Front Page Titles (by Subject) 117.: Letter to the Count Arrivabene 237 - The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 1: The Man and the Statesman: The Correspondence and Articles on Politics
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117.: Letter to the Count Arrivabene 237 - 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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Letter to the Count Arrivabene237
Paris 21 December 1848
[vol. 7, p. 416]
My dear Sir,
The doubt you have expressed is very natural. It is possible that in pushing terms a little far I have gone beyond my ideas. The words, by anticipation, inserted in the passage you quote tell you that I intend to discuss the matter in detail. In a future article, I will cover exchange and then set out what I was bold enough to call my theory of value. I ask you to be kind enough to suspend your judgment until then. You may be sure that after this I will welcome your comments gratefully as they will enable me to explain better or to correct as needed.
You will acknowledge, I hope, that what appears to divide us is not very serious. I believe that value lies in the services exchanged and not in the things. Materials and physical forces are provided free of charge in nature and move free of charge from hand to hand. However, I do not say that two items of work, considered to be equal in intensity and duration, should be equally remunerated. He who is positioned to render a service that is more precious because of the materials or forces at its disposal is better remunerated; his work is more intelligent, more fortunate if you wish, but the value is in this work and not in things. The proof of this is that the same phenomenon occurs even where there is no physical object to mislead us and appear to take on value. In this way, if I feel the desire to hear the finest voice in the world and am willing to make exceptional sacrifices to do this, I would call upon Jenny Lind. As she is the only one in the world who could render me this service, she could ask whatever price she wants. Her work would be better remunerated than that of another; it would have greater value, but this value lies in the service.
I believe that this is also true where a physical object is involved, and if we give it a value, it is through pure metonymy. Let us take one of your examples. A man grinds his wheat between two stones. Later he takes advantage of his situation on a hill exposed to wind and builds a mill. I request from him the service of grinding my wheat. Many others do likewise, and, as he disposes of a great force, he is able to render a great number of similar services. He is highly remunerated. What does this prove? That his intelligence is being rewarded, that his work is fortunate, but not that the value lies in the wind. Nature never receives any remuneration; I remunerate only a man and I do so only because he has rendered me a service. I appreciate this service because it would cost me more to do it for myself or to ask it from others. The value, therefore, lies in a comparative appreciation of a variety of services exchanged.
This is so true that, if competition is involved, the miller will lower his price; the service offered in future would have less value, even though the action of the wind remains the same and retains all of its usefulness. It is I, the consumer, who will profit freely from this decrease. It is not the usefulness of the wind that has changed, it is the value of the service.
You see that basically it is a quarrel of words. What does it matter, you tell me, if the value lies in a natural force or in the service rendered to me, by means of this force, by the person who has harnessed it? The result is the same for me.
I cannot tell you here what consequences, which according to me are very important, will result from this distinction. I sincerely believe that if I manage to put across my thesis I would have crushed all the socialist, communist, and other arguments, just as I would have removed many errors that have escaped economists with regard to property, income, credit, etc. It is perhaps an illusion of authorship, but I admit that it has taken over my entire being, and I regret that I have only a few moments to devote to this study.
I remain, my dear sir,