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Why a Founding Father of Postwar Capitalism Spied for the Soviets

Special relationship: Keynes and White at an IMF meeting, Savannah, Georgia, 1946. (Getty)

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing global economic downturn, it has become commonplace for politicians, pundits, and economists to invoke the memory of Bretton Woods. In July 1944, in the midst of World War II, representatives of 44 nations gathered in this remote New Hampshire town to create something that had never before existed: a global monetary system to be managed by an international body. The gold standard of the late nineteenth century, the organically formed foundation of the first great economic globalization, had collapsed during the previous world war. Efforts to revive it in the 1920s proved catastrophically unsuccessful. Economies and trade collapsed; cross-border tensions soared. In the 1930s, internationalists in the U.S. Treasury Department saw a powerful cause and effect and were determined to resolve the flaws in the international economic system once

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