During World War II, as the first chairman of the Committee for Economic Development (CED), a progressive business organization founded in 1942, Hoffman came to believe that continued postwar economic prosperity depended on the expansion of international trade. Although a Republican, he supported President Harry S. Truman's policies of foreign aid to war-devastated countries. With the passage of the Marshall Plan in 1948, Hoffman somewhat reluctantly agreed to become the first head of its administering body, the ECA. As administrator, Hoffman ran an honest and efficient organization, proved highly effective in providing public justifications of the program, and persuaded European aid recipients to coordinate their recovery efforts.
After leaving the ECA in 1950, Hoffman became the first president of the Ford Foundation, the wealthiest philanthropic organization in America. By now a strong internationalist, he was among those instrumental in persuading General Dwight D. Eisenhower to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1952. Attacked by political conservatives as unduly liberal, in 1953 Hoffman resigned his Ford position and returned to Studebaker.
Over conservative opposition, in 1956 Eisenhower appointed Hoffman a delegate to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, and from then on Hoffman focused on facilitating economic progress in developing nations. In December 1958 UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld appointed Hoffman to head a new UN Special Fund for this purpose, later renamed the UN Development Program, which he led until 1971. The program eventually raised and distributed about $3.4 billion in seed money. Hoffman died in New York City on 8 October 1974, leaving an outstanding humanitarian record.
Hogan, Michael J. The Marshall Plan: America, Britain, and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1948–1952. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.; Neal, Alfred C. Business Power and Public Policy. New York: Praeger, 1981.; Raucher, Alan R. Paul G. Hoffman: Architect of Foreign Aid. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1985.