OBITUARY: Milton Katz

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The Independent Online
Milton Katz was one of the talented generation of academics who left America's great universities to serve first Roosevelt's New Deal, then the war effort, and finally the reconstruction of post-war Europe.

A brilliant legal scholar, Katz began as a lecturer at the Harvard Law School in 1939 and returned there after his government service. After retiring from Harvard at 70, Katz taught at a local law school in Boston, Suffolk University, until this January, when he was 86.

Born in New York City, Katz graduated from Harvard College in 1927 and from Harvard Law School in 1931. In 1933 he went to work for the New Deal's National Recovery Administration, the intensely controversial (and unsuccessful) programme of industrial "codes" which was the Roosevelt Administration's experiment in turning the United States into a planned economy.

He returned to Harvard, then, after Pearl Harbor, to Washington to work for the War Production Board and then the Combined Production and Resources Board. He served as a lieutenant-commander in the US Navy, and, after the war, at the Ford Foundation in New York. In 1948 the United States launched the Marshall Plan, which Winston Churchill called "the most generous act in history". Eventually some $12bn in Marshall Aid was given to stave off hunger and destitution and to prime the pumps of Europe's reviving industries.

In was characteristic of Katz, with his strong sense of public service, to volunteer to work for the Economic Recovery Administration, as this disinterested enterprise was called; and typical of his self-effacing diplomatic skills that he found himself smoothing relations between some of the prickliest egos in two continents, including those of his proconsul in Paris, Averell Harriman, and Richard Bissell, his opposite number in Washington,.

Katz started as Harriman's deputy in Paris. Harriman, fresh from his role as President Roosevelt's ambassador to Moscow, saw it as his role to assert Europe's interests, but at the same time to take a tough line with any European behaviour that might jeopardise the success of the Plan.

In 1950 Harriman's job devolved on Katz. He found himself with what could have been a dangerous crisis for the embryonic European community on his hands. The crisis arose over an institution called the European Payments Union. Katz was one of several top American officials who were deeply suspicious of Germany's economic policies, which he went so far as to call "Schachtian", thereby comparing them with those of the Hitler regime.

Milton Katz later served as chairman of Nato's financial and economic committee and as a member of the UN's Economic Commission for Europe before returning to Harvard.

Godfrey Hodgson

Milton Katz, economist, public servant: born 29 November 1907; Lecturer on Law, Harvard University 1939-40, Professor of Law 1940-50, Henry L. Stimson Professor of Law 1954-78 (Emeritus); Distinguished Professor of Law, Suffolk University 1978-95; married 1933 Vivian Greenberg (three sons); died Brookline, Massachusetts 9 August 1995.