The International Monetary Fund has a wonderful heritage, a priceless legacy. It was created for the loftiest of economic purposes—to provide a stable monetary foundation to facilitate free trade and international capital flows—and to provide hope to a world beset by vicious and destructive war. Its architects, Harry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes, surmounted personality clashes and political strains to carry out the mission that garnered their mutual respect: to establish optimal conditions for achieving world prosperity and world peace.

The emphasis, from the beginning, was to set up an international monetary system. For White, the chief goal was to stabilize exchange rates to obtain the maximum productive benefits of foreign trade and investment; for Keynes, it was important to keep capital resources circulating rather than allow them to sit idle. Both men were intrigued with the idea of a universal currency, a global monetary unit that would transcend the vagaries of individual national monies. And both men favored the formation of supranational organizations to ensure orderly economic arrangements across borders and to bring about what Keynes (1942) described as global “financial disarmament.”