What effect did Richard Nixon's decision to take the United States off
the gold standard have on the South African economy? Can it be an
accident that South Africa's long boom, dating from the 1930s, petered
out just about the time that the United States went to a floating
currency regime? If there really was a causal link between the two
developments, Nixon's decision will have turned out to be one of those
things whose full ramifications remain unclear well after they occur;
the apartheid regime's economic prosperity was based on the
exploitation of cheap, unskilled black labor, and the shift in the
terms of trade away from raw materials exporters served to penalize the
South African government for its discriminatory educational policies.
Not until white South Africans began to feel the impact of the economic
slowdown did sufficient pressure arise to stir Vorster's National Party
government from its complacency with regards to African education, and
it was the defiance of the students that reawakened what had seemed a
completely defeated black opposition.
Of course, there are still quite a few loose ends to be tied up with
this conjecture of mine: for one thing, gold prices actually hit their
peak in 1980. Nevertheless, it is a fact that South Africa's economy
did stagnate during the 1970s, and that this affected all sectors of
the country, irrespective of race. What would be most useful in
assessing this hypothesis one way or another would be firm statistics
about the South African economy during the period in question,
statistics I am currently at a loss as to how to obtain.