It was on Aug. 15, 1971, that Nixon severed the last remaining link of the U.S. dollar to gold.
Under the post-World War II monetary order, the rest of the world had been persuaded to hold dollars as reserves and conduct international commerce in dollars. But U.S. politicians of both parties had a grand time for years spending money and buying votes on left and right to delight their special constituencies. There was the Great Society and the Vietnam War, too. Because they had the Federal Reserve to print money for them, it had been a wild spree.
But like any ne'er do well, the U.S. was writing bad checks. The state was issuing more dollars than it could possibly redeem for gold at the promised exchange rate of $35 per ounce.