Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Shaviro reviews Steil, "The Battle of Bretton Woods"

Over at JOTWELL, Daniel Shaviro (New York University) has posted a review of Benn Steil, The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order (Princeton University Press, 2013). Here are the first two paragraphs:
It’s always nice when you can combine outside reading for fun with something that is educational and at least indirectly professionally relevant.  Benn Steil’s economic and diplomatic history of the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, which established the post-World War II global framework for currency relationships and international trade (while also creating the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) filled this niche for me during a quiet weekend.  While the subject is not literally or directly related to taxation, it touches so closely on finance, macroeconomic policy, and international trade as to occupy a common universe with overlapping concerns.
The book tells a lively story, in which U.S. Treasury economist Harry Dexter White – an ardent economic nationalist yet also a Soviet mole – thoroughly squelched the great English economist John Maynard Keynes (the U.K.’s chief negotiator) in establishing the postwar regime for trade, currency, and capital flows.  With the U.S. economically dominant and the U.K. reduced to begging for loans, Keynes would have had no chance even had he been better at converting his analytical and epigrammatic skills into diplomatic ones.
Read on here.

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