NPR Planet Money on Bretton Woods and the Role of the Dollar



Listen here (if the one on top doesn't work). Not bad, I should add, but it relies too much on Benn Steil's terrible book. In particular the evidence on Harry Dexter White being a Soviet spy is exaggerated. The best evidence is inconclusive. And as the program says White was responsible, or mainly so, for the use of the dollar as the key currency, which gave the US a great economic advantage. If he was pro-Soviet he was awful, wasn't him?

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  1. What book would you recommend on bretton woods that gets the history AND the economics right?

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    1. Not sure I would recommend a book per se. Skidelsky's treatment of the whole period, if you want to have Keynes' perspective is very good. Also, Boughton, the IMF historian, has written on why White Plan rather than Keynes. I have an entry on Bretton Woods in King's Elgar's Companion to Post Keynesian Economics. My problem in general with normal accounts is the lack of understanding as to how the BOP adjustment takes place, both for the Gold Standard and Bretton Woods or for flexible regimes, within the mainstream. For the most part developing countries are forced into quantity adjustments. Flows of capital move in the wrong direction, more often than not.

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