Use the Dollar or Else

It really is a wild and wacky world out there, ain’t it?  Dirt bags like Charlie Sheen and Barney Frank make public spectacles of themselves on a regular basis and everyone loves them for it.  The more crude and shocking they are the more their bull market soars.

Hollywood burnouts, political buffoons…people can’t seem to get enough of them.  Still, that’s nothing.  Their behaving like jackasses in public is almost quaint in comparison to other public affronts we’re all subjected to.  What we mean is when you take your sights off the comics and the clowns, and reposition the crosshairs on money, a whole new world of absurdities comes to focus.

For example, the bright and enlightened minds at the Federal Reserve believe they can make the world a more prosperous place by creating gobs of money from thin air.  They’re hell bent on proving they’re right even if it ruins the entire planet.  Right now, as we speak, they have bet three generations of wealth on the idea that a sound economy can be restored by borrowing massive amounts of dollars into existence.

What’s more, here within the confines of the United States, the Fed has a unique monopoly.  They’re the exclusive stewards of the nation’s currency…sole issuers of its legal tender.  In fact, they are so successful at it the Federal Reserve Note has become the nation’s most successful export.  Like Sheen and Frank, the bigger spectacle the Fed makes of the dollar the more of them international lenders want.

But don’t challenge the Fed’s special monopoly.  Bernard von NotHaus recently did and was sentenced to 25 years in the calaboose for what is being called, “a unique form of domestic terrorism.”  We’re not making this up…it really happened.

Certainly, NotHaus didn’t do himself much good by stamping dollar signs on his privately minted silver Liberty Dollars.  Still, the implications of NotHaus’ indictment and conviction are instructive.  To give you all the details on what is nothing short of an egregious and tyrannical case we bring you a guest essay from our friend Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., of


MN Gordon
Economic Prism

Use the Dollar or Else

Look up the phrase “a unique form of domestic terrorism” on a search engine and you will turn up a story about a man whom the U.S. government is trying to cage from now until the time of his death.

And his crime?  His unique form of terrorism?  He minted silver and copper coins and sold them.  In other words, he did what innumerable entrepreneurs from the beginning of time have done.  He attempted to provide consumers with a store of value.  No one was forced to buy.  He met a market demand, and that’s it.

Whom did he hurt?  No one.  Unlike illegal drugs, which the government bans on grounds that it doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves, these silver coins did not endanger their users.  They only gave people an option on what to do with their money.  Did the proprietor attempt to claim that these were legal tender for monetary exchange?  No, he sold them for what they are.

Could people use them for money?  Yes, but people can use anything for money: shoes, shells, flash drives, or books.  Whether something is money or not depends on the intentions behind the exchange.  Do you acquire something to consume it?  It is not money.  Do you acquire something in order to trade it for something else?  In that case, it takes on money-like properties.

It is wholly understandable that people have doubts about the future of the paper dollar.  Many people are seeking alternatives, in their own financial interest.  What this proprietor did was provide something that turned out to be a possible alternative to the dollar.  And for that, and that alone, he is being hounded and destroyed.

His name is Bernard von NotHaus and he is 67 years old.  In the course of the proceedings, he was called every name imaginable.  He was called a crook, a terrorist, a crank, and a crazy man.  What he actually did, however, should be fully legal and encouraged in any nation, in all times and all places.

A nation that is confident about its money’s future would not fear currency competition.  A nation with a dying money uses every possible means to crush the competition.  That is precisely what is happening in the case of the so-called Liberty Dollar.

What’s striking here is that no one believes there is any reason to argue the point.  It is obvious to his persecutors that he is a criminal.  “He’s playing on a core idea of the radical right, that evil bankers in the Federal Reserve are ripping you off by controlling the money supply,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  “He very much exists in the world of the anti-government patriot movement, whatever he may say.  That’s who his customers are.”

And what is the interest of the SLPC in this case?  This is a group that claims to be about stopping hate and racism – and this has something to do with opposing poverty.  And yet here they are intervening in a case in which a man is actually trying to prevent people from being impoverished.  As for the Fed, it is not exactly an act of hate to point out that the Fed controls the money supply.  Bernanke himself admits this!

The government has made no bones about the foundation of its case.  Citing a Civil War-era law, prosecutors say that it is a crime to compete with the official dollar.  Note that they are not citing the U.S. Constitution, which nowhere prevents such a thing.  In fact, private coinage has a rich history in the U.S.  It was essential when the West was being settled.  Providing coinage services was as common as any other trade.

But since 1971, when the dollar became all paper, there has been a sense that its viability needs the backing of federal guns in order to thrive.  This attitude is inconsistent with freedom.  The right of private coinage is an essential part of free enterprise.  Currency competition, especially in a digital age, is something that every country needs.

As Seth Lipsky wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “it’s a loser’s game to suppress private money that is sound in order to protect government-issued money that is unsound.”

Precisely.  As Lipsky points out, NotHaus operated very close to the line in terms of legality.  He put the dollar sign on his coins, for example, and sold them with numbers.  I can’t comment on his business dealings or the integrity of his operations.  But this much is clear: the grounds on which he is being hounded are egregious and tyrannical.

Allowing for alternative currencies is not terrorism.  It is a path to monetary reform, merely an application of the principle of free enterprise to a sector that should have never fallen so completely to government control.  The people who are working to provide alternatives should not be jailed; they should be celebrated in every country that values freedom.


Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
for Economic Prism

[Editor’s Note: Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail], former editorial assistant to Ludwig von Mises and congressional chief of staff to Ron Paul, is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute, executor for the estate of Murray N. Rothbard, and editor of See his books.]

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