Mar 1st 2018 by Tall_Rassman • 25 Questions • 359 Points
Hi everyone! I am Niall Ferguson. I am the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies, Harvard, where I served for twelve years as the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History. I am also a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation Distinguished Scholar at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. I have written fifteen books, including The Pity of War, The House of Rothschild, Empire, Civilization and Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist, which won the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Prize. I am an award-making filmmaker, too, having won an international Emmy for my PBS series The Ascent of Money. In addition to writing a weekly column for the Sunday Times (London) and the Boston Globe, I am the founder and managing director of Greenmantle LLC, an advisory firm. I also serve on the board of Affiliated Managers Group. My new book, The Square and the Tower, was published in the U.S. in January.
You can find me online here:
EDIT: And that's it folks. It's 11:02am in Stanford and I have to get back to my day job. Thanks to all of you for really great questions. My RSI is now killing me, but it was fun!
My white South African parents sold their farm about two years ago because they saw this coming. My dad used to live in Zimbabwe and recognised the pattern. They are now happily living in Europe but feel like their country turned on them.
In your recent interview with Sam Harris, you seemed to sidestep criticisms of Kissinger by saying that if he's a war criminal, then so is Obama, etc. Since this is not a political question but a legal one, and since many of us are perfectly willing to follow you on your point about Obama, what is an actual substantive argument for your lenient stance on Kissinger's actions?
Thank you for sharing. I am very interested to know about their experiences. Did they encounter a lot of hostility before they opted to sell? Was there a specific point where they just decided to get out.
I haven't begun writing vol. II, so I wasn't side-stepping Sam's question, just making sure I didn't preempt myself. My argument is for consistency. My hunch is that either there are a lot of war criminals who have led the State Department / U.S. government or none, depending on your definition. What seems highly implausible to me is that there is only one, and that is Kissinger. Remember, the main basis for this claim is a really shoddy little book by my old friend Chris Hitchens. He was many things, but a lawyer wasn't one of them.
Thank you for doing the AMA! I wrote a term paper on The Pity of War in college and thoroughly enjoyed your challenges to the conventional wisdom about WWI—I’ve even read the book a second time independent of any course work.
Do you consider yourself to be a historical contrarian? If so, at what point in your education and/ or career do you think you realized this? What do you think has led you to view many historical events and phenomena differently from other historians and commentators?
Worth reading / seeing The History Boys by Alan Bennett on this. I was always taught to challenge conventional wisdom when writing history essays. Otherwise, why bother? So the conventional wisdom on the First World War was just sitting there waiting to be challenged: that the war was a tragedy, but somehow inevitable. The Pity of War is a direct assault on that. Probably teaching the subject at Oxford pushed me further along the contrarian path. Students would come in with essays that said the same old thing, and my job was to ask: "Are you sure about that? What if Britain had simply stayed out?"
Hi Niall, thanks for doing this!
Where are you putting your own investment money to work today? Bonds? Stocks? Real estate? EM? ETFs? And why?
Now they want free investment advice on Reddit! Seriously, you have to have diversification at a time like this. Big inflection point in markets, probably further hits to bonds and stocks are coming. So all of the above except ETFs.
In a previous answer, you said you believe the benefits of the British Empire outweighed its costs for a long time. Can you talk more about this? Benefits/costs for whom?
For humanity. The argument is there in Empire, as well as in other works (The Cash Nexus, Colossus, Civilization -- also War of the World). I have a paper that I never published that pulls the economics together, but I decided it was futile as the post-colonial types aren't interested in quantifying welfare or considering counterfactuals (which you have to do).
Hi Niall, many thanks for doing this AMA.
What do you think will cause the next recession? (In the UK)
The Fed. Or the People's Bank of China.
What have you previously written about that you have since changed your mind about?
Love your work by the way.
I got the US macro trends wrong in 2009-10. I quite quickly corrected myself, but wrote a couple of pieces that were wrong about the direction of interest rates and inflation, and my enemies will never let me forget it, nor will they ever acknowledge how quickly and openly I changed my mind.
Hello Niall. I really enjoyed your biography on Kissinger. How’s volume two coming along?
Research is 85% done. Book should be done inside three years. But it's an historiographical Everest in terms of the volume of material, not to mention the harsh climate at the top. The conventional wisdom on Kissinger (that he is an evil war criminal) is an article of religious faith for a generation of liberals.