From the Great Depression to Bretton Woods: Jacob Viner and International Monetary Stabilization (1930-1945)
This paper examines Jacob Viner’s contribution to the debate and the policy decision making concerning international monetary policy from the Great Depression to the Bretton Woods agreements. An outstanding member of the so called “early Chicago School of Political Economy”, Viner was actively engaged in the debate over the causes and cures of the depression, emphasizing the important role international economic problems played in producing its onset and in reinforcing its duration. During the 1930’s Viner was an outspoken supporter of international monetary cooperation, set up to secure exchange rates stability, which he regarded as a paramount factor in restoring business confidence and fostering recovery. As a close assistant to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. Viner was able to exert a positive influence on the administration’s foreign economic policy, from the Gold Stabilization Act of 1934 to the Tripartite agreement of 1936. Though not directly involved in the Bretton Woods Conference, he played a role in preparing the ground for the establishment of multilateral agencies such as the IMF and the IBRD. By means of his unpublished papers and other archival sources, as well as his writings, we will examine Viner’s analysis of the Great Depression, his contribution to the debate over American foreign economic policy and his work as economic adviser from 1930 to 1945.
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