To use an architectural metaphor, the edifice of apartheid was only made possible by a structure, a scaffolding, of inter-supporting laws and edicts. Once the building was completed and could stand alone and unassisted, the scaffolding could then be dismantled and removed. It is true that, since 2 February 1990, the Nationalist Government has assiduously been removing the legal props to apartheid, but the substantive structure of economic inequality inherited from that system is still very much in place. Its granite face will not be affected by rubber mallets, but will require a demolition tool made of a sterner materials.
The US began by abandoning the system of fixed exchange rates established by the Bretton Woods Agreements in 1944 and introducing a system of generalised floating exchange rates. There was a strong economic motive for the decision, which the US authorities took unilaterally in 1973. They were seeking to compensate for declining competitiveness and a growing national debt by exporting the country’s macroeconomic imbalances. The floating exchange rate system provided a flexible and efficient monetary tool that enabled them to avoid the adjustments that would otherwise have been required by America’s new situation as a debtor. In a system of fixed exchange rates and gold convertibility, the US would have been obliged, like every third-world country today, to pay for its indebtedness with a relative loss of sovereignty and highly unpopular domestic austerity measures.