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The Bastiat-Proudhon Debate
on Interest (1849-1850)

Capital and Rent


Capital et Rente, February 1849; anonymous translation (as “Capital and Interest”) from Essays on Political Economy by the Late M. Frederic Bastiat (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, and London: Provost, 1874)


3. What Is Capital?


by Claude Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)



DOI-II-3.1 There are some persons who imagine that capital is money, and this is precisely the reason why they deny its productiveness; for, as M. Thoré says, crowns are not endowed with the power of reproducing themselves. But it is not true that capital and money are the same thing. Before the discovery of the precious metals, there were capitalists in the world; and I venture to say that at that time, as now, everybody was a capitalist, to a certain extent.
DOI-II-3.2 What is capital, then? It is composed of three things: –
DOI-II-3.3 1st. Of the materials upon which men operate, when these materials have already a value communicated by some human effort, which has bestowed upon them the principle of remuneration – wool, flax, leather, silk, wood, &c.
DOI-II-3.4 2nd. Instruments which are used for working – tools, machines, ships, carriages, &c.
DOI-II-3.5 3rd. Provisions which are consumed during labour – victuals, stuffs, houses, &c.
DOI-II-3.6 Without these things the labour of man would be unproductive and almost void; yet these very things have required much work, especially at first. This is the reason that so much value has been attached to the possession of them, and also that it is perfectly lawful to exchange and to sell them, to make a profit of them if used, to gain remuneration from them if lent. [See, on the notion of capital, Chapter 7 of Economic Harmonies. – OC]
DOI-II-3.7 Now for my anecdotes.



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