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The Case for a Supra-national Control on Commodities in the post WWII World: Novel Perspectives from FAO and Kaldor Archives


  • Paolo Paesani
  • Annalisa Rosselli


Commodity markets are characterized by high price volatility, inefficient resource allocation and the cyclical reappearance of excessive surpluses and shortages. Historically, these problems and their relevant socio-economic implications have been tackled by means of protectionist measures at the national level, with cartels among producers or, in some rare cases, with international agreements among producers and consumers of a single commodity. At the end of World War II, however, a number of ambitious projects were put forth by multilateral organizations and by individual economists. These projects (e.g. World Food Board, International Commodity Clearing House, International Commodity Reserve Currency) aimed at overcoming traditional commodity problems by means of supra-national institutions and the coordinated management of all the main commodities within a unified scheme capable of combining stable prices and abundant supplies. The goal of this paper is to reconstruct some of these proposals, their theoretical underpinnings and the debate they roused. In particular, we intend to focus on the role played by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and by the experts who were involved in its projects. While individual contributions by some economists belonging to this group of experts have been widely investigated in the literature, their reciprocal influences and the relevant intellectual and historical context have received much less attention. Recent important publications bearing on this question and the re-opening of FAO archives add new angles on and insights into this issue.

Suggested Citation

  • Paolo Paesani & Annalisa Rosselli, 2014. "The Case for a Supra-national Control on Commodities in the post WWII World: Novel Perspectives from FAO and Kaldor Archives," HISTORY OF ECONOMIC THOUGHT AND POLICY, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2014(1), pages 5-30.
  • Handle: RePEc:fan:spespe:v:html10.3280/spe2014-001001

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Spraos, John, 1989. "Kaldor on Commodities," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(1), pages 201-222, March.
    2. Paul Cashin & C. John McCDermott, 2002. "The Long-Run Behavior of Commodity Prices: Small Trends and Big Variability," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 49(2), pages 1-2.
    3. Anna M. Carabelli & Mario A. Cedrini, 2010. "Global imbalances, monetary disorder, and shrinking policy space: Keynes's legacy for our troubled world," European Journal of Economics and Economic Policies: Intervention, Edward Elgar Publishing, vol. 7(2), pages 303-323.
    4. Oscar Zaglits, 1946. "International Price Control through Buffer Stocsks," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 28(2), pages 413-443.
    5. Marcuzzo, Maria Cristina, 2012. "Speculation and regulation in commodity markets: The Keynesian approach in theory and practice," MPRA Paper 44131, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Anna Maria Carabelli & Mario Aldo Cedrini, 2007. "Current Global Imbalances: Might Keynes Be of Help?," Working Papers 113, SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont.
    7. W. T. M. Beale & Jr. & M. T. Kennedy & W. J. Winn, 1942. "Commodity Reserve Currency: A Critique," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50, pages 579-579.
    8. W. W. Riefler, 1946. "A Proposal for an International Buffer-Stock Agency," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54, pages 538-538.
    9. Luca Fantacci & Maria Cristina Marcuzzo & Annalisa Rosselli & Eleonora Sanfilippo, 2012. "Speculation and buffer stocks: The legacy of Keynes and Kahn," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(3), pages 453-473, June.
    10. Mehrling, Perry, 2011. "The Monetary Economics Of Benjamin Graham: A Bridge Between Goods And Money?," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(03), pages 285-305, September.
    11. Mordecai Ezekiel, 1938. "The Cobweb Theorem," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(2), pages 255-280.
    12. Therese Jefferson & John King, 2009. "Nicholas Kaldor and Critical Realism," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(3), pages 463-480.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B22 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Macroeconomics
    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration
    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • Q02 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Commodity Market


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