The Marshall Plan for a New World

On this day in 1948, President Harry S Truman signs the Marshall Plan into law. Officially it was entitled the European Recovery Program, an American initiative to aid Western Europe with over $13 billion in economic assistance for a Western European rebuild after the end of World War 2. Perhaps a touch more cynically, it as well aimed to stabilize Europe economically and politically so that European nations would not be tempted by the appeal of communist parties and Soviet influence.

The Marshall Plan required a lessening of interstate barriers, a dropping of many regulations, and encouraged an increase in productivity, trade union membership, as well as the adoption of modern business procedures. Named after United States Secretary of State George Marshall, the plan had bipartisan support in Washington, where the Republicans controlled Congress and the Democrats had the White House. It was largely the creation of State Department officials, especially William L Clayton and George F Kennan, with help from the Brookings Institution, as requested by Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Marshall spoke of an urgent need to help the European recovery in his address at Harvard University in June 1947, and with the swift action of a government still on war-footing, it went into quick effect. The years 1948 to 1952 saw the fastest period of growth in European history; industrial production increased by 35% and agricultural production substantially surpassed pre-war levels. The poverty and starvation of the immediate postwar years disappeared, and Western Europe embarked upon an unprecedented two decades of growth that saw standards of living increase dramatically.

Peoples and nations working together under thoughtful and competent leadership for the good of all. What a concept.

What say you, the people?