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Was it purely a matter of self-interest, or were there wider economic (or other) reasons that made the United States feel that it had to "make Europe prosperous once more" with the Marshall Plan?

closed as too broad by DevSolar, EvanM, KorvinStarmast, Pieter Geerkens, congusbongus May 11 '17 at 0:36

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Source all quotes. What does "selfish or economic" mean? This question is likely to be closed since it sounds like a homework question referencing a specific lesson plan, which is of little interest to the general student of history. – Mark C. Wallace May 10 '17 at 13:31
  • The link was added later; OP did not include any links. Still not clear who is being quoted Who said the actions were selfish? – Mark C. Wallace May 10 '17 at 13:47
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    Imbedded assumptions that reflect a bias do not make for a good question. Suggest you rephrase into a neutral tone. – KorvinStarmast May 10 '17 at 21:43
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    @MarkC.Wallace Based on OP's comments to my answer below, I suspect that it is a simple trip at the language barrier. I think they meant "self-interest", rather than "selfish". I re-worded to question to reflect that. – sempaiscuba Oct 3 '17 at 13:38
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The answers are contained in the Wikipedia paged linked in the question. The quote from US Secretary of State George Marshall's speech at Harvard University on June 5, 1947 explains:

The modern system of the division of labor upon which the exchange of products is based is in danger of breaking down. ... Aside from the demoralizing effect on the world at large and the possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people concerned, the consequences to the economy of the United States should be apparent to all. It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is not directed against any country, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Any government that is willing to assist in recovery will find full co-operation on the part of the USA. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.

So, apart from the obvious humanitarian goals, the reasons for US economic aid to post-war Europe were essentially both strategic and economic.

Firstly the strategic reasons, in the context of the early stages of the Cold War. The aim was to create stability in Western Europe, while undermining Soviet influence in the East. At the same time, American economic aid would help counter the perceived strength of Moscow-controlled communist parties in France and Italy.

Secondly, the economic reasons. A prosperous Europe would be a growth market for American industries, promoting further growth at home.


You can read much more detail in the record of the debates on the Marshall Plan in the US Congress in the Congressional Record of the 80th Congress (further volumes are also available on archive.org). This includes the observations and opinions of the senate members, which are particularly appropriate in the context of your question.

There is a useful overview of the Congressional Record (and its predecessor publications) which may help you understand the structure of the publication.

  • if parts of the reasons were stability and economic reasons, since Latin America represents 8% of the world's population and 20% of United States exports, and it's a source of comunist trends, guerrillas, and illegal inmigration to United States, I wonder why United States never tried a "plan Marshall" on Latin America. But I guess that question is "too open" and it isnt answerable in a SE community. – Pablo May 10 '17 at 14:08
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    @Pablo They Did. It was called the Alliance for Progress, initiated by President Kennedy in 1961. It was, shall we say, less successful than the Marshall Plan was in Europe. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alliance_for_Progress – sempaiscuba May 10 '17 at 14:15
  • I dont quite understand from the article you linked if it was aid in the form of credits, or if they simply were investments . Does the debt it mentions relates to a debt originated in the aid, or to former debts the latin american countries had with United States and Europe ? – Pablo May 10 '17 at 14:23
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    To clarify, there was both financial aid and new investments from the US as part of the package, but the financial aid was generally less than the repayments due from those countries on pre-existing debts. – sempaiscuba May 10 '17 at 17:02
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    @sempaiscuba: One very significant (IMHO, anyway) between the MP and AfP was that the MP was rebuilding what had previously existed, while the AfP was trying to create something new. – jamesqf May 10 '17 at 17:49
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To prevent the spread of communism. After the war unemployment and food shortages led to strikes and unrest in several nations. Marshall was convinced that economic stability would provide political stability in Europe.

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    One reason, but not the only one... – DevSolar May 10 '17 at 13:45

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