Against the Odds

Against the Odds: The Public Life and Times of Louis Rasminsky

BRUCE MUIRHEAD
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2tv1xj
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  • Book Info
    Against the Odds
    Book Description:

    This is a sound, scholarly treatment of a remarkable individual. As well, Against the Odds will do much to restore the Bank of Canada as an institution to its rightful place at the centre of scholarly treatments of financial questions and the international negotiations surrounding them.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7070-9
    Subjects: History, Economics, Finance

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Part One: The Centre Cannot Hold, 1908–1939

    • Chapter One Montreal, Toronto, London
      (pp. 3-10)

      Louis Rasminsky was a man of honesty, integrity, and purpose. He was also a master at negotiation and achieved a type of result of which few others were capable. That genius was seen time and again throughout his more than four decades of service to both the League of Nations and the government of Canada and was a reflection of his obvious commitment and intelligence. At the League of Nations, his annual performance evaluations spoke to those attributes, and each year they became more laudatory. It was a similar story after he became a Canadian civil servant. Rasminsky was recruited...

    • Chapter Two Geneva and the League of Nations
      (pp. 11-54)

      Geneva in 1930, headquarters of the League of Nations and of the International Labour Organization (ILO), was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. The League itself was a thoroughly international body, though its effectiveness was impaired from the outset by the failure of the United States to join. The first secretary general, Sir Eric Drummond, had insisted that all officials were to act in independence of their own national authorities, and, with few exceptions, that attitude governed the secretariat as a whole.¹ For a young Canadian, the city and the League proved irresistible. Louis Rasminsky and his...

  5. Part Two: War and Reconstruction, 1940–1961

    • Chapter Three Ottawa and Wartime Controls
      (pp. 57-80)

      When Louis Rasminsky joined Canada’s Foreign Exchange Control Board (FECB), it had been up and running for about seven months. The Board had been established by order-in-council on 15 September 1939 to conserve foreign exchange, and especially US dollars, in order to help finance the war effort. Rasminsky had been recruited by both the Bank of Canada’s governor, Graham Towers, and the deputy minister of finance, Clifford Clark. He had been the guest of honour at a dinner hosted by the former – special treatment – and he was clearly destined for a senior position. When he was appointed in...

    • Chapter Four The Road to Bretton Woods
      (pp. 81-112)

      While he was employed at the Bank of Canada and the Foreign Exchange Control Board (FECB), Louis Rasminsky also participated in a process that promised much for the future of global exchange stability. His contribution to the establishment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1946 was a large one; indeed, in some ways he can be seen as one of the ‘keys’ to its development and, to a lesser extent, to that of its twin, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). In the case of the IMF, he was an important member of the Canadian delegation and...

    • Chapter Five International Reconstruction
      (pp. 113-164)

      The years following 1945 were supposed to be the high-water mark of international cooperation. International institutions had been born out of a sense that the prewar way of doing things was discredited; ‘beggar-thy-neighbour’ policies, so prevalent in the 1930s, were to be a thing of the past. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) was to ensure long-term development, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was to guarantee exchange stability, the International Trade Organization (ITO) would ensure that ‘proper’ policies would be followed in trade matters, and the United Nations (UN) would oversee collective security and other matters. International regulation...

  6. Part Three: Two-Term Governor, 1961–1973

    • Chapter Six Into the Breach
      (pp. 167-182)

      James Coyne was not a typical central banker, at least according to some. The US embassy in Ottawa, for example, believed as early as 1957 that ‘Mr. Coyne sees fit to make subjective statements on various aspects of the economy, some of which seem to exceed the cautious pronouncements usually associated with central bankers.’¹ It commented again in mid-May 1959, suggesting: ‘A conflict may be developing between the Canadian Department of Finance and the Bank of Canada over monetary policy.’² The embassy proved prescient when the governor gave his first controversial speech in late autumn 1959. So began the tortured...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • Chapter Seven Rebuilding Confidence: First Term
      (pp. 183-223)

      Louis Rasminsky had always been an ordered man, which was reflected in his daily routine while he was at the Bank of Canada. He awoke at 8:00 A.M., had his breakfast in bed, read the morning paper, got dressed, then went off to work. On certain days, he would leave his home in Rockcliffe Park, the village surrounded by Ottawa where the city’s well-off live, and walk with a few colleagues down Sussex Drive towards the Royal Canadian Mint, where he would be picked up by the Bank car. When he returned home in the evening, he would be met...

    • Chapter Eight Fighting Inflation: Second Term
      (pp. 224-249)

      The final few years of the 1960s were difficult ones for Rasminsky and for Canada. For his part, the governor could not maintain, like Keynes’s fictional gentleman, ‘precisely the same level of … inebriety as the rest of the company’ and proved an annoying chaperon as inflation became a very real problem. Canadians were drunk with the potential that seemed to stretch out endlessly into the future and the prosperity that characterized the present. More astute observers might say that the party was winding down but no one was yet willing to pay attention. Expo 67 in Montreal, the World’s...

    • Chapter Nine Four Crises
      (pp. 250-296)

      Louis Rasminsky’s tenure as governor of the Bank of Canada, from July 1961 to February 1973, was one that saw an increase in tension between the United States and the rest of the developed world, at least in economic and financial terms. As Europe and Japan recovered from the effects of the Second World War and the American share of world trade declined, the United States became more aggressive in pursuing its economic interest, which had an obvious impact on its policy development. Moreover, the US balance-of-payments condition deteriorated; as Robert Triffin has noted, there was a drain on US...

  7. Epilogue: Retirement and Beyond
    (pp. 297-304)

    Louis Rasminsky had natural talents: a first-class mind; a commitment to work that had been encouraged by his parents, his religion, and his schools; and a personality that made people want to do their best for him. When he retired on 1 February 1973, he had accomplished his goal of becoming governor of the Bank, first given a focus with his application for the position of assistant deputy governor of the Bank of Canada in 1935. Moreover, he had not merely filled his last position; he could look back with satisfaction on his proactive record of eleven years and six...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 305-360)
  9. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 361-362)
  10. Index
    (pp. 363-380)