*The Battle of Bretton Woods*

by on February 16, 2013 at 6:23 pm in Books, History, Political Science | Permalink

This is an excellent book.  The author is Benn Steil and the subtitle is John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order.

If you enjoyed Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance, and his take on the 1920′s, and you are looking for something comparable on postwar economic reconstruction, this is the place to go.

The book also contains some explosive revelations about White’s work as a Soviet spy, very well documented I might add.

dearieme February 16, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Explosive? It’d be a shock to discover that anyone working for FDR wasn’t a Soviet spy.

Mark Thorson February 16, 2013 at 9:28 pm

I wonder how the Soviets interpreted the information. By that point, they’d shot all of their economists except for strict Marxists.

prior_approval February 17, 2013 at 12:53 am

‘anyone working for FDR wasn’t a Soviet spy’

You mean that Eisenhower was a secret communist? Well, that certainly explains his attitudes to such things as taxing the rich or the military-industrial complex.

dearieme February 17, 2013 at 7:31 am

I dare say that many postmen weren’t communists either. Why do you indulge in such a faux-naive, bad faith argument?

ad*m February 16, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Have they no shame?

The IMF is still defending their hero:
“White’s intensely personal internationalism came under heavy criticism in the United States once the wartime military alliance with the Soviet Union against the Axis countries was no longer in force. During the investigations of the McCarthy era, attacks on his motives ranged from the questionable to the bizarre. His meetings with Soviet officials around the time of Bretton Woods were interpreted as espionage. His efforts during the war to hold the Nationalist government in China accountable for hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. financial aid were interpreted as an effort to undermine Chiang Kai-shek in favor of Mao Tse-tung. His assistance in drafting a plan to limit the reindustrialization of Germany after the war was interpreted as part of a grand design to create an economic vacuum in Europe to be exploited by the Soviet Union. ”
http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2006/wp0606.pdf

Ray Lopez February 17, 2013 at 6:56 am

Indeed, does the IMF not have access to Wikipedia? See: Robert Skidelsky, in reviewing the evidence [that White was a Soviet spy], concludes that: ” A combination of naivety, superficiality and supreme confidence in his own judgment – together with his background – explains the course of action White took. There is no question of treachery, in the accepted sense of betraying one’s country’s secrets to an enemy. But there can be no doubt that, in passing classified information to the Soviets, White knew he was betraying his trust, even if he did not thereby think he was betraying his country.[58]“

Rafael Marquez Arias February 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm

The book is good but as an account of the design of the BW institutions I still prefer Skidelsky’s third volume of his Keynes’ biography. Though it is a relevnt book for the present state of things.

Patrick R. Sullivan February 17, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Harry Dexter White was operating as a Soviet agent long before we found ourselves allied with Stalin in WWII. Since the mid 1930s, at least.

He also appears to have been the main actor in provoking the Japanese into attacking us (rather than Russia). A former KGB agent came forward and said he gave White the order to do so, after Hitler turned on Stalin in June 1941. White seems likely to have been the author of the memo that resulted in sanctions against Japan (over their military operations in China, which had been in effect since at least 1937) which eventually made the Japanese determined to strike at America, to free themselves to go after Indonesian oil.

Add to that that he also employed Soviet agents like Silvermaster, Coe, Adler to undermine Chiang Kai Shek and promote Mao in China and it’s hard to imagine one man responsible for more mischief (American and Chinese lives lost).

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