Adam Smith and Karl Marx Essay

2053 Words May 30th, 2009 9 Pages
Adam Smith and Karl Marx

Modern political economic theory and philosophy can be greatly attributed to the works of two men who seemingly held polar opposite views on the subject. Adam Smith, a Scottish philosopher, published his most well known work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776 and is most often associated with the ideas and principles of the political economic system known as Capitalism. At the other end of the spectrum is Karl Marx; the German philosopher most often associated with Communism and the author (or co-author) of The Communist Manifesto. This paper seeks to discuss the core differences in their respective political economic philosophies with regards to what economic value is and
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(Marx & Engels, 2006, p. 2)

The chief disagreement between Capitalists and Communists is who or what is entitled to ownership and the means of production. In chapter one of the second book of The Wealth of Nations, Smith defined capital as the stock (read: assets or money) that a person does not immediately consume for which the owner expects to derive a future profit. (Smith, 1909) This of course implies that the individual has possession and ownership of the capital item in the first place. Marx bestows a social aspect upon what capital is in The Communist Manifesto. Marx stated that capital is a "collective product?only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion. Capital is therefore not a personal, it is a social power." (Marx & Engels, 2006, p. 23) In other words, capital belongs to all of the people that are needed to not only produce it, but to provide a reason for its value. One thing that Marx and Smith seems to have agreed upon is something economists call the Labor Theory of Value. While they would ultimately come to different conclusions on the use of the value, the basic assumption is this theory is that value is ultimate derived in an object from the labor necessary to produce it. ("Labor Theory", 2008) In chapter 5 of book I of The Wealth of Nations,

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