Economic Policy and Theory - John maynard keynes and bretton woods




Although the area around Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, possesses one of the least reliable climates anywhere in the United States, it was chosen as the site of the 1944 international conference for post–World War II international economic planning precisely because it promised a potentially pleasant climate. "For God's sake do not take us to Washington in July," wrote the British economist John Maynard Keynes to the American Harry Dexter White in May 1944, "which would surely be a most unfriendly act." White, who had joined the Treasury department in 1934 and had become Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau's chief planner for postwar international economic policy was Keynes's chief intermediary with the Roosevelt administration. The "White Plan" for postwar international economic cooperation, leaked by the London Financial News in April 1943, became the principal blueprint which guided postwar planning in general and the Bretton Woods conference in particular. Lord Keynes was the chief British spokesperson, a confidant of White's, and, as it turned out, chiefly responsible for choosing the site of the conference.

Convened on 1 July 1944, and held at the Mount Washington Hotel at Bretton Woods, this groundbreaking conference opened only a short distance from the peak of the highest summit in the American Northeast. On 12 April 1934, the weather observatory on its summit recorded a sustained wind gust of 231 miles per hour, a record that has yet to be equaled anywhere on the planet. It is a place reckoned by many to be one of the windiest places on earth, and attracts a multitude of visitors today, many drawn by the strange lure and challenge of unpredictable conditions. Snow has fallen on the peak in every month of the year, and temperatures below freezing are not uncommon at any time.

There is little doubt that Keynes, who suffered from heart ailments and who would die of a heart attack in 1946, preferred the chance of a blustery climate in July to the potential for oppressive heat and humidity in the nation's capital. And though the conference concluded by eschewing Keynes's plea for both an international reserve currency (that he had given the name "bancor") and an international overdraft fund, it was the masterful British economist who ensured that the more than seven hundred delegates from forty-four nations would meet to plan the postwar international economic order in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire's White Mountains.

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