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.
In Lessons of the Financial Crisis, Benn Steil argues that we are seeing a classic bust of a credit boom created by policies whose combined effects increased the demand for debt to unsustainable levels. U.S. monetary policy, taxation policy, and homeownership promotion policy were so conducive to credit expansion that to lay the blame on regulators who were "asleep at the switch" is dangerously simplistic. The United States in particular, given that it effectively sets monetary and credit conditions for a significant portion of the global economy, needs to put in place policies that can better recognize and curtail an incipient credit boom, and ensure that systemically important financial institutions can withstand its unwinding.