[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
In 1849, France’s leading spokesman for libertarian “capitalism” (Frédéric Bastiat) and France’s leading spokesman for libertarian “socialism” (Pierre-Joseph Proudhon) exchanged a series of public letters debating the nature and legitimacy of charging interest on loans.
In 1879, American individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker translated most of the letters, which were then published serially in the Irish World and American Industrial Liberator – whereupon, apart from a few excerpts, they vanished henceforth from human sight.
I’ve managed to track down a copy of the Irish World in microform and transcribe Tucker’s translation. Where the microform was too dark to read (it was really a lousy copy) I made educated guesses based on the French original, marking my conjectures in brackets. I’ve also translated two additional letters not included in Tucker’s translation, and thrown in an anonymous public-domain translation of Bastiat’s earlier criticism of Proudhon (which was what sparked off the debate to begin with). As of today, the whole thing is now, finally, online as The Bastiat-Proudhon Debate on Interest.
Most of this debate has not been widely available in English since 1879; and parts of it (including Bastiat’s final reply to Proudhon) have never been translated into English until now.
So who wins? Well, in my view, neither one – the two thinkers persistently talk past each other. I’ve posted a fuller analysis here; I’ll also be presenting this material at the Austrian Scholars Conference later this week.