Karl Marx and Adam Smith are in important ways two of the most influential people in the lives of each of living at the end of the 20th century, although û ironically û we tend not to see the extent of their influence simply because it is so vast. It is like the air around us, something essential to our environment but impossible to see. But while oxygen supports us as biological entities, the ideas of Marx and Smith in their different ways support us as social animals.
This paper explores the contributions of these two thinkers about the human condition, looking briefly at the personal backgrounds of these two political philosophers before examining their ideas about social justice, the economy and the ways in which governments should and should not intervene in the economies of their states.
The German Marx, born in 1818 and living through 1883, was above all other things (along with Friedrich Engels) the founder of scientific socialism, that system of political equalization and redress of past historical abuses of the working class. As the creator of what would become modern communism (although it should be noted that socialism as Marx and Engels envisioned it has never realized in its entirety by any communist state). Marx was one of the most influential thinkers of all times, a point that is still undeniably true despite the collapse of the Communist states that sprang up in the wake of World War II. (Indeed, it is arguably that had the Eastern Bloc countries been more like the true socialist republics that Marx envisioned, 20th century history would had to have been written very differently).
Marx was born in Trier and was educated at the universities of Bonn, Berlin, and Jena. In 1842, shortly after contributing his first article to the Cologne newspaper Rheinische Zeitung, Marx became editor of the paper. His writings in the Rheinische Zeitung criticizing contemporary political and social conditions quickly and rathe...