Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bastiat quote or non-quote

In this posting at the excellent Not PC blog Peter Cresswell uses the quote
"when goods don't cross border, armies will."
and attributes it to Frederic Bastiat. Bastiat is the most commonly given source for the quote. But I have never see an actual reference to where Bastitat said it. Does anyone have such a reference?

I ask because Bastiat isn't the only source I have see given for the quote, or at least one very similar,
'If soldiers are not to cross international borders, goods must do so.'
According Jeffry Frieden, on page 255 of his 2006 book "Global Capitalism", the above quote is due to one Otto Maller and gives, in turn, a reference to page 37 of Alfred E. Eckes's 1975 book, "A Search for Solvency: Bretton Woods and the International Monetary System, 1941-1971". Maller we are told was a supporter of FDR's Secretary of State Cordell Hull. But that's it.

Anyone know anything more?


Peter Cresswell said...

How interesting. I've used that quote for years, always attributing it to Bastiat (presumably because the first time I read it that was the attribution), but I think you might be right.

Searching the PDF of the Bastiat Collection (in two volumes, both of which are online at Mises.Org in their superb, downloadable online literature collection -- tell your students) there's no reference of that term, at least not in that translation.

The closest I could find was this: "If commerce were free,what use would you have for your great standing armies and powerful navies?"

So unless the quote comes from his Letters to Proudhon, which aren't featured in the Bastiat Collection, or the translations used in the Collection are very different to that from which the quote came, it looks like you might be right.

Which is an enormous pity, since it's such an clear summary of the main themes of his Sophisms and Harmonies: the harmonies of free trade.

Paul Walker said...

PC. I too had always believed the quote was due to Bastiat, and it may still be so, but the Mallery quote did make me wonder. I have found out a little more on the Mallery quote, see here.

I'm sure even if he didn't say it, he would wish he had!