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 US 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.