Hard Money, Hard Time

Article by Thomas Knapp.
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 employers — 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.

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