the United States is the best candidate for the job.?The United States has good reasons to play the role of liberal empire, both from the point of view of its own security and out of straightforward altruism. In many ways too it is uniquely well equipped to play it. Yet for all its colossal economic, military and cultural power, the United States still looks unlikely to be an effective liberal empire without some profound changes in its economic structure, its social makeup and its political culture. All I mean, that whatever they choose to call their position in the world?hegemony, primacy, predominance or leadership?Americans should recognize the functional resemblance between Anglophone power present and past and should try to do a better rather than worse job of policing an unruly world than their British predecessors.

The geopolitical taper is a multifaceted phenomenon. For domestic political as well as fiscal reasons, this administration is presiding over deep cuts in military spending. No doubt the Pentagon's budget is in many respects bloated. But, as Philip Zelikow has recently argued, the cuts are taking place without any clear agreement on what the country's future military needs are. Thus far, the U.S. "pivot" from the Middle East to the Asia Pacific region, announced in 2012, is the nearest this administration has come to a grand strategy. But such a shift of resources makes no sense if it leaves the former region ablaze and merely adds to tension in the latter. A serious strategy would surely make some attempt to establish linkage between the Far East and the Middle East. It is the Chinese, not the Americans, who are becoming increasingly dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Yet all the pivot achieved was to arouse suspicion in Beijing that some kind of "containment" of China is being contemplated. Maybe, on reflection, it is not a Kennan that Mr. Obama needs, but a Kissinger. "The attainment of peace is not as easy as the desire for it," Dr. Kissinger once observed. "Those ages which in retrospect seem most peaceful were least in search of peace. Those whose quest for it seems unending appear least able to achieve tranquility. Whenever peace?conceived as the avoidance of war?has been the primary objective . . . the international system has been at the mercy of [its] most ruthless member." Those are words this president, at a time when there is much ruthlessness abroad in the world, would do well to ponder.

Virtual History, was a very important moment in my intellectual development. It came about because my Ph.D. had ended up posing a counterfactual question: What if the Germans had stabilized their currency in 1920 and not embarked on their deranged hyperinflationary policy? Without actually knowing what I was doing, I tried to think that through, and argued that there really was an alternative, that it wasn?t inevitable that there was a moment when, as a result of a series of very bad decisions, Germany ended up plunging into hyperinflation.

The great thing about behavioral psychology and economics is that they help us to see that there are actually pretty good reasons why human beings swing from greed to fear, and why we're not really calculating machines or utility-maximizers.

Was there something distinctive about American civil society that gave democracy a better chance than in France, as Tocqueville argued? Was the already centralized French state more likely to produce a Napoleon than the decentralized United States? We cannot be sure. But it is not unreasonable to ask how long the US constitution would have lasted if the United States had suffered the same military and economic strains that swept away the French constitution of 1791

The greatest disappointment facing the world in the twenty-first century [is] that the leaders of the one state with the economic resources to make the world a better place lack the guts to do it.? Little did I imagine that within a matter of nine months, a new president, confronted by the calamity of September 11, would embark on a policy so similar to the one I had advocated. Since the declaration of the war against terrorism, the question has ceased to be about guts. It is now about grit, the tenacity to finish what has been started.

We historians are increasingly using experimental psychology to understand the way we act. It is becoming very clear that our ability to evaluate risk is hedged by all sorts of cognitive biases. It's a miracle that we get anything right.

The most important thing in intellectual life, whether it be a Soho pub or a university department, is that there should be debate.

We must pose the familiar question about how far our civil liberties have been eroded by the national security state? Somehow it is always a choice between habeas corpus and hundreds of corpses.

The other thing I deeply believeis that it helps you recapture the uncertainty of the past. We are about recapturing past thoughts, recapturing and reconstructing them, like the moment in August 1914, when absolutely nobody knew what was coming. Historians have been writing for years and years that the origins of the First World War date back to the 1890s. Well, that?s not how it felt at the time.

What made it so fine, so authentically noble, was that the Empire?s victory could only ever have been Pyrrhic. In the end, the British sacrificed her Empire to stop the Germans, Japanese, and Italians from keeping theirs. Did not that sacrifice alone expunge all the Empire?s other sins?

The real point of me isn't that I'm good looking. It's that I'm clever. I've got a brain! I would rather be called a highly intelligent historian than a gorgeous pouting one.

What's so seductive about the efficient markets hypothesis is that it applies nine years out of ten. A lot of the time it works. But when it stops working, you blow up.

So I was a punk out of frustration. But I became a Tory out of hope.

The rise of the West is, quite simply, the pre-eminent historical phenomenon of the second half of the second millennium after Christ.

When I first came to Oxford, I struggled to feel comfortable in an Anglican, public school-dominated institution.

So much of liberalism in its classical sense is taken for granted in the west today and even disrespected. We take freedom for granted, and because of this we don't understand how incredibly vulnerable it is.

The traits that the English held against me - I'm slightly aggressive, over-industrious and don't do effortless superiority - were all virtues in the US. I felt immediately at home there.

Whenever I go to the Bloomberg studio in New York I seem to meet the same generic guy who has just called the bottom of the market yet again.

Something that's seldom appreciated about me is that I am in sympathy with a great deal of what Marx wrote, except that I'm on the side of the bourgeoisie.

The West may collapse very suddenly. Complex civilizations do that, because they operate, most of the time, on the edge of chaos.

With the Kaiser triumphant, Adolf Hitler could have eked out his life as a mediocre postcard painter and a fulfilled old soldier in a German-dominated Central Europe about which he could have found little to complain. And Lenin could have carried on his splenetic scribbling in Zurich, forever waiting for capitalism to collapse?and forever disappointed.

The ascent of money has been essential to the ascent of man.

The whole point about historians is that we are really communing with the dead. It's very restful - because you read. There's some sociopathic problem that makes me prefer it to human interaction.

Author Picture
First Name
Niall
Last Name
Ferguson, fully Niall Campbell Douglas Ferguson
Birth Date
1964
Bio

British Historian, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford