Niall Ferguson — Investing at the Intersection of History, Politics, and Markets

Published on
June 12th, 2020
49 minutes

Niall Ferguson — Investing at the Intersection of History, Politics, and Markets

The Larry McDonald Series ·
Featuring Niall Ferguson

Published on: June 12th, 2020 • Duration: 49 minutes

Niall Ferguson, a senior fellow at The Hoover Institution at Stanford, is widely respected as a premier thought leader when it comes to combining historical, political, and economic perspectives to understand markets. In this interview with New York Times best-selling author and The Bear Traps Report founder Larry McDonald, Ferguson argues that COVID-19 and social revolution are both symptoms of a networked world and that although comparing 1968 and 2020 can be useful for historical comparison, it is certainly not one-to-one. As well, Ferguson and McDonald discuss probable political outcomes for 2020 and debate the great question of whether inflation and the market paradigm shifts that result from it are finally on the horizon. Filmed on June 8, 2020. Find more information about Larry McDonald's work at



  • JO
    Johnny O.
    17 June 2020 @ 08:43
    Off-topic but how much mis-directed hate mail has Niall been getting because of the confusion of his name with that incompetent, simping fraud Neil Ferguson at Imperial College?
    • GP
      Glen P.
      18 August 2020 @ 15:05
      I have known of Niall for a while and I just got confused and had to Google the distinction a moment ago before I found this.
  • CG
    Christine G.
    9 August 2020 @ 18:27
    I think discussions of CPI and the late 60's/70's has to include demographics which were not mentioned. The first era was marked by the boomers entering the generational buying phase. Today they are cutting back on purchases, especially with covid. The milleniums match their numbers and are at a generational buying stage but they do not have comparable purchasing power. Furthermore, that cohort is not homogeneous; some are in professions with financial power, but many are not getting well paying jobs if they have jobs at all. All of this is deflationary and potentially socially destabilizing.
  • KF
    Kalen F.
    17 June 2020 @ 08:49
    Would the end of globalisation by way of a trade war be the catalyst for inflation vs a traditiona war?
  • MT
    Mark T.
    12 June 2020 @ 19:14
    I heard from a reliable source that injecting yourself with lysol or getting UV enemas is a cure for COVID19.
    • DS
      David S.
      12 June 2020 @ 22:10
      Cute, but it is best to show it is humor. Who knows who will see this? DLS
    • MH
      Martin H.
      12 June 2020 @ 22:26
      Headlight, research it.
    • KJ
      Karl J.
      13 June 2020 @ 08:26
      Sounds legit, off to try it..
    • JO
      Johnny O.
      17 June 2020 @ 08:16
      CNN is not a reliable source for what people CNN hates actually said.
  • JB
    Josh B.
    16 June 2020 @ 16:08
    Are we all pretending that government inflation statistics are accurate?
  • MT
    Mahmut T.
    15 June 2020 @ 11:39
    Are you determined not to issue the transcript:)
    • MW
      Max W. | Real Vision
      15 June 2020 @ 21:37
      Transcript has been uploaded. Sorry for the delay.
  • PM
    Phil M.
    15 June 2020 @ 10:58
    Fantastic interview, very articulate and well reasoned
  • IA
    Ibrahim A.
    15 June 2020 @ 07:01
    Mr Ferguson's knowledge of history his excellent. His economic forecasts and expectations for inflation and long term rates have been very wrong, his understanding of monetary policy is weak at best.
  • CW
    Claude W.
    14 June 2020 @ 21:08
    Outstanding piece. Niall's broad historical perspective is extremely valuable to navigate today's environment. Congrats!
  • TR
    Thomas R.
    14 June 2020 @ 20:21
    I’m new to RV and have enjoyed the content. Over the years I’d read with anticipation Mr. Ferguson’s take on historical events and probable links to future developments. After 25 years on the retail side of the bus., actively trading and investing for accredited investors, I’ve accepted there are no real “Zlatan the Magnificent(s)”. While RP’s GMI content offers logical thinking and a thesis for strategy design, no one really knows how the markets will react to any events. It’s all about the degree of probability. As soon as NF mentioned “poll results” I bailed. With 2 data scientists in the family, polls (especially where it’s not clear if the data not been thoroughly vetted by those presenting the results) are considered a lazy resource to substantiate a guess. Thanks for sharing.
  • MT
    Mahmut T.
    14 June 2020 @ 14:02
    Waiting for the transcprit
  • JL
    James L.
    14 June 2020 @ 08:00
    thank you Niall
  • JD
    John D.
    14 June 2020 @ 05:45
    Well, the UK won't be funding the basket case governments of Italy and Spain, that alone makes Brexit a long term successful strategy.
  • JD
    John D.
    14 June 2020 @ 05:18
    How can MMT ever be adequate, in an inflationary world? How can rising costs of goods/services quell social unrest? Especially when MMT is a catalyst for nominal asset appreciation. Unless MMT is digitised and through controls, funnels into a subset of services (i.e. food, health care)... I don't support it. Although, with my large body of assets, it will enrich myself dramatically.
  • DS
    David S.
    12 June 2020 @ 17:14
    Pandemic comes from the Greek for “all people.” Both epidemic and pandemic are medical terms indicating the spread of a disease. Pandemic is the spread of a disease worldwide that can attack “all people.” The use of the word pandemic for demonstrations worldwide to protest an injustice is not accidental. It is purposely used to equate these protests with a disease. Many of us agree with the right to bear arms. If we protest across the US and people across the world join in this protest to bear arms in sympathy would Mr. McDonald call that a pandemic. Would it be the spread of a disease all over the world? No. Since “All people” do not choose to protest for the right to bear arms around the world, the word pandemic, a medical term, is misused. It is used here as a pejorative to equate social unrest as a disease. It is OK for anyone to have his/her political view, but let’s not ski down the slippery slope of McCarthyisms. There is enough unrest already. DLS
    • MT
      Mark T.
      12 June 2020 @ 18:37
      Agree. I wouldn't refer to protests as a pandemic.
    • LS
      Lemony S.
      13 June 2020 @ 19:45
      Leftism is a spiritual disease. In that sense, he is accurate.
    • DS
      David S.
      14 June 2020 @ 01:31
      Lemony S. Thanks for the comment. I understand your point. Leftism is a choice however, not a disease that will attack the left and right at will. DLS
  • DS
    David S.
    14 June 2020 @ 01:21
    Mr. McDonald, MMT for the wealthy is called unfunded corporate and personal tax cuts. Politicians still need to have the vote from the poor to win, so they must have MMT. The result will be everyone will be holding a lot of money that will buy very little. The wealthy can hedge against inflation with assets. The poor’s only hedge against inflation is social unrest – the wealthy want to keep their money! Republicans will blame MMT and Democrats will blame tax cuts - It is a dance of the panderers on both sides. I am not sure why anyone would imagine anything else from any Congress or any Administration. It is just a matter of degree. The Coronavirus is a windfall for Congress and the Administration to borrow and print. They are borrowing and print more money in a day now than in a month before and a year before that. Without the old gold standard as an artificial constraint, spending other people's money would be un-American - buy a little gold. As I understand even the poor in India buy a little gold, if they can. DLS
  • MJ
    Mark J.
    13 June 2020 @ 23:58
    Great interview. Adding an erudite, pre-eminent historian into the mix adds further to the rich tapestry of views that is the making of RV. When all is said in done, history is hard thing to ignore and an even more challenging thing to not see repeated many times before society at large heeds it's lessons... (my take .... buy Gold and BTC and don't look at it again for 2yrs+)
  • PB
    Paul B.
    13 June 2020 @ 22:51
    UBI with a time clock expiry will work. I don't hear much about it. Trick is to evaporate the unused Coin. Basically the whole lot then goes into GDP and the Velocity of that Coin will actually give the Government all the Money back and will actually make Money if done correctly...The "something for nothing" you never get....Inflation in CPI
  • SE
    Seth E.
    13 June 2020 @ 21:41
    I’m in Montana as well. The Last Best Place. Love your comment on how the virus doesn’t care if you’re “woke” or not.
  • RD
    Ruediger D.
    13 June 2020 @ 08:03
    Great talking! Thank's a lot. Inflation ahead? Gold will tell us as it told us 2008-2011 going up worrying about inflation and declining when people invested saw that it was not coming. This time it's as the FED/Goverment cannot only save the rich creating asset inflation but must also bail out a big part of the poor for not getting kind of a civil war as a lot of people understood meanwhile what happened in 2008 and why the rich got richer and the poor poorer. This might be the trigger you're postulating. So, just don't worry to much about "yes" or "no" as gold will tell us early enough. I personaly think we're heading for stagflation. Please excuse my insufficiant English.
    • DS
      David S.
      13 June 2020 @ 21:35
      Ruediger D. - Your English and reasoning are great. I wish I could speak another language. With gold, like other financial assets, it is follow the money. There may be many twists, but gold certainly looks good to me in the long run. DLS
  • DS
    David S.
    13 June 2020 @ 18:50
    Remember the equation for monetary “theory” and its meaning is: MV=PQ (M - the amount of Money in circulation) times (V - the number of times a dollar is spent per year on Real Final Goods) = (P -the price level)(Q – the quantity of Real Good sold. - PQ is just Nominal GDP.) Notice all of this has to do with dollars in the REAL ECONOMY, not in Wall Street. To the extent that tax reductions, stimulus checks, Fed QE goes into Wall Street, the inflation is in the Wall Street - follow the money. To the extent that delayed rents and mortgage payments, SBA loans, etc. were invested in the stock market, there will be no GDP effects either. (There will be more bankruptcy effects if the market falls before they pull their money out.) This was probably the plan anyway – Washington lobbyist and wealthy donors. It seems to be a recurring theme to bolster the stock market and asset prices. It is, of course, a Sirens Song for reelection for all incumbents on both sides of the aisle. The stock market has reacted to the vast increase in money flows. The market must still pass the Clashing Rocks and choose between Scylla and Charybdis – valuations and Coronavirus effects- like Odysseus in full blown PTSD from the Trojan War only one man left standing – Odysseus. (Too many references to the Odyssey, but it works for me.) DLS
    • LS
      Lemony S.
      13 June 2020 @ 19:37
      I disagree with DLS here and there, but here I think you are right on, and I also enjoyed the Homer reference. Cheers.
    • DS
      David S.
      13 June 2020 @ 20:54
      Lemony S. - Please comment when you disagree as well. That is where I can learn. DLS
    • DS
      David S.
      13 June 2020 @ 21:26
      I still agree with Mr. Freedman that inflation is a monetary phenomenon. For the money that goes into the real economy, then MV=PQ works. For the money that goes into the markets, then the inflation is in the pricing of the markets - follow the money. In America because of demographics, the internet, tech efficiencies and commodities we are in a deflationary environment. Prices in the equation are declining on a real basis. America was keeping its GDP growing by increasing population with immigration. That is over now, and deflation is even more tech/commodity driven. A country like Japan switched from a GDP model to a GDP per capita model as discussed by Mr. Pal. From a economic point-of-view you need to look at both for the health of the health of the nation.. It is apparent that the markets represent only the point-of-view of the wealthier. This point-of-view leads to “let them eat cake” and social disorder. Sounds ominous. DLS
  • CH
    Connor H.
    13 June 2020 @ 20:59
    With regards to value versus growth companies, I think that Mr.Ferguson states the ability of a Democratic Congress and president to increase taxes on everyone right out of the blocks early next year, but especially the big targets which of course would be 1+ trillion dollar company such as Google, apple, and Amazon. Yes, perhaps the democrats get along well with big tech now, but in the age of gargantuan deficits, these companies will not be spared because as Willie Sutton said "that's where the money is".
  • JT
    Jayne T.
    13 June 2020 @ 20:37
    Japan has no inflation because it is a closed economy and MMT can be used. Same with China. The US is not autonomous and therefore cannot use MMT without dire consequences. We will have inflation, but not until end of 2021--me thinks.
    • DS
      David S.
      13 June 2020 @ 20:52
      Good comment. It is so funny that MMT is designed to give controlled inflation. I do not think the US Congress and the Administration are interested in controlled inflation. The Sorcerer's Apprentice comes to mind, especially with much lower government revenue from tax cuts and MMT. DLS
  • jR
    james R.
    12 June 2020 @ 19:06
    Bizarre to me that otherwise intelligent people place so much faith in the US Presidential polls after the Hillary Clinton debacle in 2016. The only poll that matters is ‘likely voters’ in battleground states due to our Electoral College process.
    • SB
      Stephen B.
      12 June 2020 @ 20:41
      More than that, there is now clear evidence that in polling, certain groups are over or under sampled, which leads to a distorted result, solely for the purpose of building momentum behind one side or the other i.e. opinion polls have become politicized, just like everything else has.
    • DS
      David S.
      12 June 2020 @ 22:13
      Polls are unreliable, but humans always want to know what is going on now. How else will posters make money? They can generate a little GDP during the pandemic. DLS
    • LS
      Lemony S.
      13 June 2020 @ 19:43
      Most intelligent people nowadays lack wisdom. Why else would you vote for marxists? You worship false gods.
  • MH
    Martin H.
    12 June 2020 @ 22:25
    Thier has never been a working Coronavirus Vaccine. The common cold is a Coronavirus, keep that in mind.
    • DS
      David S.
      12 June 2020 @ 22:48
      You may be correct. I hope in this case we can find a vaccine or develop drugs that can help us win the battle with COVID-19 at home instead of in an ICU. If not, we better invest in PPE companies because it will be around forever. DLS
    • sk
      samuel k.
      12 June 2020 @ 23:15
      The issue with the cold is the common cold is that there are many strains of it. Since each of these strains produce cold symptoms, it is not economically or practically feasible to create a vaccine for each individual strain.
    • DS
      David S.
      13 June 2020 @ 08:40
      samuel k. - Thanks. Good information. DLS
    • LS
      Lemony S.
      13 June 2020 @ 19:40
      We have the drug that is safe and cheap already, this is an outrage that politics is stopping it: HCQ and Zinc. This virus is not even a concern, we have dealt with many akin to it in the recent past, if you are worried take HCQ. The reality is that this virus will not significantly affect 99.9% of people, it is amazing that the propaganda and all the schizophrenic policies haven't rustled the sheeple from their sleep by this point ...
  • VL
    Victor L.
    13 June 2020 @ 18:31
    Transcript please
  • YO
    Yoshitaka O.
    13 June 2020 @ 12:27
  • CR
    Casey R.
    13 June 2020 @ 12:02
    Hi, just to add on another video that I commented on, please can you advise when the subtitles are coming back, thanks,
  • MK
    Mohit K.
    13 June 2020 @ 11:06
  • KJ
    Karl J.
    13 June 2020 @ 08:28
    Ferguson is good, very good - more like this please!
  • CH
    Clayton H.
    13 June 2020 @ 05:51
    Montana is easily the most underrated state. I'm from Saskatchewan which is awesome but Montana is absolutely gorgeous! Great point of view by the way Niall
  • CH
    Clayton H.
    13 June 2020 @ 05:51
    Montana is easily the most underrated state. I'm from Saskatchewan which is awesome but Montana is absolutely gorgeous! Great point of view by the way Niall
  • JN
    Jerrick N.
    13 June 2020 @ 02:58
    Excellente video
  • DS
    David S.
    13 June 2020 @ 00:01
    It might be better to get Brexit over by year end. Everyone will be so tired from all the economic and COVID-19 crises that they will just settle and get it over. DLS
  • jl
    jay l.
    12 June 2020 @ 23:28
  • AD
    Antonio D.
    12 June 2020 @ 23:03
    Geopolitical talk as an overlay of financial issues is great. Consider having Peter Zeihan.
    • IF
      Ian F.
      12 June 2020 @ 23:26
      Peter Zeihan was on a month or two ago.
  • MI
    Mitchell I.
    12 June 2020 @ 22:43
    Larry is my new favorite rv host
  • DS
    David S.
    12 June 2020 @ 22:42
    Mr. McDonald does interview interesting people. I enjoyed Mr. Ferguson's comments and view of events. Mr. McDonald states his political positions as a preamble within his question. It is ironic that the best thinkers he interviews do not agree with the preamble within the question, but that does not stop Mr. McDonald. With this technique Mr. McDonald scores points on Capitol Hill where he takes his clients touring the conservative legislators. This was apparent in Mr. McDonald's interview with Sir Mervyn King and Professor Niall Ferguson. Both get their points across. DLS
  • CR
    Cory R.
    12 June 2020 @ 15:41
    "Value stocks are not the new FAANGS." (maybe, but the $2T...) "Second wave bears badly on stocks." (ok.. but where will bottom be?) "US botched its reopening, compared to Europe/Asia." (ah well, carry on my wayward friend..) "Historically, interest rates don't go into a secular uptrend except after a major war.." (this one was very interesting) All in all, its good to have a highbrow school us lowbrows on the way of the world.
    • PB
      PHILLIP B.
      12 June 2020 @ 22:06
      Re the "highbrow" vs "lowbrow" take, I didn't get any sense of entitlement or special status from the guest. This was a sober discussion without proclamations about the future. Some forecasting, and well reasoned. What we want. The guest was careful in his words as he understands that no one can know the future. Not sure if you've had the chance to take in any of the freely available content on Youtube. He is a financial historian. His array of knowledge about money, markets, and the interaction of events with these, is quite extensive. I look forward following his take on our trajectory as we move through this mess.
  • PB
    12 June 2020 @ 21:57
    Outstanding interview. Thank you, both.
  • SB
    Stephen B.
    12 June 2020 @ 20:56
    Professor Ferguson describes the downside risks of an increasingly networked world. I couldn't agree more. The network that concerns me the most is the power grid. Because it has been around for one hundred years, without failing us, we tend to assume that it never will. However, the reality is that over the last few decades we have: (i) added significant new demands on the system (think of GDP growth over the last few decades, not matched by corresponding investment in infrastructure); (ii) increasingly squeezed costs out of the network; (iii) integrated increasingly high levels of intermittent forms of generation (renewables are by, definition, not available "on demand"); (iv) off shored all manufacturing (and in many cases, engineering too). The power grid underpinned 20th century prosperity but if you take something for granted, for too long, you will likely have an unpleasant surprise one day.
  • AM
    Alvaro M.
    12 June 2020 @ 20:52
    Really enjoyed the flow on this chat! In this current environment, its impossible to know where the elections will end up and how it will affect markets. Polls are old tech, recent elections have proven this. The critical detail that academics like Niall miss frequently is that a silent majority of Americans actually like the way things are. The US is arguably still the best place to invest, raise a family and grow a business. Our standard of living is still incredibly high even for our poor compared to the rest of the globe. Sure there are injustices and plenty of big problems to fix. But,considering we have $330M citizens interacting everyday we are doing pretty damn good IMO and its a miracle is not worse!
  • LF
    Liam F.
    12 June 2020 @ 18:52
    Beginning of the end for 40 years of neoliberal cluster****ery! (i hope)
  • AB
    Alastair B.
    12 June 2020 @ 18:28
    An absolute pleasure, Niall. Please book him again for RV at the end of the summer, and once more after the US election.
  • js
    john s.
    12 June 2020 @ 15:26
    Riots and Pandemic happened on Trumps, yet were both created by Democrats...
    • TM
      The-First-James M.
      12 June 2020 @ 17:26
      Errrr, how?
    • js
      john s.
      12 June 2020 @ 17:41
      was intended to be sarcasm.
  • PB
    Pieter B.
    12 June 2020 @ 16:49
    Larry and Niall, this was simply superb! Thanks a lot! It was like listening to high quality classical music.
  • MZ
    Matthew Z.
    12 June 2020 @ 15:37
    Interesting stance on wars driving infation. I think Niall is missing that it's wartime finance that drives inflation, and we are literally running wartime finance as we speak. Not a traditional "shooting" war, but a war on the benefits boomers have promised themselves but didn't pay for, and a war on our supply chains. Inflation is coming
  • EF
    Ed F.
    12 June 2020 @ 15:33
    Niall is one of the most eloquent intellectuals with a charisma that draws listeners in. An excellent guest and a pleasure to listen to. Sometimes putting everything into a much wider macro (read not pure finance) context, gives one the opportunity to stand back and to understand much deeper and wider forces at play.
  • AM
    Alastair M.
    12 June 2020 @ 15:31
    Sees the signal from the noise and not duped by swings and mean reversion. Really useful perspective on many levels
  • DF
    Dominic F.
    12 June 2020 @ 15:08
    Credible UK labour leader. EU will not comprimise. Interesting to see if Niall is right.
  • SK
    Stephen K.
    12 June 2020 @ 14:52
    Thank you Larry and Niall, great interview!
  • GC
    George C.
    12 June 2020 @ 14:09
    Sometimes Ferguson's ideology gets in the way, but not this time. This was Ferguson at his best. Well worth the listen.