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)

5. The House

by Claude Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)

DOI-II-5.1 Mondor had a house. In building it, he had extorted nothing from any one whatever. He owed it to his own personal labour, or, which is the same thing, to labour justly rewarded. His first care was to make a bargain with an architect, in virtue of which, by means of a hundred crowns a year, the latter engaged to keep the house in constant good repair. Mondor was already congratulating himself on the happy days which he hoped to spend in this retreat, declared sacred by our Constitution. But Valerius wished to make it his residence.
DOI-II-5.2 “How can you think of such a thing?” said Mondor to Valerius. “It is I who have built it; it has cost me ten years of painful labour, and now you would enjoy it!” They agreed to refer the matter to judges. They chose no profound economists, – there were none such in the country. But they found some just and sensible men; it all comes to the same thing; political economy, justice, good sense, are all the same thing. Now here is the decision made by the judges: – If Valerius wishes to occupy Mondor’s house for a year, he is bound to submit to three conditions. The first is to quit at the end of the year, and to restore the house in good repair, saving the inevitable decay resulting from mere duration. The second, to refund to Mondor the 300 francs which the latter pays annually to the architect to repair the injuries of time; for these injuries taking place whilst the house is in the service of Valerius, it is perfectly just that he should bear the consequences. The third, that he should render to Mondor a service equivalent to that which he receives. As to this equivalence of services, it must be freely discussed between Mondor and Valerius.

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