This week, we’d like to post a fun article by our friend, Sandy Sandfort. Sandy is a wealth of interesting stories, and he has a new website in the works. If you’d like to be notified when it goes live, send a note to: [email protected]
Inertia is a human frailty. Too often, we go along to get along. We conform. Because of this, those who claim authority can get most of us to do their bidding if it comes with a plausible justification and is only incremental. We get nickel-and-dimed to death, the death of a thousand cuts.
Back on April 5, 1933, His Majesty, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), had a pen and a telephone. So he issued Executive Order 6102, which made it a federal crime for Americans to own or trade gold anywhere in the world. There were some minor exceptions for some jewelry, industrial uses, collectors’ coins, and dental gold, but the vast majority of the gold had to be turned in.
My father instantly understood what was going on and he didn’t like it. “They’re going to devalue the dollar!” he predicted.
Roosevelt didn’t give much time to comply either. The deadline was May 1. And if Americans did not comply, they faced criminal prosecution under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. Scofflaws were looking at a fine of up to $10,000 (1933 dollars, about a third of a million dollars today) and up to ten years in prison.
My parents made the conscious decision to become outlaws.
At every possible opportunity for the next three weeks (and substantially longer), my parents followed Gresham’s law (“Bad money drives out good.”), not federal law. They spent paper and collected gold. My father was a dentist, so he could own some dental gold, but that wasn’t enough. He wanted to covert as much paper into gold as possible. So he gave his patients discounts for payment in gold. “Sam,” a neighbor who was a banker, also helped collect gold for himself and my parents. They would repay his help later when they periodically ‘laundered’ gold for him and themselves.
Even after the deadline, gold still kept coming in. Mostly it was from people who didn’t have the time or the inclination to turn in their gold to the government. However, many feared prosecution and were happy to deal with my parents instead of FDR. Plus they got a better deal.
So where did they launder their tidy little nest egg? Why, “South of the Border, Down Mexico Way,” of course. Mexico had no Executive Order 6102.