My Plagiarism of F. Bastiat by Karl Marx 1867

My Plagiarism of F. Bastiat
July 1868

Written: on about July 6, 1868;
First published: Marx and Engels Works, First Russian Edition, Vol XIII, Part I, Moscow, 1936

In . . . . . [1] a Bastiatite discovers that I have pinched the definition of the magnitude of value of commodities as being the "socially necessary labour-time" required for their production from F. Bastiat, and in bowdlerised form to boot. I could easily put up with this quid pro quo. For if that Bastiatite No. I finds Bastiat's definition of value and my own to be basically identical, Bastiatite No, II declares almost simultaneously in the Leipzig Literarisches Centralblatt of..............:"............"[2]

The sum total of Bastiatite No. I added to Bastiatite No. II would be that the whole army of Bastiatites would have forthwith to transfer to my camp and accept wholesale my exposition on capital. One will understand that it is only after much mental strife that I deny myself the pleasure of such an annexation.

The definition of value contained in my work Capital, published in 1867, is to be found two decades earlier in my work attacking Proudhon: Misire de la Philosophie, Paris 1847 (p. 49 seqq). Bastiat's words of wisdom on value did not see the light of day until some years later. I could not therefore have copied from Bastiat, though Bastiat could well have copied from me.

However, in fact Bastiat gives absolutely no analysis of value. He only dilates upon empty notions as consoling proof that "the world abounds in great and excellent daily services". It is well known that the German Bastiatites are all national liberals. I shall therefore do them also a "great and excellent service" by pointing out the specifically Prussian origin of Bastiat's store of wisdom. Old Schmalz was in fact a councillor to the Prussian government, if I am not mistaken, even a Prussian privy councillor. In addition he was a Demagogue hunter. In 1818 in Berlin this old Schmalz published a Handbuch der Staatswirthschaftslehre, The French edition of his handbook appeared in 1826 in Paris under the title of Economie politique. The translator, Henri Jouffroy, appeared on the title as "conseiller au service de Prusse". In the following quotation one will find Bastiat's notion of value in its essentials, not only as far as its content is concerned but even as regards its wording:

"Le travail d'autrui en general ne produit jamais pour nous qu'une economie temps, et [que] cette economie de temps est tout ce qui constitue sa valeur et son prix. Le menuisier, par exemple, qui me fait une table, et le domestique qui me porte mes lettres a la poste, qui me bat mes habits, ou qui cherche pour moi les choses qui me sont necessaires, me rendent l'un et l'autre un service absolument de meme nature; l'un et l'autre m'epargne et re ternps que je serais oblige d'employer moi-meme a ces occupations, et celui qu'il m'aurait fallu consacrer a acquerir l'aptitude et les talents qu'elles exigent"[3] (Schmalz, l.c., t. I, p. 304).


1 This space is left in the manuscript for the title Vierteljahrschrift fur Volkswirtschaft und Kulturgeschichle.-Ed.

2 This space is left in the manuscript for the date--July 4, 1868--and the following quotation: "Rejecting the theory of value is the only task facing anyone who opposes Marx; for if one concedes this axiom, then one must grant Marx nearly all the conclusions based on it, which he reaches by applying the strictest logic."-- Ed.

3 "The work of others only serves to save us time, and this time-saving is all that constitutes its value, and its price. The carpenter, for example, who makes me a table, and the servant who posts my letters, cleans my clothes or brings me the things I need, both render me the same service; they save me both the time which I would otherwise have to use to do those things myself, and the time I would otherwise have had to devote to acquiring the necessary skills.--Ed.