Bernard von NotHaus: The ‘Domestic Terrorist’ You Can Call a Hero

I dreamed I saw Bernard von NotHaus, alive as you or me.

Said I, ‘But Bernard, you’ve been jailed two years.’

‘I never was,’ said he.

Bernard has been the called the Rosa Parks of the alternative money movement. More than 10 years ago, he had this idea that he would make his own money – not the fake stuff we are used to, but the real stuff made of actual silver. He called his currency the Liberty Dollar (and why not, since there is no trademark on the word dollar?).

The feds raided him in in 2006. In 2007, the government outright stole 2 tons of coins from him, many of them featuring an image of Ron Paul, plus 500 silver coins and 50 gold coins. They threw him in jail and dragged his name through the mud many times.

He was later convicted of making counterfeit coins – an ironic conviction given that he was making silver coins to compete with official coins made out of scrap metal. That conviction was in March 2011, fully 2½ years ago. The government labelled him a ‘domestic terrorist’. Yet – and this is what amazed me – he still hasn’t been sentenced. He walks around as free as you or me.

Truly, I was stunned. I was sitting at a wonderful gathering in San Diego, Calif., called Libertopia. It is several days of lectures, exhibits, and panels, along with lots of socialising, by libertarians of many different stripes. I had just finished giving a talk and was sitting out on a puffy chair underneath an outdoor awning.

Up walked a thin, lively, bearded man who came right up and introduced himself. My jaw dropped. I got up and said the first thing that came to mind: ‘My God, man, you are a hero,’ and he blushed sweetly. I asked how it was that he was not in jail. He explained his saga without pathos or fear, and full of confidence that he would be exonerated.

After all, the feds threw every conceivable charge at him. The jury didn’t buy it, but finally did have to admit the he seemed to be producing and distributing what claimed to be dollars, but differed rather substantially from US government dollars.

That was the basis of the counterfeiting claim. The claim alone implies that somehow he was tricking people, which is ridiculous, since the whole reason his coins were marketable was precisely because his customers knew that his coins were real and, in this respect, differed completely from what the US government distributes.

Think about the many distributive technologies that came out in these frontier days in which a new world was being born. All the internet giants were being born during these years. Other services were simply distributive, such as Napster, which completely revolutionised music distribution, but was crushed by the feds in 2001.

The result was the deep entrenchment of distributed network file sharing, which is more ubiquitous than ever before. All these movements were about challenging the status quo in a fundamental way, the daring decision to take on state-blessed institutions and tap into the power of the consuming public to choose private over public services.

The movement was not killed, despite every attempt. What it actually did was change the whole way we get our services, use the internet, and engage each other in our social and economic lives. In a rapid and thrilling way, we began to see all the ways in which power could be devolved away from the elites and toward the people. It has left a permanent mark on the world.

The Liberty Dollar was part of this movement. For decades, some very high-level intellectuals had taken note of the decline of the quality of money, from about, oh, 1913, all the way to the advent of pure paper money in 1971.

The inflation of the late 1970s made the point: There has to be a better way. Economist F.A. Hayek wrote that it was entirely possible that a high-quality private money could compete with a government money.

But who would step out and make the attempt? What entrepreneur would dare come forward and offer up an alternative as a product in the consumer market?

Bernard von NotHaus was the man. There is nothing illegal about minting silver into round shapes and putting pictures on them. It’s not even clear that there is anything wrong with calling it a dollar, provided he didn’t try to claim it was a government dollar. And this is exactly what he did.

The money monopolists in Washington went absolutely nuts about this. They threw the book at him, and added some of the most hilarious rhetorical flourishes that one can imagine.

The attorney who prosecuted the case for the government said the following:

Attempts to undermine the legitimate currency of this country are simply a unique form of domestic terrorism. While these forms of anti-government activities do not involve violence, they are every bit as insidious and represent a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country. We are determined to meet these threats through infiltration, disruption, and dismantling of organizations which seek to challenge the legitimacy of our democratic form of government.

A present danger? More like a present solution. The paper dollar hasn’t brought economic stability, but precisely the opposite. It’s been a long string of terrible booms and busts, bubbles and explosions since that fateful day when the gold backing of the dollar was completely removed.

The notion that government was trying to protect a marvellous system against domestic terrorism is mind-boggling, since the truth is rather obvious: The government was trying to protect a terrible system from being overthrown by competition.

But they stopped Bernard, right? Didn’t he fail? He can be very confident in knowing that he made a gigantic mark in history. He demonstrated that it could be done. He threw a model out there that would not go away.

And only two years after the looting of his business, an ambitious computer programmer created a code protocol that became what is now known as Bitcoin.

But the inventor of Bitcoin – whose identity is either completely unknown or one of the best kept secrets in history – knew better than to operate like a business. He made not silver rounds, but digital units.

He didn’t store these units in one place, but rather had them live on a globally distributed network that no government can shut down. He relied not on a third-party transmitter, but instead made it possible for this new currency to be traded peer to peer.

Bitcoin is a brilliant combination of the Liberty Dollar’s soundness and Napster’s distribution methods, with a few extra features thrown in to protect it against shutdowns.

In other words, Bernard von NotHaus took one for the sound-money team, and, in time, the world will see that his instincts were exactly right. Monopolies can’t last.

Not even the world’s most powerful government can keep quality and consumer preference at bay forever. His idea pointed to a bright future in a revolutionary way. The revolution will not occur with guns and battles, but through enterprise, entrepreneurship, and a billion tiny acts of peaceful consumer choice.

When I think of this sweet, inauspicious, brilliant man, I can’t help but smile. He is not a revolutionary in the mold of Lenin or Napoleon or even a fulminating media figure. His mode is to make something cool and offer it to people.

It’s the American way, and it’s the height of hypocrisy that he would be persecuted in the Land for the Free simply for having made a better mousetrap.

This is why he is a legend. This is why he will go down in history. And perhaps this is why he continues to wait for his sentencing to take place.


Jeffrey Tucker
for Markets and Money

Ed Note: The ‘Domestic Terrorist’ You Can Call a Hero originally appeared in Markets and Money USA.

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18 Comments on "Bernard von NotHaus: The ‘Domestic Terrorist’ You Can Call a Hero"

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slewie the pi-rat
points of fact: 1) the US MINT does produce and distribute 1 (t)oz. .9999 pure American Silver Eagles with the monetary denomination of ONE DOLLAR. 2) von N.’s case was not about violating a trademark on the word DOLLAR. many firms or individuals design and produce pure silver rounds without saying they are ‘DOLLARS’ or ‘Ten Dollars’. why’s that? well, apparently, under US Law, it is not LEGAL to do so. if you grow tomatoes and label them ‘organic’ b/c you grew them yourself, this does not MAKE them LEGALLY ‘organic’. saying a metal disc is MONEY does not make… Read more »
Charles Pasley
In response to the previous writer, I occasionally bought Mr. von Nothaus’ silver rounds, not to use as money or because I considered them to be money but because I thought they were a nice looking product. I have bought one ounce silver items from other dealers — Chattanooga Coin Company comes to mind — that except for the word “dollar” on them were identical to United States Silver Dollar designs, so much so that an unobservant person could have mistaken them for legal tender silver dollars of the pre-Eagle type, and yet the Feds did not go after Chattanooga… Read more »
Mountain Man
Pi-rat raises some interesting points, but they fail under to pass muster under scrutiny. First, the Constitution plainly declares what is/is not considered ‘Money’. Paper currency, by contrast, is not lawful ‘Money’ but is ‘legal tender’ by fiat. If you don’t know the difference, pick up a copy of Black’s Legal Dictionary for clarification. Secondly, the US Const. grants Congress the power to ‘Coin’ or mint Money and to regulate the value thereof. Additionally, it stipulates that the States may issue coinage so long as it meets the ‘lawful’ requirement of being comprised of ‘gold or silver’ as well. Von… Read more »
Shalomburg Schlinkenstein
Shalomburg Schlinkenstein

>>Bitcoin is a brilliant combination of the Liberty Dollar’s soundness

Please tell me you didn’t write this! What makes bitcoin sound? What intrinsic value does it have that has allowed it to survive over 5000 yrs of economics?

American Patriot
I’d like to respond to the “pi-rat” point by point. 1. Liberty dollar offered at least equal quality for a lower price and therefore a better value to customers 2. “apparently under US law it’s not legal” – You need to cite the chapter, verse and line of US Code stating that it’s not legal. the “law” is not determined by what people do but by what’s in the USC and other legal documents. 3. ” my understanding may not be complete” AMEN. And now for a few comments of my own. Perhaps THIS and others like it are why… Read more »

LOL ^ Shill.


sure the writer knows that the currency is issued by the fed, not the gov?? look at the notes. and that the fed is private


more demand for silver bullets anyway,

why take on city hall?

Chris R
Wow! Slewie you are writing (at great length) about something you obviously do not know much about. For starters, the word “dollar” is NOT a copyrighted or protected word, that would make Mickey Mouse “Disney Dollars” illegal, and of course they are not. Or should Mickey be charged with terrorism as well? Bernard hasnt been sentenced because he didnt do anything illegal except step on the toes of a privately owned Federal Reserve Bank creating paper “dollars” backed by warm feelings and massive debt, and perhaps there is still some sanity left in the legal system. Your statement of “continued… Read more »
Chris R

Disney Dollars are a type of currency available from the Walt Disney Company

In response to stewie the pi rat: I don’t think you understand. The word dollar is not uniquely associated with the United States. We have the following currencies with the word dollar in them: Australian dollar Bahamian dollar Barbadian dollar Belize dollar Bermudian dollar Brunei dollar Canadian dollar Cayman Islands dollar Cook Islands dollar East Caribbean dollar Fijian dollar Guyanese dollar Hong Kong dollar Jamaican dollar Kiribati dollar Liberian dollar Namibian dollar New Zealand dollar Niue dollar Singapore dollar Solomon Islands dollar Surinamese dollar New Taiwan dollar Trinidad and Tobago dollar Tuvaluan dollar United States dollar And the following now… Read more »
Joseph Lieberman

It is not illegal to have the price of your silver disk on the silver
Look at Corporate Giant Walt Disney
They have been printing DISNEY DOLLARS for years and never even raided
By the Feds,, this is because even they were not breaking the law
Bernard and the liberty dollar is a case of the FEDS being
RAPACIOUS HARPIES they have exaggerated and lied outright regarding
Meaning and application of the law..
Liberty dollars are in no way at all a violation of Any counterfeiting laws.


I bet the US government has thrown a lot of money on hacking the Bitcoin system.


I harkened songs both tulip and bitcoin
I tacked toward those shoals
All while reckoning new ways existed
For reaching my rarified goals


Pi-rat is a moron and a legalist sheep. Money is anything used as a medium of exchange, not necessarily a good sanctioned by a government. What the rat is thinking of is LEGAL TENDER. Additionally, rats legalistic “argument” is pure comedy at best. Paper laws have no legitimacy and mean nothing. BvN was a bit careless, but he committed no crime. The Federal Reserve are the ones in the counterfeiting business.


Joe, you cant hack bitcoin. Its source is open and final. It cant be changed.

slewie the pi-rat
L0L!!! yes, i’ve seen them for sale, also. i was simply stating what my understanding of the government’s case is, and that i do not consider myself an expert on vonN. when the government gets a multi-count conviction in ANY felony trial it is not a small deal imo. hell, i wouldn’t have ever chased down vonN. he never did me any harm. honest. but he’s is the soup for this. slewie didn’t put him there. i understand the word dollar is not just U.S.! L0L!!! you don’t understand what i wrote? from my LIMITED understanding, i believe that if… Read more »
Fleendar the Magnificent
Fleendar the Magnificent
The government went after Bernard because of his use of the word “DOLLAR” on his coinage. If he had used any other monetary unit term on his coins *other* than “Dollar/s”, even if he had called them 1,5 & 10 valued Fripplings, he’d have been left alone more than likely. Look at the Berkshare? It’s an alternative, local currency in the States and it’s still in use today. It’s ALL about the name, and the government took his use of the word “Dollar/s” as a direct attack on their fiat currency and counterfeiting it. He put himself directly on the… Read more »
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