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Great Moments in Antitrust

In late 1944 and early 1945, before Congress approved the Bretton Woods agreement (which it finally did in July of 1945), the U.S. Treasury department – under the leadership of Treasury secretary Henry Morganthau – launched a public-relations effort to drum up support for the agreement. I turn the narrative over to Randall Bennett Woods (from page 230 of his A Changing of the Guard: Anglo-American Relations, 1941-1946 [1990]):

Winthrop Aldrich of Chase Manhattan and a bitter enemy of Henry Morgenthau … launched a full-scale public attack on the Bretton Woods proposals. Both the [International Monetary] fund and [World] bank were unnecessary, he insisted. London and Washington should work out a joint agreement to “shun totalitarian tactics in international trade and to adopt economic liberalism,” and then the United States would provide England with a grant-in-aid large enough to establish stability between the dollar and the pound. At this point Anglo-America could turn its attention to stabilizing other currencies.

The Treasury Department’s response to the Aldrich Plan was simple. On the day his report appeared, Morgenthau phoned the attorney general and pressed him to get busy on an antitrust suit pending against Chase Manhattan.

Ain’t government glorious? And isn’t antitrust useful?

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