Kindleberger and Milward

Brad De Long delong at econ.Berkeley.EDU
Fri Oct 9 19:11:46 PDT 1998

>DeLong's championing of Kindleberger (a decent enough fellow, it seems)
>is a bit odd, especially since Kindleberger is a former State
>Department insider who has every reason to view the Marshall Plan with
>rose-colored lenses. De Long also slams Milward in ways that I find
>irrelevant and in that sort of slimy academic-insider "I've heard him
>say at a conference" way that I find so offensive, especially since I
>think Marcello De Cecco (who is a friend of Milward's, I believe) and
>Milward probably see eye-to-eye on this one (I haven't yet verified
>this, however).

My, my...

Kindleberger views plenty that has happened in American economic policy through decidedly non-rose-colored glasses. He was there. And he's a very thoughtful guy. I've always found his judgment very good in the past...

As to Milward, it... disturbs me. He's smart. He's very, very hard working. Yet I cannot construct a consistent mental picture of how the world looks through his eyes--I cannot construct a coherent image of his vision of the world.

This is worrisome to me, because I was taught that before you can critique you must understand--that if you don't understand, you can't claim to be able to mount a critique. The closest I can come is that Milward does not "think analytically": that because the dollar gap was in the end eliminated by the economic recovery of West Germany in the 1950s, it was the economic recovery of West Germany (and nothing else) that was decisive for the post-World War II recovery. On this interpretation, he simply fails to see that *something* had to cover the gap for the seven years or so after the war, that if nothing had covered the gap Europe (and West Germany) would not have had the opportunity for economic recovery, and thus that the stopgap role played by UNRRA, Marshall, and MSA cash was an essential part of the story. Remover any one of the four--UNRRA, Marshall, MSA, or the successful reintegration of West Germany--and you have a very different post-WWII western Europe.

But to say that a serious and generally respected intellectual adversary is blind to large portions of reality, and... ummm... "thinks non-analytically" is not satisfactory. And makes me think this is an issue I need to think about again.

Brad DeLong

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