By R. Leeson

This quantity examines the original insights supplied via archival proof in American economics.

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3 From the Western Hemisphere to the ‘Grand Area’ In 1940–41 the central effort of the EFG was to press the administration to adopt as its main strategy the building up of a multilateral trade area embracing most of the non-German controlled countries. 15 This represented a kind of trade bloc within the pan-American continent, designed to face not only Japanese and German expansionism, but also trade discrimination on the part of the British Commonwealth. A pan-American economic and political isolationism could appear a good safeguard against involvement in the war.

EB-64, p. 4) Viner and most members of the EFG agreed with him: No currency system, no procedures of international investment, can be expected to withstand strains of the degree which the great depression involved without cracking. No country can be expected to adhere to a liberal foreign trade policy in the face of economic storms of the severity of that of the 1930s … Provision for joint international action to prevent or mitigate booms and depressions will therefore be an essential feature of a satisfactory program of post-war international economic organization.

In building up a rationale for this purpose a leading role within the WPS was assumed from the beginning by the Economic and Financial Group (EFG), which was certainly well equipped for this task. The EFG was entrusted to the leadership of Alvin H. Hansen and Jacob Viner, both of them former presidents of the American Economic Association, respectively in 1938 and 1939. It was not only status within the AEA that made Viner and Hansen well suited to representing the profession in its broader amplitude.

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