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International Economic Co-operation After 1945

As Robert Lowe Hall, Lord Roberthall was the first British representative on the Economic and Employment Commission. In April 1947 he became Director of the Economic Section of the Cabinet Office, and in 1953 Economic Adviser to Her Majesty's Government.

During the later stages of the Second World War there were almost continuous talks between the Allied Powers about the shape of the post-war world. These were dominated by the United States and Britain, where economic matters were involved: but Britain also took pains to keep the Dominions and India fully consulted. The Governments in exile of the occupied states were also kept in touch but had inhibitions about the extent to which they were representative. The USSR was of course deeply concerned about the post-war settlement, but from a very different point of view. Thus the economic plans of the post-war world were really formulated by the English-speaking peoples, which may have had some effect on the British attitudes to European reconstruction. The plans were very ambitious, being based on the assumption that the peoples of the world would expect to live in peace and prosperity and would be willing to accept something like a common code for international relations, implying democratic structures and the rule of law. These ideals were expressed in such phrases as 'The Four Freedoms' and 'One World'.

It would not be unfair to describe these economic objectives as those expounded by Adam Smith, modified by J.M. Keynes. In the post-war world, labour and capital were to be free to pursue their own interests in response to market forces. But Governments were to provide not only common and social services and the legal framework: they were pledged to a commitment which was quite new to nearly all of them. This was to intervene to moderate, even to iron out, the cyclical swings of which the Great Depression of the 1930s had been so traumatic an example. They were also to be committed to something not at first sight altogether compatible, that is to work towards a world of free international trade.

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