Committee for Economic Development, extract from The Powers That Be

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The Committee for Economic Development (CED) was founded in the early 1940's to help plan for the postwar world. The corporate leaders who were the driving force in CED had two major concerns at that time: 1) there might be another major depression after the war; 2) if businesspeople did not present plans for the postwar era, other sectors of society might present plans that were not acceptable to businesspeople.[1] The CED expressly. was trying to avoid any identification with special-interest pleading:

The Committee would avoid 'promoting the special interests of business itself as such' and would likewise refrain from speaking for any other special interests... The CED was to be a businessman's organization that would speak in the national interest.[2]

The CED consisted of 200 corporate leaders in its early years. Later it was to include a handful of university presidents among its members. In addition, leading economists have served as research advisors to the CED; many have gone on to serve in advisory roles in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and particularly on the Council of Economic Advisers. Although there is an overlap in membership with the Council on Foreign Relations, the committee has a different mix of members. Unlike the council, it has few bankers, and no corporate lawyers, journalists and academic experts. This gives the organization a more conventional and less liberal cast. Like the council, the CED works through study groups which are aided by academic experts. The study groups have considered every conceivable general issue from farm policy to government reorganization to the social responsibility of corporations, but the greater emphasis is on economic issues of both a domestic and international nature. The most ambitious of committee projects usually have been financed by the Ford Foundation.

Unlike the larger CFR, which would find it cumbersome to reach an 'official' position on any given issue, the results of committee study groups are released as official policy statements of the organization. The statements are published in pamphlet form and disseminated widely in business, government and media circles. There is reason to believe that many of these reports have had considerable influence, for there is a striking similarity between CED statements and policies that were enacted shortly thereafter.[3]

The fact that committee trustees are tapped for government service also lends credence to the idea that the organization has a policy impact. Of the 150 men who were CED trustees between 1942 and 1957, 38 served in government posts in both Republican and Democratic administrations.[4] In 1971 five committee trustees were in the Nixon administration. In the Carter administration, CED trustees served as Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of the Navy, and the former chairperson of the CED Research Advisory Board was the head of the Council of Economic Advisers.


  • ^ David Eakins, 'The Development of Corporate Liberal Policy Research in the United States, 1885-1965,' unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Univ. of Wisconsin, 1966, p. 340.
  • ^ Ibid., p. 346.
  • ^ ibid., chapters 7 and 8; Karl Schriftgiesser, Business and Public Policy (Prentice-Hall, 1967).
  • ^ Karl Schriftgiesser, Business Comes of Age (Harper & Row, 1960 ), p. 162.