I remember when I first got "The Lesson" from Burt Blumert…
The lesson is simple. It takes two minutes to receive. And it’s easy to understand, but incredibly powerful.
Burt taught me the lesson in his office, just outside of San Francisco… He started by pulling a handful of dollar bills out of a velvet bag. At first they all looked the same. Then Burt asked me to read out loud the guarantee on each bill. I started with a $20 bill from the 1920s.
The bill said, "This certifies that there have been deposited in the Treasury Twenty Dollars in gold coin payable to the bearer on demand."
That means there was gold in the bank for every one of these bills in circulation. But as I thumbed through each almost identical bill, the promise slowly changed for the worse… until we arrive at today: "This note is legal tender for all debts public and private."
What exactly does that mean? Burt showed me the Treasury Department’s explanation…
Federal Reserve notes are not redeemable in gold, silver or any other commodity, and receive no backing by anything… The notes have no value for themselves, but for what they will buy. In another sense, because they are legal tender, Federal Reserve notes are "backed" by all the goods and services in the economy.
In other words, they’re worth nothing.
"In plain English, dollar bills have no value," Burt explained. "Yet most Americans hold most of their wealth in them… Think about that."
Burt Blumert died on Monday of cancer at age 80. I am so thankful I knew him.
After the lesson from Burt, I "got it." Right then, I bought my first gold coins. Good thing. They’re up hundreds of percent. (I’ve still got ’em, Burt.)
I remember half-jokingly asking him, "Burt, if you like gold and hate paper money so much, then why do you accept paper money in exchange for gold as your business?"
The thing is, it was never about the gold to Burt… It was about a moral and philosophical stance. Sure, you got gold at a great price from Burt, but you had to pay the "Burt Tax" to buy it… you had to receive a 10-minute lesson on the phone about the risks to society of a growing government.
As his good friend Lew Rockwell said about Burt this week: "He hated the state for its sheer phoniness. The paper dollar was just the beginning of it all, the most obvious symbol."
Thankfully, Burt lived long enough to be "right." He opened his shop, Camino Coin in 1959. Back then, the price of gold was $35 an ounce. Today it’s over $900. Burt ran Camino for nearly 50 years… and he saw the state debase the value of the dollar.
It now takes 25 times more dollars to buy an ounce of gold than when he started. Said another way, the purchasing power of the dollar versus gold declined by 96%.
Most of all, Burt had conviction in his beliefs. And he lived his life by them. It’s something we should all aspire to.
I’ll miss you Burt.
P.S. Burt was the publisher of www.LewRockwell.com, a hub of libertarian thought. The text of his book is available free at www.mises.org. And Burt’s team at Camino is still providing the same quality service and excellent prices at www.caminocompany.com.
P.P.S. Burt loved to joke… The speech he gave at one of my conferences shows Burt’s incessant humor and his convictions in his ideals. It was called The Risks You Run When You Own Gold, and the Danger You Face If You Don’t. Click here to read it.
This originally appeared on Steve Sjuggerud’s Daily Wealth.
April 4, 2009
Steve Sjuggerud is the co-author of Safe Strategies for Financial Freedom.