Baruch, Bernard M.

views updated May 14 2018

Baruch, Bernard M. (1870–1965), financier and political adviser.In matters of war and national security, Baruch was a major administrator during World War I, an important influence on Democratic congressional leaders from 1918 to 1948, and an intermittent consultant to Democratic presidents. Son of a German Jewish immigrant and his southern wife, Baruch was born in Camden, South Carolina, but moved with his family to New York City, where he graduated from City College in 1889. Successful on Wall Street, he was a millionaire by the age of thirty.

Baruch became a friend of Woodrow Wilson and many Democrats in Congress. In World War I, Wilson appointed Baruch to several mobilization posts, most importantly (1918) chair of the War Industries Board (WIB), then designated the major civilian agency for industrial mobilization. Not the “czar” described in the press, Baruch worked largely by persuasion rather than coercion. Furthermore, there were other agencies, and the military retained independent contracting authority. Nevertheless, at the WIB and on the President's War Council, Baruch was at the center of the government's mobilization. The WIB's success established Baruch's reputation as an industrial statesman. Wilson took him as an economic adviser to the Paris peace talks.

In the interwar years, Baruch—who believed in business‐government cooperation—encouraged industrial‐military planning through the new Army Industrial College and through the War Department's Industrial Mobilization Plan of 1930 and its subsequent revisions.

During World War II, Baruch urged a new WIB, but President Roosevelt, concerned with his own prerogatives, ignored this advice. Denied administrative power, Baruch still maintained political influence, primarily through his influence in Congress and friendships with the heads of mobilization agencies.

In 1946, President Truman asked Baruch to formulate a postwar international policy for atomic energy. The Baruch Plan proposed guarding America's atomic secrets and its production of atomic bombs until an international agency, over which the USSR would not have a veto, established full control of manufacturing plants anywhere in the world. The Soviet Union rejected it. During the Korean War, Baruch, fearful of inflation, tried unsuccessfully to get the Truman administration to impose price and wage controls. By then, however, Baruch had lost his great influence.
[See also Industry and War.]


Bernard M. Baruch , Baruch: My Own Story, 1957.
Bernard M. Baruch , Baruch: The Public Years, 1960.
Jordan A. Schwarz , The Speculator: Bernard M. Baruch in Washington, 1917–1965, 1981.

John Whiteclay Chambers II

About this article

Bernard M. Baruch

All Sources -
Updated Aug 08 2016 About content Print Topic