Niall Ferguson

(Niall Campbell Ferguson)

Niall Ferguson
Niall Ferguson
  • Born: April 18, 1964
  • Nationality: British
  • Profession: Historian









Quote Topics Cited
An elite has prospered with our kinds of institutions, but the same cannot be said of the masses. Miscellaneous ;Social Sciences
An ethnic minority is much more vulnerable when it is accused of being a fifth column. Minorities & Women
Being a minority with a common sense of beliefs can be a great economic advantage in that they have a greater sense of trust. Business, Commerce & Finance
Disasters don’t always discredit ruling elites. Public Opinion & Polling
Edinburgh, Scotland went from a narrow, theocratic, awful society to the intellectuality and free thinking Great Enlightenment in only 100 years. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
Effective intervention ended Sierra Leone’s civil war, while nonintervention condemned Rwanda to genocide. Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Empires can only decline when other nations decline and make way for them. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Foreign policy is about choosing from nasty options. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
It is when empires begin to fall, that they tend to cause the most mayhem. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism
It takes a certain political initiative to make people kill one another. Miscellaneous
Social mobility is much less today in America than it historically has been, and it is almost as low as England, the lowest of the industrial countries of Europe. Equality & Equal Opportunity
Some places seem to have a civil war habit. War & Peace
The Euro was a terrible mistake, one that is very difficult to unmake. Money, Coins & Minting
The law of unintended consequences is the only real law of history. History
The only history most economists and financial leaders tend to know is the history of their own careers—an average of about 25 years. The only one who seemed to be familiar with the history of the Great Depression was Ben Bernanke. History
The United States should be devoting a larger percentage of its vast resources to making the world safe for capitalism and democracy ... the proper role of an imperial America is to establish these institutions where they are lacking, if necessary ... by military force. Imposing democracy on all the world's "rogue states" would not push the U. S. Defense budget much above 5 percent of GDP... establishing the rule of law in such countries would pay a long run dividend as their trade revised and expanded. Budgets & Budgeting ;Capitalism
Wars are seldom won as quickly as everyone expects, and almost always create far more problems than they solve War & Peace
What was new in the imperialism of Germany and Japan in World War II was the far more ruthless treatment of subject populations. War & Peace ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
Whereas the British were generally quite open about the fact that they were running an empire, few Americans politicians today would use the “e” word as anything other than a term of abuse. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism
Why was it, if you were a wealthy European industrialist in the 19th century, you would also most likely be a Protestant. There had been a shift of economic power from Catholic Countries like Italy and Spain towards Protestant countries like England and Germany? It seemed as if there were some kind of connection between the content of your faith—the form of your worship and your economic fortunes… What was it about Protestantism that made people not only work harder but save and accumulate capital? Business, Commerce & Finance ;Capitalism
Winston Churchill was willing to tell the people what they didn’t want to hear, and pay the political price for it…. That kind of leadership we don’t seem to have anymore. Leaders & Leadership
With respect to the terrible things done by Western empires, there were also all sorts of terrible things being done in the rest of the world when the West showed up. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism
Without a consumer society there was no need for an industrial revolution. Development & Growth
A historian is battling all the time to remember as much as possible. Time
As a financial historian, I was quite isolated in Oxford - British historians are supposed to write about kings - so the quality of intellectual life in my field is much higher at Harvard. The students work harder there. Life ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
As a teacher, my strategy is to encourage questioning. I'm the least authoritarian professor you'll ever meet. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Ask me not, 'Are you rightwing,' but ask me 'Are you a committed believer in individual freedom, the values of the enlightenment?' Then, yeah, if being rightwing means believing Adam Smith was right, both in the 'Wealth of Nations' and the 'Theory of Moral Sentiments,' then I'm rightwing. Freedom & Liberty
Civilisation is partly about restraining the male of the species from engaging in the violence of the hunter-gatherer period. But it doesn't take an awful lot to unleash it.
I can't imagine having a conversation about 'Celebrity Big Brother' in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I can't think of anything I would rather do with my money than buy my children the best possible education. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Money, Coins & Minting
I have three kids in Britain, and I am there at least once a month.
I think that it is important to be gregarious, and that friendships are not just a leisure pursuit, that they are an integral part of what it is to be human, and one does better work if one has a circle of friends that is active. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I think the rise of quantitative econometrics and a highly mathematical approach to risk management was the obverse of a decline in interest in financial history. History
I was never a very convincing social conservative, and always avoided associating myself with that part of the broader conservative movement.
I would say I'm a 19th-century liberal, possibly even an 18th-century one.
If being rightwing is thinking that Karl Marx's doctrine was a catastrophe for humanity, then I'm rightwing.
I'm over-industrious, so I don't feel quite such a deviant in America as I did in England.
In general, I have felt more at home in the U.S. than I ever felt in England.
It's all very well for us to sit here in the West with our high incomes and cushy lives, and say it's immoral to violate the sovereignty of another state. But if the effect of that is to bring people in that country economic and political freedom, to raise their standard of living, to increase their life expectancy, then don't rule it out. Life ;Freedom & Liberty
It's great to see countries like China and India lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty by essentially copying Western ways of doing things.
It's not surprising so many people end up with credit-card debts. Saving for your retirement and buying a house are difficult things, and we don't educate people about them at all.
My fundamental tenets are concerned with freedom of the individual; the market isn't perfect, but it's the best available way of allocating resources. Freedom & Liberty
One of the main arguments that I make in my new book, 'The Great Degeneration,' is that the rule of law in the U.S. is becoming the rule of lawyers.
Only in England would 'professor gets divorced and remarried' be a story.
Oral history is a recipe for complete misrepresentation because almost no one tells the truth, even when they intend to. Truth ;History
Over time, the welfare state has become dysfunctional in a surprising way. But in a way it became a victim of its own success: It became so successful at prolonging life, that it becomes financially unsustainable, unless you make major changes to things like retirement ages. Life ;Time ;Success
President Obama's biggest weakness is weakness.
Risk models are a substitute for historical knowledge, because they tend to work with just three years' worth of data. But three years is not a long time in financial history. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Time ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
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. Sympathy
The British press has an insatiable appetite for making public things that should be private. It's a prurience that I've never understood.
The debate that I'm interested in having is with seriously smart people about how we design institutions in the 21st century that will genuinely address problems of poverty and educational underachievement.
The great thing about behavioural 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-maximisers.
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.
The rise of the West is, quite simply, the pre-eminent historical phenomenon of the second half of the second millennium after Christ.
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.
There aren't many people who really put their life on the line for human freedom. Life ;Freedom & Liberty
Through pure accident of birth, I've managed to stay relatively youthful.
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.
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. Time
When I first came to Oxford, I struggled to feel comfortable in an Anglican, public school-dominated institution.