Aristotle, Adam Smith and Karl Marx

Aristotle, Adam Smith and Karl Marx

On Some Fundamental Issues in 21st Century Political Economy

Spencer J. Pack

Spencer Pack compares and contrasts Aristotle’s, Smith’s and Marx’s theoretical systems on six fundamental issues: exchange value, money, capital, character, government, and change. This book also provides insights on issues concerning the continuing development of world money, saving, managerial capitalism, corrupt governments, and various secular and religious movements for social change.

Chapter 12: Capital and Character in the 21st Century

Spencer J. Pack

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy


CAPITAL CONTROVERSIES (AGAIN) Recall that for Aristotle money can be used to acquire more money. For Aristotle, this is chrematistics and is unnatural. Chrematistics is a corruption or perversion of the proper use of money which should be used to facilitate the exchange of goods, the transfer of goods from excess to deficient owners. With, for example, moneylending and the retail trade, the proper use of money is corrupted. For Aristotle, the emphasis is not on accumulating wealth. Rather, the society has a certain amount of wealth, and this wealth should be used to aid in the development of excellent citizens. So, for example, Aristotle writes that ‘may our state be constituted in such a manner as to be blessed with the goods of which fortune disposes (for we acknowledge her power): whereas excellence and goodness in the state are not a matter of chance but the result of knowledge and choice’ (Politics: 1332a, emphasis added). Compare this with Smith, where the emphasis is on increasing the wealth (and hence, also the power) of the nation.1 For Smith, people own stock. Part of the stock is set aside to be consumed. Another part is used to generate revenue or income. This part of stock is capital. Much of this capital takes the form of money which is advanced as wages to workers. The capitalists then own the resulting produce of that labor. Thus, the workers originally create the stock, the capital, yet the capital itself then hires or demands the...

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