In 1934, through the Gold Reserve Act, President Roosevelt devalued the dollar from $20.67 dollars per ounce, to $35 dollars per ounce.
The devaluation was excessive, meaning that at $35 dollars per ounce, the world considered that it would rather own American dollars - as undervalued - rather than gold; for this reason, and because of fears regarding another World War, the world shipped enormous quantities of gold to the US, in exchange for US dollars.
The consequence was that the stash of American gold, at the end of WW II, was about 22,000 tons of gold.
The huge error which the American administration committed at the Bretton Woods, N.H., international monetary conference in 1944, where the monetary order of the post-war world was determined, was to force upon the world a defective monetary system: gold was to be the foundation of the post-war world economy, supported by the US dollar, which was to be considered - like it or not - as good as gold.
This huge mistake has brought the US and the world to an enormous economic distortion: all production in all countries of the world, today, and all economic relations, both internally within nations and with regard to their international relations, are disconnected from reality.
After the war, the US continued the policy to which it was and is addicted: credit expansion. Consequently, the undervaluation of the dollar in 1934, turned into an overvaluation of the dollar, and US gold began to be purchased by the rest of the world at what was regarded as an increasingly attractive price of $35 dollars per ounce. Accordingly, the US stock of gold began to contract as gold left the country.
In 1955, when I was 23 years old, and returning from a trip to Europe with my bride on the Italian passenger liner, the "Andrea Doria", I recall after-dinner conversations with elderly gentlemen in the lounge, and the subject of the conversations was the persistent loss of gold on the part of the US.
In the post-war period, as a result of the Bretton Woods Agreements of 1944, the rest of the world accumulated dollar reserves - "as good as gold" - and this helped mask the consequences of the constant US credit expansion. However, there was a fly in the ointment: the perceptive Jacques Rueff, Economics Minister of General Charles de Gaulle, President of France, alerted de Gaulle to the fact that the US was both expanding internal US credit, and external credit by sending US dollars to France in payment for French imports to the US: French acceptance of dollars as payment, was actually credit extended to the US, and according to Rueff, this was unwise.
General de Gaulle thereupon insisted on returning the dollars held by the Bank of France to the US, and demanding in return, the gold to which it had a right. In May of 1968, Paris was shaken by very severe Leftist rioting and President de Gaulle was very nearly deposed. Obviously, the US had not been pleased with General de Gaulle's attitude.
Nevertheless, the outflow of gold from Fort Knox to the rest of the world continued unabated. The cheap dollar purchased a lot of gold, at $35 dollars an ounce.
As we all know, Fort Knox continued to bleed gold until August 15, 1971 when the gold stock having reached some 8,000 tons, President Nixon "temporarily" closed the gold window. The "as good as gold" part of the Bretton Woods Agreements of 1944 had ended. The irredeemable US dollar - a figment of the imagination - was now the basis of the world's economy.
World trade did not stop in its tracks. The world continued to revolve around its own axis in 24 hours a day, and the nations of the world went on using the irredeemable dollar as the foundation of their national economies and their banking systems.
Gold reserves ceased to have any importance for finance ministers around the world. Gold became the "barbarous relic" of J. M. Keynes. Having dollars now became the paramount objective of finance ministers and Central Bank chiefs.
The question for the rest of the world was no longer "We cannot allow excessive credit expansion, because we have to protect our gold reserves." After August 15, 1971, the new question was: "We must export more than we import, in order to have growing reserves of US dollars; because if we have more dollars, we can also expand credit - like the US - and grow our economies." If the rest of the world wanted more dollars in order to "grow their economies", there was, in the last resort, only one country that provided the necessary dollars: the US.
Consequently, the rest of the world went to work to sell whatever it could, to the US, and receive dollars in payment. National prosperity for the rest of the world required a flourishing export market in the US. Those who had nothing to sell to the US were out of luck. Those selling lots of stuff to the US, enjoyed prosperity.
What was the key to selling to the US, for the all-important dollars received in return?
The key, for all countries, was to undersell the local US producers of whatever the rest of the world had for sale. There was no other way to obtain dollars.
It is fitting to remember, how pleased Americans were, back in the 70's, to see their smoky, polluting industries close down, to be replaced with green malls and pleasant cafés, with areas for exercising, sunning and shopping. The time was hailed as the "The greening of America".
What happened to America was a Greek tragedy writ large. By its own hand, the US has destroyed itself. Its huge advantage - the right to issue the world's fundamental money, the dollar - turned into the sword which disemboweled its own guts.
There will be no "make America great again". President Trump will fail utterly, in re-industrializing the US: that cannot possibly happen unless the dollar ceases being the world's reserve currency. Huge fissures in the social make-up of the US are surfacing. The rest of the world looks on in shock, as it contemplates what is going on in the US.
The US is afflicted with a "terminal disease". To introduce a bit of levity into this dismal essay, herewith:
HENRY KING, who chewed bits of string, and was early cut off, in dreadful agonies, by Hilaire Belloc:
THE Chief Defect of Henry King
Was chewing little bits of String.
At last he swallowed some which tied
Itself in ugly Knots inside.
Physicians of the Utmost Fame
Were called at once; but when they came
They answered, as they took their Fees,
'There is no Cure for this Disease.
Henry will very soon be dead.'
His parents stood about his Bed
Lamenting his Untimely Death,
When Henry, with his Latest Breath,
Cried 'Oh, my Friends, be warned by me,
That Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, and Tea
Are all the Human Frame requires...'
With that, the Wretched Child expires.
A return to gold on the part of the US is unthinkable. It is much too late. Such a move would produce unimaginable social chaos in the US and put an end to the all-powerful "Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex". Total chaos lies ahead, unavoidably, and will present itself as disease intensifies; no politician can be willing to advance its arrival with a monetary reform.