In late 1849 and early 1850, two of France’s leading libertarian thinkers, Frédéric Bastiat and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, carried on a debate over several months, in the pages of Proudhon’s journal The Voice of the People, on the subject of the nature and legitimacy of charging interest. The circumstances could hardly be more dramatic: Proudhon wrote his letters from prison; Bastiat wrote his contributions as he was dying from tuberculosis. But the debate ranges widely and covers many of the most fundamental questions in the economic organization of a free society: the nature of capital, the privileges of capitalists, the meaning of mutuality, the implications of freedom for the accumulation of capital and access to credit, and whether freeing workers from political restrictions on credit would, or would not, free them from the costs of debt and rent. This classic debate was first published in English in 1879, when the American anarchist Benjamin Tucker published a series of translations in the radical paper, The Irish World and American Industrial Liberator. These translations – together with material newly translated by the market Anarchist scholar Roderick T. Long – are now collected and republished in print for the first time in over 130 years, in four booklet-length volumes:
Part I. Mutual Credit & Capital’s Claim to Increase. Introduction. Bastiat’s pamphlet, “Capital and Rent,” the cause of the debate. C.-F. Chevé’s critique of Bastiat in Voice of the People. Bastiat’s first letter to Voice of the People. Proudhon’s first letter to Bastiat.
Part II. Sacrifices & Predicaments; History, Method & the Meaning of Mutuality. (Bastiat’s and Proudhon’s Letters # 3 – 7)
Part III. Who Profits? Monopoly, Gratuity & Liberty. (Bastiat’s and Proudhon’s Letters # 8 – 11)
Part IV. Parting Shots & The Death of the Debate (Bastiat’s and Proudhon’s Letters # 12 – 14; Proudhon’s and Bastiat’s final words; end matter and notes on the translations).
Introduced October-November 2011.