Niall Ferguson quotes:

  • I can't imagine having a conversation about 'Celebrity Big Brother' in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Historians are not scientists. They cannot (and should not even trying to) establish universal laws of social or political "physics" with reliable predictive powers. Why? Because there is no possibility of repeating the single, multi-millennium experiment that constant to the past. The sample size of human history is one.

  • The Armenian genocide showed what could happen when empires were beaten into nations.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Only in England would 'professor gets divorced and remarried' be a story.

  • 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.

  • 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 Japanese Co-Prosperity Zone began as a racist utopia and ended as a cross between an abbatoir, a plantation and a brothel.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • When bond prices fall, interest rates soar, with painful consequences for all borrowers.

  • For 500 years the West patented six killer applications that set it apart. The first to download them was Japan. Over the last century, one Asian country after another has downloaded these killer apps- competition, modern science, the rule of law and private property rights, modern medicine, the consumer society and the work ethic. Those six things are the secret sauce of Western civilization.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Oral history is a recipe for complete misrepresentation because almost no one tells the truth, even when they intend to.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • I can't think of anything I would rather do with my money than buy my children the best possible education.

  • My arguments for liberal empire or whatever you want to call it - hegemony, primacy, you name it - are really activated by a sense that the alternatives involve more violence, more repression, more hardship.

  • 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.

  • There aren't many people who really put their life on the line for human freedom.

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

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

  • If the financial system has a defect, it is that it reflects and magnifies what we human beings are like. Money amplifies our tendency to overreact, to swing from exuberance when things are going well to deep depression when they go wrong. Booms and busts are products, at root, of our emotional volatility.

  • The dead outnumber the living fourteen to one, and we ignore the accumulated experience of such a huge majority of mankind at our peril

  • I wrote this book because I had formed a strong impression that the people currently living were paying insufficient attention to the dead.

  • There can be no understanding without that sympathy which puts us, through the imagination, and (another's) situation.

  • Who killed Christianity in Europe? Was it, as (Max) Weber himself predicted, that the spirit of capitalism was bound to destroy the Protestant ethic parents, as materialism corrupted the original aestheticism of the godly?

  • Not the last time in Western history, the revolutionaries armed themselves with a new religion to steel themselves for greater outrageous.

  • After 1968 the restored communist regime required all Czech rock musicians to sit a written exam in Marxism Leninism

  • The bacteriologist, often risking his life to find cures for lethal afflictions, was another kind of imperial hero, as brave in his way as the soldier-explorer.

  • I refuse to accept that Western civilization is like some hopeless old version of Microsoft DOS, doomed to freeze, then crash. I still cling to the hope that the United States is the Mac to Europe's PC, and that if one part of the West can successfully update and reboot itself, it's America.

  • 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.

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

  • A historian is battling all the time to remember as much as possible.

  • 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 British press has an insatiable appetite for making public things that should be private. It's a prurience that I've never understood.

  • If being rightwing is thinking that Karl Marx's doctrine was a catastrophe for humanity, then I'm rightwing.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Through pure accident of birth, I've managed to stay relatively youthful.

  • As a teacher, my strategy is to encourage questioning. I'm the least authoritarian professor you'll ever meet.

  • All empires have depended on local legitimacy and local collaboration; they are not based primarily on coercion. An imperial rule that relies wholly on coercion can't endure. It's too expensive.

  • American Empire- it is an empire that lacks the drive to export its capital, its people and its culture to those backward regions which need them most urgently and which, if they are neglected, will breed the greatest threats to its security. It is an empire, in short, that dare not speak its name. It is an empire in denial.

  • Between 1980 and 2000 the number of patents registered in Israel was 7652 compared with 367 for all the Arab countries combined.

  • Empires, essentially, create order. In their absence, you don't end up with lots of happy, little nation-states full of people sitting around campfires singing John Lennon's "Imagine." What you end up with is civil war, anarchy.

  • From the earliest days, the Rothschilds appreciated the importance of proximity to politicians, the men who determined not only the extent of budget deficits but also the domestic and foreign policies...

  • I think the condition of imperial denial is a handicap because if you do not recognize that you are essentially performing the functions of an empire, you are incapable of learning from the mistakes of past empires.

  • I would say I'm a 19th-century liberal, possibly even an 18th-century one.

  • If young men have jobs - or the prospects of jobs - they are less likely to take up arms, they are less likely to join the resistance.

  • In Stalin's Russia racial persecution was often disguised as class warfare. More than 1.5 million members of ethnic minorities died as a result of forced resettlement.

  • In the financial sector, those whom the gods want to destroy they first teach math.

  • In the old days it would have been a relatively simple matter to have checked Hitler's territorial ambitions. All you'd have needed would have been the 1914 combination of Britain, France and Russia. Indeed, if such an alliance had acted decisively to defend Czechoslovakia in 1938, Hitler might even have been overthrown by his own military. But it was not to be.

  • It's our generation that is witnessing the end of Western predominance. The average American used to be more than 20 times richer than the average Chinese. Now it's just five times, and soon it will be 2.5 times.

  • No civilization, no matter how mighty it may appear to itself, is indestructible.

  • The law of unintended consequences is the only real law of history.

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

  • To make a living space, there first had to be a killing space.

  • Today, the average Korean works a thousand hours more a year than the average German. A thousand. ... That is the end of the Great Divergence.

  • Why did the Germans and Japanese keep fighting after 1943 when every rational hope of victory had disappeared?

  • You really struggle to be a successful empire if you are also the world's biggest debtor.

  • Collaboration is risky. If it fails, if the occupation is wound up prematurely and the bad guys come back to power, you might find yourself in some serious trouble.