Hard Money, Hard Time

Bernard von NotHaus, reports Tom Lovett of the Evansville, Indiana Courier & Press, stands convicted, as of last month, of “making coins resembling and similar to United States coins; of issuing, passing, selling and possessing Liberty Dollar coins; of issuing and passing Liberty Dollar coins intended for use as current money; and of conspiracy against the United States.”

All told, according to Steve Lyttle of the Charlotte, North Carolina Observer, von Nothaus faces up to 25 years in prison and a $750,000 fine (as well as having about $7 million worth of confiscated silver kept by the government pursuant to a form of legal theft known as “asset forfeiture”) for the “crime” of selling silver to willing customers.

While the libertarian commentariat has made much of US Attorney Anne Tompkins’s characterization of von Nothaus’s enterprise as “a unique form of domestic terrorism,” I have to admire Tompkins for her openness and honesty. Her employer — a criminal gang which counterfeits money on a massive scale and forces acceptance of that bogus currency as “legal tender” — may not be domesticated, but it must indeed find the prospect of honest money taking hold among its victims terrifying.

Von Nothaus’s plan was, in its basic structure, elegant: He wanted to encourage the use of “hard money,” specifically silver, as an alternative to US Federal Reserve Notes in daily commerce. Toward that end, he minted silver rounds (what most people, but not von Nothaus, call “coins”) of known quality and purity, and offered warehouse receipts in paper and digital form against stored reserves of silver.

The government’s primary claims at trial revolved around similarities between von Nothaus’s product and the Federal Reserve’s counterfeit “money.” He denominated his offerings in “dollars” (a term which predates the United States by more than 250 years and the Fed by nearly 400). Some of those rounds arguably looked similar to government-produced coins, bearing an image of Lady Liberty (others featured the face of US Representative and “hard money” advocate Ron Paul) and a religious motto (“Trust In God,” as opposed to “In God We Trust”).

The government’s prosecutors were understandably reluctant to go into the differences between his product and their own. The Fed’s “notes” are nothing more than inflationary paper backed only by debt and by the claim that a government gone $15 trillion into that debt won’t formally default and/or print so much of that paper that it becomes useful only as a replacement for the stuff you keep next to your toilet. Most government coins are made of base metal and not worth, to grab a convenient cliche, a plug nickel on anything other than that government’s say-so.

Liberty Dollars, on the other hand, consisted of real silver, or of receipts redeemable at any time for that silver — with frequent periodic audits by an accounting firm to ensure that the silver to honor redemption claims was actually on hand.

Those silver rounds have not only retained their value, but are today worth a good deal more in metal value alone, at least as denominated in “Federal Reserve Notes,” than when they were purchased from von Nothaus. I won’t be surprised to learn that they’re worth more yet as collectibles, but that’s a side effect of the government’s crackdown, not von Nothaus’s intentions.

The only way for the warehouse receipts to lose their value was for von Nothaus to find a way around the audits and steal the silver backing them … or for a criminal gang to happen by with enough guns to force its way into the warehouse and steal the silver from him. Which, as we know, is exactly what happened.

Of all the things we’ve allowed governments to seize control of, money may have been our worst mistake. The state distorts the very idea of money, using it as an instrument to control you and extract value from you at will (above and beyond overt taxation) and, through banks and the new digital economy, to keep an eye on you to boot.

Government “money” is a lie, and Bernard von Nothaus faces prison for telling the truth. So much for “the truth shall set you free.”

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