Introduction

Ninety-one years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pulled off the greatest heist in American history.

Unlike most robberies, this one was entirely legal. No safe-cracking was required; no ski masks, guns, or getaway cars. Just a pen and some White House letterhead.

On April 5 1933, FDR issued Executive Order 6102, making it illegal for anyone in the United States to own gold. By penalty of up to a $10,000 fine or 10 years in prison, everyone in the country was ordered to turn in their gold to the government, by the end of the month.1

EO 6102 is one of the most important milestones in the history of money. Book-ended by the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, and the end of the Bretton Woods system in 1971, it was a pivotal part of the process by which the USA abandoned gold for a fiat standard.

As such, it’s a milestone in Bitcoin history too. Though Bitcoiners’ interest in EO 6102 extends beyond the merely historical: because it’s the quintessential cautionary tale of arbitrary government seizure of personal property, it’s also one of the best real case studies to illustrate the value of Bitcoin self-custody.

Realizing that the government is not your friend is like learning that Santa Claus isn’t real. A necessary part of growing up, but a potentially traumatic fact that needs to be introduced to children carefully.

Nonetheless, adulthood requires coming to grips with the fact that there’s no jolly fat man coming down the chimney with gifts in hand. In the real world, the strange fat man wears a frown and comes through your front door with an arrest warrant if you don’t pay your taxes.

For many people, the story of Executive Order 6102 brings them into collision with this reality. It teaches us that the United States Government has not hesitated to brazenly confiscate its citizens’ wealth at the barrel of a gun, and under the right circumstances would absolutely do it again.

However, most discussion of 6102 focuses on why FDR did it and whether it was justified. This debate is framed around FDR’s overall handling of the Great Depression. On one side you have (essentially) FDR hagiography which says that he was an unmitigated American hero; that “without his New Deal, we would all have been lost.”2

On the other side, you have the (somewhat milquetoast) Republican criticism which says, well maybe FDR went too far, or maybe he actually hurt the economy as much as he helped it. Sometimes a spicy Libertarian will get hot under the collar and tell you FDR sent America down the path to welfare-statism and “accustomed Americans to the pernicious dole.”3

All of this misses the most important lesson from EO 6102, which is how FDR pulled the whole thing off. I mean, technically. Legally.

This is because, despite the fact that FDR’s Presidency could justifiably be characterized as a quasi-dictatorship and, in the words of America’s foremost FDR disrespector Curtis Yarvin (aka Mencius Moldbug), “rule by…



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