Niall Campbell Douglas Ferguson is born in Glasgow, Scotland to Campbell (a physician) and Molly (a physicist) Ferguson.
Both my grandfathers fought in wars: my father’s father fought in the first world war, where he was shot and gassed and suffered permanentlung damage, while my mother’s father fought the Japanese in Burma and contracted tuberculosis. It was my mother’s father who was the biggest influence. He was a journalist. He was the one who encouraged me to write. I used to write plays and short stories at school, giving him things I had written as Christmas presents. The relationship between us was intense. We were on the same wavelength about so many things. He had three great rules: trust no one, tell them nothing and to thine own self be true. Those were his three great principles. The west of Scotland is a tough place.
My father gave me a very strong sense of self-discipline and the moral value of work. As a doctor who worked long hours and who was dedicated to his job, he signalled to me that work was a noble thing. My mother encouraged my creative side…That combination of my father’s strict discipline and my mother’s sense that if something really valuable was to be had, then you could bend the rules a bit, was really valuable.
Graduates from Magdalene College in Oxford, with a first-class honors degree in History. At University he becomes friends with Andrew Sullivan.
Ferguson is featured in Harvard Magazine in an article titled, The Global Empire of Niall Ferguson. He mentions the strain of separation from home and family, what he calls his transatlantic “trilemma.”
I can testify that it is extraordinarily hard. It’s unfair to the family, and I’d so much rather they were here. But with every passing year, as children get older, they become harder to move. So I feel that I’ve lost this particular argument…Another way to look at it is that historically it’s not that abnormal for husbands and fathers to spend significant time away from their families—seamen, army officers, colonial administrators. Actually, funnily enough, these long separations perhaps do allow me bouts of extreme work, which suits my temperament.
Ferguson and Hirsi Ali meet at a party for Time magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People In The World’ issue in New York in May, 2009. They are introduced by Belinda Luscombe, the magazine’s art editor. Luscombe:
I think that is where they met for the first time. In all the years I have known Ayaan, she’s never had a boyfriend. She’s gorgeous, but with a fatwa, it’s tricky to find guys.
According to Slate, Ferguson and his allies believe that the rising bond yields prove that markets are worried about the inflation that will inevitably result from the fiscal policies of the Obama administration and the Fed. Given the large deficits and rising concerns about the viability of Social Security and Medicare, Ferguson writes, “It is hardly surprising, then, that the bond market is quailing. For only on Planet Econ-101 (the standard macroeconomics course drummed into every U.S. undergraduate) could such a tidal wave of debt issuance exert ‘no upward pressure on interest rates.
Krugman and his allies couldn’t disagree more. Far from being a sign of failure and impending disaster, they say, the rising bond yields actually signal success and impending improvement. Government bonds were so low last December because the world’s investors were totally freaked out about risk. They sold everything—U.S. stocks, emerging market government bonds, corporate bonds in Europe, Indian stocks—and parked their cash in the safest, most liquid investment around: U.S. government bonds. In the months since then, as the stimulus and bailouts have helped stabilize the economy, investors have started to relax.
Ferguson splits up with Douglas, his wife of 16 years, after a string of adulterous affairs, for his mistress, Hirsi Ali. Ferguson confessed his affair to Douglas last summer. His wife tries to save the marriage, flying to Manhattan to be with Ferguson in November. Douglas has met Hirsi Ali on a number of occasions. Ferguson has consulted lawyers in the U.S., while Douglas plans to file for divorce and has consulted a London-based law firm. According to a source in the Daily Mail, Ferguson has been unfaithful eight times over the past five years.
Hirsi Ali speaks about their relationship for the first time in upmarket Dutch women’s magazine Libelle.
Recently I have found new love – Niall Ferguson. He is a British historian and TV presenter. It is a complicated love affair. I am enormously in love with him. It is the best feeling in the world. I would love to become a mum soon. I have turned 40 and I hope it is still possible for me to have a baby. But he is involved in divorce proceedings and there are children involved. We are also both travelling a lot for our jobs. We have to put in a lot of effort to make sure we see each other. I am happier than ever. I feel so much better in my life after all the things I have gone through.
In an interview with The Guardian, Ferguson discusses his parents, divorce and fatherhood:
I was a good father for babies and toddlers. I have been a less good father in the mid-years. I read all the Harry Potters with them, I taught them to ride bikes. I did a lot of the bottle-feeding stuff, a real hands-on father. But then from 2002, the combination of making TV programmes and teaching at Harvard took me away from my children too much. You don’t get those years back. You have to ask yourself: “Was it a smart decision to do those things?” I think the success I have enjoyed since then has been bought at a significant price. In hindsight, there would have been a bunch of things that I would have said no to. But I’ve been a good father for teenagers. I take them on great skiing holidays. But I am mindful that my youngest got a raw deal. I was out of his life when he was three or four. There, I would give myself an F. But you have to do a lot wrong to lose your children’s love. It is inbuilt. I hope they understand. So far none of them is in therapy.
Ferguson and Hirsi Ali marry in Boston, Massachusetts. The wedding is attended by Henry Kissinger, who was the subject of a biography by Ferguson. None of Ferguson’s three children are understood to have been at the ceremony. Hirsi Ali is due to give birth to the couple’s first child in the next few months.
In an article for the Daily Beast written in the form of a letter to Ted Forstmann, Ferguson endorses Mitt Romney for President:
In Europe these days, the answer to fiscal crisis is to put a technocrat in charge. But I think you’d agree with me, dear Ted, that what the U.S. government really needs is a private-equity guy in the White House.
Ferguson writes in The Daily Beast that Obama, while being a transformational figure, has not lived up to his promise and that while Mitt Romney is not the best candidate he has the business experience required to improve the country’s situation:
The question confronting the country nearly four years after Barack Obama’s election is not who was the better candidate four years ago. It is whether the winner has delivered on his promises. And the sad truth is that he has not.
Mitt Romney is not the best candidate for the presidency I can imagine. But he was clearly the best of the Republican contenders for the nomination. He brings to the presidency precisely the kind of experience—both in the business world and in executive office—that Barack Obama manifestly lacked four years ago.
The voters now face a stark choice. They can let Barack Obama’s rambling, solipsistic narrative continue until they find themselves living in some American version of Europe, with low growth, high unemployment, even higher debt—and real geopolitical decline. Or they can opt for real change: the kind of change that will end four years of economic underperformance, stop the terrifying accumulation of debt, and reestablish a secure fiscal foundation for American national security.
Paul Krugman reacts to Ferguson’s claim that the Congressional Budget Office had said that Obamacare would increase the deficit:
There are multiple errors and misrepresentations in Niall Ferguson’s cover story in Newsweek — I guess they don’t do fact-checking — but this is the one that jumped out at me. Ferguson says:
The president pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit. But the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion over the 2012–22 period.
Readers are no doubt meant to interpret this as saying that CBO found that the Act will increase the deficit. But anyone who actually read, or even skimmed, the CBO report knows that it found that the ACA would reduce, not increase, the deficit — because the insurance subsidies were fully paid for.
We’re not talking about ideology or even economic analysis here — just a plain misrepresentation of the facts, with an august publication letting itself be used to misinform readers. The Times would require an abject correction if something like that slipped through. Will Newsweek?
Ferguson responds to Krugman saying he did read the CBO report and that it supports his argument. He also notes that the ACA’s will add $400 billion in taxes, violating Obama’s “no new taxes on middle class” pledge, and that the CBO uses assumptions about cost projections that are not realistic.
In an interview with CNN, Ferguson notes that the West has been in decline due to the rise of the Welfare state, while countries such as China are growing by embracing capitalist ideas.
If you think back to 1978 when I was a teenager, the average American was 22 times richer than the average Chinese. And today it’s less than five times. That’s an amazing reduction in the global imbalance and it’s happen in the space really of 30 years.
The West is at a different phase of development — economically, demographically — and it’s also at a different place culturally from these countries that are emerging from various forms of economic control — whether the bureaucratic system of post-Raj India or the communist system that was gradually dismantled economically in China after 1978. This is bringing back one of the most remarkable shifts in the global balance of economic power.
Ferguson says the Yes movement disregards history:
Scottish history offers proof that even the most failed state can be fixed – by uniting with a richer and more tranquil neighbour.
He says the Union of the Parliaments in 1707 turned it into the Silicon Valley of the 18th century with Glasgow University as Stanford, by sublimating internal divisions in the UK. But leaving the union could reopen old divisions, and some new ones:
The reality is that, as an independent country, Scotland would be far more likely to revert to its pre-1707 bad habits than to morph magically into “Scandland”. For this debate on independence has opened some old rifts and created some new ones, too.
Ferguson writes an editorial about the Greek financial crisis in The Financial Times.
Yes, it is quite possible that, in this weekend’s theatre-of-the-absurd referendum, the Greek people may vote “No” to a programme that is no longer available, and that this (despite their prime minister’s protestations to the contrary) may ultimately lead to their departure from the European monetary union. But as recently as the 1970s we would have had to worry about much nastier scenarios. There would have been a real communist left, poised to proclaim the dictatorship of the proletariat. And there would have been a real military right, ready to crush the left by imposing martial law. Neither of these things is now conceivable.
Politically, most of the world has never been more boring. Instead of the alarms and excursions of the past, we now have technocrats versus populists. Any violence is verbal and the technocrats nearly always win. Even in the US, despite what you might glean from television news, the real story of our time is the decline of violence. With their cities far safer than they were in the 1970s and 1980s, Americans can peacefully ponder such questions as: “Can a man become a woman?” (Yes.) And “Can a white woman become a black woman?” (No.) Will a civil war ever be fought over same-sex marriage? It seems unlikely. Does a president risk assassination by reforming healthcare? I think not.
After more than a decade of visiting as an adjunct senior fellow, Ferguson will leave Harvard University to work full time at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University from July 2016. He says he is attracted by Stanford’s prestige and its proximity to Silicon Valley.
I have always loved that it straddles what can sometimes seem like a chasm between academic research and policy debate…A key point is that there is nothing like the Hoover Institution at Harvard…Sometimes I wish there were Hoover Institutions in all the Ivy League schools…The notion that it is a conservative institution is misleading…It only looks conservative because it is a broad church located in a wider academic diocese that is, in some respects, rather narrow.
[Ferguson is] a first-rate scholar of history and economic history, and a great fit for our mission.