Bretton Woods 1944: Freeing Trade to do Good

I have just published an article on Keynes’ proposal for global financial reform at Bretton Woods in Review of Radical Political Economy (see the link -> under publications). My first night in New Hampshire was spent dining with graduate school friends at the Mt. Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.  The lobby told us that financial ministers from 44 countries met in there, with Keynes from Britain and Harry Dexter White of the United States Treasury leading the theoretical discussions–but what was at stake?  What were the implications of these legalistic clauses?  Keynes is pictured above on the veranda of the Mt. Washington Hotel with Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau.  Keynes thought him “dim,” but FDR trusted Morgenthau.  I learned that this was Keynes attempt to prevent free trade from deindustrializing Britain.  The article is my attempt to figure out how Keynes would advise the US today to defang free trade so that it would benefit working people. I’ll be speaking on this at World Fellowship in July.   

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The 18th c. Economy of Spain, Mexico and California

I am writing a book, ”Behind the Veil of 1848: Piety and Profits in Spanish California.” Enlightenment arguments over unleashing the profit motive played out in California 1769-1834.  It turns out profits were largely suppressed until 1810.  What then, did Spanish institutions use to incentivize the creation of an economy in such an outback as San Francisco in 1776? Piety and patriotism turn out to loom large.  Church and state had once been allies, but Spain occupied California 1769-1810 just when Bourbon reformers decided church control of land would doom prosperity–and yet they handed California’s economy over to the Franciscans.  I pull on this contradiction to define economic institutions under Spain, and to explore California’s forced transition to commercial life with the collapse of Spanish subsidy in 1810.  There will be visits to California and Spain in the next 18th months, for research and for conversation.


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Deindustrialization/Reindustrialization, Keene 1970-2012


Students Greg Hall, Pat Murphy and Dan Bayrouty with Prof. Marie Duggan

The juniors and seniors of Econ 455: US Economic History were recently invited to discuss our research on Keene’s industrial history with leaders in the business community.





Mary Ann Kristiansen of the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship faciliated the meeting of business leaders and students.

Ray Anderson (Knappe and Koester) and Don Brehm (founder of Pneumo)


Ray Anderson of Knappe and Koester had given our class a tour of his cutting-edge machine shop earlier in the semester.  He feels the pressure of international competition sharply, and maneuvers carefully to innovate and expand while cutting costs.


Don Brehm founded Pneumo in 1962 with his invention, the air bearing guage.  Mr. Brehm told us that passion makes the difference, and government contracts played a key role in the growth of his business. 



David Schuster

David Schuster explored the industrial cluster spauned by Pneumo with metrology, diamond turning machines, and optics in Keene. 



Michelle Partridge


Michelle Patridge described how an industrial cluster promotes innovation.




Greg Hall discussed the industrial history of the Connecticut River Valley, including Pratt and Whitney in Hartford, and Bryant Grinding in Springfield, VT.



Francis Bonnell (sitting with Norm Fiske of RCAM) discussed the printing business at Markem under F.A. and David Putnam.




We were enthused to learn that Ken Abbott’s ABTech is a family business, with three generations participating.  ABTech makes air bearing guages today.

Maureen Curtis of Timken MPB reminded us that a good financial expert can shine the light on the origina of  profits or losses.  She also echoed a sentiment we had heard from our interviews: not enough young people are attracted by manufacturing careers.  Student Chris Hinchey discussed how MPB came to Keene and founded precision grinding here, and Joe Katin discussed how Timken had invested against the cycle in a smelting plant in the early 1980s, using the latest technology from Japan.


Dan Bayrouty discussed that machinists like to be maanged by hands-on people, which is one reason workers on Springfield, VT were unhappy when Textron bought out Fellows Gearshaper, Bryant Grinding, and Jones and Lamson in the 1970s.  Pat Murphy explained that sales of machine tool firms are extremely cyclical, and in downturns the conglomerate may favor businesses that are less impacted.  Joe Bohenek discussed the culture of innovation promoted by social ties between technical people; for example, the Keene Astronomy Club may foster ties between people who make lenses. 

Joe Bohenek

Mayor Kendall Lane and Jim Pelto of SPDI listen to Norm Fiske of RCAM

 Jim Pelto teaches the next generation of young people who will go into manufacturing at Keene State’s Sustainability and Product Design major (SPDI).  Norm Fiske brings the educational community together with business needs through the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM).

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