April 18, 1933. It’s almost midnight in Washington, DC. Newly-elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has gathered his economic advisors for a late-night meeting. He called this meeting to announce his plan to effectively take the US off the gold standard, the system by which every paper dollar is tied to a certain amount of literal gold. To his advisors, this is inconceivable. Money is gold. Without gold backing the dollar, what even is money in the first place? But the president is resolute. The gold standard has driven America into the Great Depression, and he plans to drag it back out. How did FDR’s decision change the way Americans conceived of money? And how did killing the gold standard save the country?
Special thanks to our guest, Jacob Goldstein, host of the podcast Planet Money and author of Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing.