Harry Dexter White

I find that it is usually best to ascribe good motives to the actions of public figures.  However much I disagree with their policies, I find it most useful to assume that they are motivated, at least consciously, by a desire to do good.  Believing that people have evil intentions is too easy, and is too often a dead-end.

The premise of the book The Lords of Finance is, loosely, that a bunch well-intentioned central bankers made some well-intentioned mistakes and caused the Great Depression and World War II.

In this crowd of bumblers is Harry Dexter White a senior Treasury official, who emerges from the wreckage and authors the Bretton Woods Accord which governs the international currency system for decades.  But secretly he was a spy for the Soviet Union.  He even passes Allied currency printing plates to the Soviets to aid them in their counterfeiting operation.

His example illustrates the limitations of my assumption of good will.  Sometimes people are just plain bad.

As I read about the machinations of the current Fed and Treasury, I think it best to assume that everyone is trying to make the best of a difficult situation.  But sometimes I think about Harry Dexter White.

I thought it would be a lark to take him as a pen name, that is until Tuttle brought to my attention White’s authorship of the Morgenthau Plan to reduce post-war Germany to permanent destitution.  Perhaps that is a little too ugly for my tastes, and and may be fitting punishment for choosing an ironic pen name without adequate research.

(We’ll see if HDW sticks around, as”distasteful” as his presence might tend to be, ha, ha.)


Alan Greenspan


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