We explore the foreign economic policy activities of Arthur I. Bloomfield, a prominent economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the 1940s and the 1950s. During the cold war, Bloomfield headed several missions to South East Asia, assisting local authorities in shaping new foreign exchange regimes and banking institutions. Bloomfield's most successful mission concerned the constitution of a new central bank in South Korea, established in June 1950.
In line with the Fed's new strategy established by Robert Triffin, head of the Latin American section, Bloomfield moved away from the dogmatic style of Edwin Kemmerer that dominated U.S. overseas missions in the first half of the twentieth century; “Southern” economies, in fact, rather than benefiting from Kemmerer's policies, had been increasingly hit by cyclical instability. According to Triffin and Bloomfield, U.S. overseas missions should loosen constraints on the activity of economic institutions and policy authorities, in order to increase their effectiveness as guarantors of financial stability and promoters of national development.
We examine this episode in the light of the U.S. postwar foreign economic relations and the concept of “embedded liberalism.” The Bloomfield missions to South Korea show with great clarity the principal features of the Fed's new foreign strategy and the need to examine the actual advisory activity of Fed economists during the 1940s: they were at the intersection between domestic and international political and economic systems. Ultimately, they played a major role in forging the actual foreign policy of the United States.