On the trip to Geneva for the Seal Products hearings I've been reading Benn Steil's account of the struggle of personalities, ideas and national allegiances in the creation of the post-war international economic order. This is a fascinating tale, told with a sense of dramatic tension, real political savvy, and a willingness to present the economic ideas and issues in a sophisticated but clear manner that won't bore specialists while illuminating generalists. One of the interesting things that I learned to appreciate from Steil's account is how trade questions were viewed, on both sides of the Atlantic, as part and parcel of the challenge of creating new monetary arrangements. Freely floating exchange rates were regarded, almost universally, as not only disastrous for financial stability but menacing to open trade as well. Keynes's position on free trade veered considerably, always in relation to what would work for domestic policy and allow states to pursue effectively full employment.
While Harry White, the key American figure, turned out to be naive about the Soviets and an actual informant, it makes me more uncomfortable to be reminded of Keynes' (undenaible) anti-Semitism and other prejudices of the educated civil servant/academic British upper middle class to which he belonged.
I could say much more (and will in further posts), even though I'm only a third of the way through the book. Bottom line: read it!
(a great companion read is the Genesis of the GATT, co authored by my colleague Alan Sykes, Petros Mavroidis, and Doug Irwin).