International Organizations and the Analysis of Economic Policy, 1919-1950

By Anthony M. Endres; Grant A. Fleming | Go to book overview

5
Trade Policy Research: Geneva Doctrine
and the Scandinavian Connection

INTRODUCTION

The rise of trade policy interventions in the interwar years has been well documented (for example, Kindleberger 1989). By contrast, the intellectual history of trade policy doctrine for this period has been accorded scarcely any attention. Recent contributions have emphasized the authority and momentum given to trade policy interventions by J. M. Keynes's putative apostasy on free trade dating from the early 1930s. Thus Jagdish Bhagwati (1994:234–35) maintains that “Keynes's renunciation of the doctrine of free trade remained a potent source of disbelief in the doctrine … [and his] apostasy turned the 1930s into the most deadly episode among the challenges to the doctrine of free trade. ” And Douglas Irwin (1996:206) concludes that “Keynes succeeded for many years in placing the free trade doctrine in doubt and putting its advocates on the defensive. ”

In this chapter we present evidence suggesting that there is much more to the intellectual history of trade policy discussion from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s than is available in Keynes's fragmentary remarks on the subject. There was a potent source of belief in freer trade at least, emanating from significant research undertaken under the auspices of international organizations in Geneva during the period under review. Specifically, there is evidence linking much of this research with Ohlin's pivotal publications in international economics in the interwar years. Unlike Keynes, Geneva economists remained consistent advocates of freer trade. A vast array of research reports on trade policy matters were forthcoming from Geneva-based international organizations in the interwar period.

The purpose here is to assess the content and intellectual significance of the Geneva research program on trade policy mostly with respect to real trade flows (the international monetary dimension demands

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