Front Page Titles (by Subject) Note on the Translation - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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Note on the Translation - Frédéric Bastiat, The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics 
The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics, translated from the French by Jane and Michel Willems, with an introduction by Jacques de Guenin and Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean. Annotations and Glossaries by Jacques de Guenin, Jean-Claude Paul-Dejean, and David M. Hart. Translation editor Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Note on the Translation
In this translation we have made a deliberate decision not to translate Frédéric Bastiat’s French into modern, colloquial American English. Wherever possible we have tried to retain a flavor of the more florid, Latinate forms of expression that were common among the literate class in mid-nineteenth-century France. Bastiat liked long, flowing sentences, in which idea followed upon idea in an apparently endless succession of dependent clauses. For the sake of clarity, we have broken up many but not all of these thickets of expression. In those that remain, you, dear reader, will have to navigate.
As was the custom in the 1840s, Bastiat liked to pepper his paragraphs with exclamations like “What!” and aphoristic Latin phrases like Quid leges sine moribus? (What are laws without customs?). We have translated the latter and left most of the former as a reminder that this was written in a bygone age when tastes were very different. We have also kept personal names, titles of nobility, and the like in their original French if the persons were French; thus, “M.” instead of “Mr.”; “Mme” instead of “Mrs.”; “Mlle” instead of “Miss”; and “MM” instead of “Messrs.”
Because Bastiat was a political theorist and an economist, he used many technical terms and expressions in his writings, some of which need explanation as they have no exact translation into today’s speech. One example is liberté, which could be translated as either “liberty” (if one wanted to retain a more eighteenth-century flavor) or “freedom” (if one wanted a more modern sense). We have used both depending on the context and how it sounded to our ears. Another is pouvoir, which we have variously translated as “power,” “government,” or “authority,” again depending on the context. A third example consists of the words économie politique and économiste. In both French and English throughout the eighteenth, and for most of the nineteenth, centuries, the term political economy was used to describe what we now call “economics.” Toward the end of the nineteenth century as economics became more mathematical, the adjective “political” was dropped and not replaced. We have preferred to keep the term political economy both because it was still current when Bastiat was writing and because it better describes the state of the discipline, which proudly mixed an interest in moral philosophy, history, and political theory with the main dish, which was economic analysis; similarly, with the term économiste. Today one can be a free-market economist, a Marxist economist, a Keynesian economist, a mathematical economist, an Austrian economist, or whatever. The qualifier before the noun is quite important. In Bastiat’s day it was assumed that any “economist” was a free-market economist, and so the noun needed no adjectival qualifier. Only during the 1840s, with the emergence of socialist ideas in France and Germany, did there emerge a school of economic thinking that sharply diverged from the free market. But in Bastiat’s day this had not yet become large enough to cause confusion over naming. Even in 1849, when Gustave de Molinari published his charming set of dialogues, Les Soirées de la rue St. Lazare, between three stock characters—the socialist, the conservative, and the economist—it was perfectly clear who was arguing for what, and that the economist was of course a laissez-faire, free-market economist.
A particularly tricky word to translate is industrie, as is its related term industriel. In some respects it is a “false friend,” as one is tempted to translate it as “industry” or “industrious” or “industrial,” but this would be wrong because these terms have the more narrow modern meaning of “heavy industry” or “manufacturing” or “the result of some industrial process.” The meaning in Bastiat’s time was both more general and more specific to a particular social and economic theory current in his day.
In the eighteenth century industry had the general meaning of “productive” or “the result of hard work,” and this sense continued to be current in the early nineteenth century. Industry also had a specific meaning, which was tied to a social and economic theory developed by Jean-Baptiste Say and his followers Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer in the 1810s and 1820s, as well as by other theorists such as the historian Augustin Thierry. According to these theorists there were only two means of acquiring wealth: by productive activity and voluntary exchanges in the free market (i.e., industrie—which included agriculture, trade, factory production, and services) or by coercive means (conquest, theft, taxation, subsidies, protection, transfer payments, or slavery). Anybody who acquired wealth through voluntary exchange and productive activities belonged to a class of people collectively called les industrieux, in contrast to those individuals or groups who acquired their wealth by force, coercion, conquest, slavery, or government privileges. The latter group were seen as a ruling class or as “parasites” who lived at the expense of les industrieux.
Bastiat was very much influenced by the theories of Say, Comte, and Dunoyer and adopted their terminology regarding industry. So to translate industrie in this intellectual context as “production” (or some other modern, neutral term) would be to ignore the resonance the word has with the social and economic theory that was central to Bastiat’s worldview. Hence, at the risk of sounding a bit archaic and pedantic, we have preferred to use industry in order to remain true to Bastiat’s intent.
When Bastiat uses an English word or phrase, we have mentioned this in a footnote, with one exception: Bastiat frequently writes such terms as “free trade” and “free trader” in English, especially in his correspondence with Richard Cobden, and thus we have not noted these occurrences.
A final note on terminology: in Bastiat’s time, the word liberal had the same meaning in France and in America. In the United States, however, the meaning of the word has shifted progressively toward the left of the political spectrum. A precise translation of the French word would be either “classical liberal” or “libertarian,” depending on the context, and indeed Bastiat is considered a classical liberal by present-day conservatives and a libertarian by present-day libertarians. To avoid the resulting awkwardness, we have decided by convention to keep the word liberal, with its nineteenth-century meaning, in the translations as well as in the notes and the glossaries.