Of all the landmark round-number birthdays, none inspired as comprehensive a nostalgic retrospective of my life as did the arrival of my 40th. The fiat U.S. dollar celebrates its 40th birthday today, and under the circumstances I doubt the currency is feeling as chipper as it once did.

On Aug. 15, 1971, President Nixon's emergency measure to sever the U.S. dollar's convertibility to gold took effect. Presented to the American people as a "temporary" emergency measure to defend the U.S. dollar against currency speculators, the move officially terminated the Bretton Woods monetary system and reconfigured the very structure of global currency markets around the nucleus of a free-floating "fiat" U.S. dollar. Given what has transpired over the ensuing 40 years, I found it fascinating to go back and review how the idea was packaged from the point of inception. I believe the following four-minute video clip is well worth a Fool's time: