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Nixon Shock


Nixon Shock is a term that refers to the economic actions taken by U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1971, which included ending the convertibility of the U.S. dollar into gold. This effectively dissolved the Bretton Woods system, an international monetary system established after World War II. As a result, these actions led to major changes in the global financial system and caused significant economic shock worldwide.


The phonetic spelling for “Nixon Shock” is: /ˈnɪksən ʃɒk/

Key Takeaways

<ol> <li>The Nixon Shock was a series of economic measures taken by then U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1971. This decision was characterized by the unpegging of the U.S. dollar from the Gold Standard, marking the end to the Bretton Woods System.</li> <li>Nixon’s decision was primarily driven by the economic pressures of increasing inflation and trade deficit. By the suspension of the Gold Standard, Nixon aimed at bolstering the U.S. economy by controlling inflation and managing trade deficits.</li> <li>The Nixon Shock had profound global effects. It led to significant changes in the global financial system, replacing fixed exchange rates with floating ones. This in turn has been linked with greater volatility in international markets and economic uncertainty.</li></ol>


The term “Nixon Shock” is crucial in business/finance history as it refers to a set of economic measures taken by U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1971, fundamentally transforming the global financial system. Among these measures, the most dramatic and impactful was the unilateral cancellation of the direct international convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold. This effectively ended the Bretton Woods system of international financial exchange, where currencies were pegged to gold, introducing an era of free-floating currencies. The decision contributed to periods of economic instability, global inflation, and competitive devaluation, but also allowed for more flexible monetary policy. Thus, understanding the “Nixon Shock” is vital for comprehending shifts in economic policy and the development of modern international finance.


The Nixon Shock refers to a series of economic measures taken by then-President Richard Nixon in 1971, the most notable of which was the unilateral cancellation of the direct international convertibility of the United States dollar into gold. This action technically ended the existing Bretton Woods system of international financial exchange, where the value of a dollar was directly tied to a specific amount of gold. The purpose of this drastic step, the first of its kind in the history of international financial markets, was to combat the persistent inflation and financial instability the U.S. was experiencing during that period. By suspending the gold standard, the U.S. effectively shifted from a system of fixed exchange rates to one of floating rates, thus theoretically granting the economy a greater degree of flexibility and control over its financial affairs.In terms of usage, the term “Nixon Shock” refers to a historical event rather than a business or financial instrument. However, its implications significantly shaped the economic landscape of the modern world. The shift from a gold standard to a system of fiat currencies allowed for a more flexible monetary policy. Central banks acquired greater control over economic conditions through their ability to manipulate interest rates and money supply, which could be used to curb inflation or stimulate unemployment. Despite the initial economic turmoil following the Nixon Shock, many argue that this shift has led to increased financial stability in the long run. As such, the Nixon Shock serves as a powerful historical illustration of the impact of major policy decisions on international financial systems.


The “Nixon Shock” refers to a series of economic measures taken by U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1971, including the unilateral cancellation of the direct international convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold. Here are three real world effects of the Nixon Shock:1. Transformation of the International Monetary System: The most significant real-world effect of the Nixon Shock was the end of the Bretton Woods system, which had governed the international monetary system since World War II. The U.S. dollar was pegged to gold and other currencies were pegged to the dollar. After the Nixon Shock, the world moved towards a system of floating exchange rates, where the value of a currency is determined by supply and demand on the currency exchange market.2. Rise of Petrodollars: In the years following the Nixon Shock, the U.S. negotiated a deal with Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries to price oil in dollars. This created a strong demand for the U.S. dollar, helping to mitigate potential negative effects of leaving the gold standard and creating the petrodollar system we have today.3. Inflation and Stagflation in the U.S.: One of the short-term domestic effects of the Nixon Shock was a period of high inflation and economic stagnation, known as stagflation, during the 1970s. By removing the gold standard, which traditionally acted as a hedge against inflation, it led to the U.S. Federal Reserve having a free hand in controlling money supply, leading to inflation. These examples represent some of the most significant impacts of the Nixon Shock, showcasing how this event has significantly shaped the modern economic and financial landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does the term Nixon Shock refer to?

The term Nixon Shock refers to President Richard Nixon’s economic measures announced in August 1971 that led to an end to the Bretton Woods system. This announcement resulted in shockwaves in both domestic and international financial markets.

What caused the Nixon Shock?

The Nixon Shock was primarily caused by rising inflation and economic imbalance in the U.S. The high cost of international conflicts, namely the Vietnam War, along with the increasing domestic welfare spending caused a high level of inflation, which pressured Nixon to take drastic economic measures.

What were the three key policies of the Nixon Shock?

The three key elements of the Nixon Shock were: 1) The abolition of the gold standard, which ended the convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold. 2) The imposition of a 10% surcharge on imports, aimed at balancing the U.S. trade deficit. 3) Freezing of wages and prices for 90 days to counter inflation.

How did the Nixon Shock affect the global economy?

The Nixon Shock’s ending of the gold standard led to the fluctuation of currency values because they were no longer connected to the value of gold. This major shift resulted in marked instability in global financial markets. It marked the beginning of the era of completely fiat currencies.

Is Nixon Shock regarded as positive or negative?

This largely depends on perspective. Some argue that the Nixon Shock was necessary to stabilize U.S. inflation and correct economic imbalances. Others believe it led to financial uncertainty, with currency values no longer anchored to gold, leading to economic volatility.

Is the world still feeling the effects of the Nixon Shock today?

Yes, the shift to a fiat monetary system started by the Nixon Shock continues to affect global financial systems. All major currencies now operate without a gold standard, leading to situations where monetary policy can be vastly different from country to country, potentially leading to international instability and financial crises.

How did the Nixon Shock impact the price of gold?

When the U.S. dollar was no longer convertible to gold, the price of gold was allowed to float. This led to a significant increase in the price of gold as it became a hedge against inflation and currency risk.

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