Nixon had a choice: save the international monetary system or win the 1972 election. He chose the latter and through the former down the drain. In this, he was supported by the Rockefellers. From Patrick Newman at mises.org:
August 15 marks a special date in American history: it commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s suspension of Bretton Woods. With this decision, the United States stopped redeeming foreign governments’ and banks’ dollars for gold. Consequently, the world economy transitioned to unconstrained central bank discretionary monetary policy, an unprecedented era in monetary affairs.
The traditional justification for such a momentous decision utilizes highfalutin rhetoric and appeals to the public interest: the gold constraint restricted the ability of wise economic planners to fine-tune the economy. However, as I document in Cronyism: Liberty versus Power in Early America, 1607–1849 (forthcoming, Mises Institute, October 2021), the actual reasons for government policies are due to self-interested politicians rewarding themselves and favored business interests at the expense of the public. Bretton Woods is no exception: Nixon suspended gold convertibility to enhance his 1972 reelection chances and benefit the Rockefeller-dominated Chase Manhattan Bank and other expansionary banking interests at the cost of higher inflation. When it comes to government, privileged interests always come before the public.
Nixon is one of America’s most notorious presidents because of his resignation following the Watergate scandal. This infamous attempt to steal the 1972 election is not the only aberration in Nixon’s career; all his life he was paranoid about elections and wanted to win at all costs. The former vice president was convinced that Federal Reserve contractionary monetary policy denied him the 1960 presidential election against John F. Kennedy. Nixon also insisted that Fed restrictionism contributed to Republican setbacks in the 1970 midterms. He was so concerned about elections that after assuming office in 1969 he candidly told his White House advisers that “political considerations” will often override the “economic standpoint.”1 At the top of his priorities was ensuring victory in 1972. To accomplish this, Nixon wanted the Fed to provide “a rate of monetary expansion sufficient to move the economy up on the desired path.”2
Closing the gold window—making the dollar a fiat currency—plumbs the absolute depths of cynicism. From James Bovard at aier.org:
Fifty years ago, on August 15, 1971, President Richard Nixon announced that the U.S. government would cease honoring its pledge to pay gold to redeem the dollars held by foreign central banks. Nixon declared he was taking “action necessary to defend the dollar against the speculators.” But there was no way to defend the dollar against politicians. Nixon touted his default as therapy for his tormented fellow citizens, promising it would “help us snap out of the self-doubt, the self-disparagement that saps our energy and erodes our confidence in ourselves.” Nixon wrapped his decree with lofty political rhetoric, appealing to the nation’s “greatest ideals” and promising a “new prosperity” that “befits a great people.”
The dollar thus became a fiat currency – something which possessed value solely because politicians said so. Nixon spurred the Federal Reserve to create an artificial boom to boost his reelection campaign. To suppress the damage from a flood of new money, he imposed wage and price controls, making it a crime to raise prices without government permission.
At that time, I was working in a peach orchard in rural Virginia for 10 hours a day, reaping $1.40 an hour and all the peach fuzz I could take home on my arms and neck. Nixon’s wage controls doomed any chance of getting that raise to $1.45 an hour. But no loss – I was leaving that job soon to go back to high school. I was 15 at that time and an avid coin collector. I soaked up the rage at the reckless federal policies that permeated Coin News and other numismatic publications. “Government as scoundrel” was the theme of many editorials and articles I read in those periodicals in the following months and years. I had no savvy on economics but my gut sense told me something was profoundly amiss. Nixon’s decree spurred my reading and researching.
Nixon closing the gold window may have sealed the death of the republic. From David Stockman at David Stockman’s Contra Corner via lewrockwell.com:
It is perhaps fitting that on the 50th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s dirty deed in August 1971, the US Senate saw fit to pass a budget resolution that will add $3.5 trillion of additional girth to the nation’s already bloated and unaffordable Welfare State. As Forbes properly noted,
The Senate on Wednesday set the stage for the biggest expansion of the federal social safety net since the advent of modern-day food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s, approving a blueprint for a massive $3.5 trillion budget bill aimed at “restoring the middle class” through a slew of government initiatives – including universal preschool, tuition-free community college and a new federal health program – while combating climate change and hiking taxes for the ultra-wealthy.
We make the connection between the Senate’s latest welfare bonanza and Tricky Dick’s severing of the dollar’s link to gold because on that fundamental matter, Alan Greenspan was actually correct. We are speaking, of course, of the Greenspan of 1966 before he fell off the wagon in pursuit of government power, position, praise and pelf.
In his seminal but now forgotten speech called “Gold and Economic Freedom”, the proto-Maestro observed,
In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation There is no safe store of value……The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves.
This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.
Fifty years ago this month President Nixon stopped the dollar from being convertible to gold for anyone. The consequences have been monumentally tragic. From Antonius Acquinas at antoniusacquinas.com:
A half century ago one of the most disastrous monetary decisions in U.S. history was committed by Richard Nixon. In a television address, the president declared that the nation would no longer redeem internationally dollars for gold. Since the dollar was the world’s reserve currency, Nixon’s closing of the “Gold Window” put the world on an irredeemable paper monetary standard.
The ramifications of the act continue to this very day. America’s current financial mess, budget deficits, the reoccurring booms and busts, the decline of living standards (particularly the middle class), all have their genesis with Nixon’s infamous decision in August, 1971.
Abandoning the last vestiges of the gold standard was the culmination of a long-term goal of the banksters, politicians, financial elites, and deceitful economists. The first step was the establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913 whose primary purpose was to allow its member banks to inflate the money supply without fearing the consequences – bank failures/panics, bank runs, recessions/depressions. The Fed could, and still does, through the control of the money supply enrich itself, the government, and its aligned financial elites at the expense of the public at large. Continue reading→
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