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When turmoil strikes world monetary and financial markets, leaders invariably call for 'a new Bretton Woods' to prevent catastrophic economic disorder and defuse political conflict. The name of the remote New Hampshire town where representatives of forty-four nations gathered in July 1944, in the midst of the century's second great war, has become shorthand for enlightened globalization. The actual story surrounding the historic Bretton Woods accords, however, is full of startling drama, intrigue, and rivalry, which are vividly brought to life in Benn Steil's epic account. Upending the conventional wisdom that Bretton Woods was the product of an amiable Anglo-American collaboration, Steil shows that it was in reality part of a much more ambitious geopolitical agenda hatched within President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Treasury and aimed at eliminating Britain as an economic and political rival. At the heart of the drama were the antipodal characters of John Maynard Keynes, the renowned and revolutionary British economist, and Harry Dexter White, the dogged, self-made American technocrat. Bringing to bear new and striking archival evidence, Steil offers the most compelling portrait yet of the complex and controversial figure of White--the architect of the dollar's privileged place in the Bretton Woods monetary system, who also, very privately, admired Soviet economic planning and engaged in clandestine communications with Soviet intelligence officials and agents over many years. A remarkably deft work of storytelling that reveals how the blueprint for the postwar economic order was actually drawn, The Battle of Bretton Woods is destined to become a classic of economic and political history.
As trade flows expanded and trade agreements proliferated after World War II, governments--most notably the United States--came increasingly to use their power over imports and exports to influence the behavior of other countries. But trade is not the only way in which nations interact economically. Over the past two decades, another form of economic exchange has risen to a level of vastly greater significance and political concern: the purchase and sale of financial assets across borders. Nearly $2 trillion worth of currency now moves cross-border every day, roughly 90 percent of which is accounted for by financial flows unrelated to trade in goods and services--a stunning inversion of the figures in 1970. The time is ripe to ask fundamental questions about what Benn Steil and Robert Litan have coined as "financial statecraft," or those aspects of economic statecraft directed at influencing international capital flows. How precisely has the American government practiced financial statecraft? How effective have these efforts been? And how can they be made more effective? The authors provide penetrating and incisive answers in this timely and stimulating book.
One of the most important recent developments in financial markets is the institutionalization of saving associated with the growth of pension funds, life insurance companies, and mutual funds.
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