The predictions of classical political economists about the future economic picture of the world have largely failed to materialize in the real world. However, the works of Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx have contributed significantly to the development of economic sciences. The findings of these philosophers included thoughts, part of which are reflected in the economy of the planet today. Indeed, many ideas have not been implemented because of various historically conditioned issues and cannot be regarded as relevant economic theories. Nevertheless, some of these scholars’ findings may be reflected in current trends of economic development.
Adam Smith is one of the most important figures of classical political economy.
The philosopher’s ideas about the division of labor for the well-being of the population remain relevant to the modern world. The scholar’s ideas about economic liberalism provide more comfortable market conditions and attract investment if implemented correctly. Despite severe criticism from proponents of socialism and communism, Smith’s ideas are viewed positively in liberal political and economic movements. Nevertheless, in spite of this person’s role in the subject, the concept of the “invisible hand” proposed by this thinker is not valid in the modern economic scene (Piketty 236). The contemporary economic situation is generally not as idealized as Adam Smith imagined it to be. Overall, the thoughts of this classical political economist have played an essential role in the development of science, but some of this philosopher’s ideas have failed in practice.
Thomas Malthus had a rather unorthodox view of the economic situation since he attached great importance to human resources. This philosopher’s ideas dealt primarily with overpopulation problems and their impact on the region’s economic well-being (Piketty 10). For some segments of the modern economy, the ideas of this thinker are relevant. For instance, some urbanized industrial areas have low living standards and high economic importance. At the same time, many economically developed areas with high population densities tend to have high standards of living. The level of well-being is determined rather by the region’s overall economic development than by population density, exemplified by the densely populated economic zones in Asian countries. In this case, globalization plays an important role, allowing for a more rational division of labor and a corresponding distribution of labor among the various territories (Ravallion 123). The works of Thomas Malthus also contained many hypotheses determined by the political situation and the philosopher’s concerns (Piketty 10). Generally, this philosopher’s ideas have particular relevance in the modern world; however, they are not fully vindicated.
David Ricardo contributed significantly to the development of economics by developing Adam Smith’s ideas. He devoted much of his attention to land rent and resources as one of the decisive aspects of economic development. Having limited access to statistical information and without understanding the extent of the future industrial revolution, Ricardo was largely mistaken in formulating his theories (Piketty 12). In the modern world, land resources in various aspects are not a determining criterion of economic development. In addition, rural economic zones are often inferior in terms of welfare to regions that are engaged in other areas of the economy (Ravallion 485). Moreover, the proximity to industrial areas is an additional factor contributing to the poverty of the rural population, the main asset of which is land (Ravallion 485). Primarily, this is caused by the relatively low cost of products in the agricultural industry and the presence of technologies for the efficient use of soil.
Karl Marx, one of the most prominent economists and philosophers of the 20th century, is distinguished by his considerable influence on the development of modern economics and by a large number of supporters. A considerable part of Marx’s ideas is devoted to the problems of the status of the proletariat, which, in turn, was determined by the economic realities of the 19th century (Piketty 13). The validity of such ideas remains in today’s world, as social and economic inequalities have not been completely vanquished. The drawbacks of Marx’s theories include the lack of full-fledged mathematical justifications for the theories, such as the “principle of infinite accumulation” (Piketty 164). Karl Marx is the most quoted and widely discussed political economist mentioned in this paper. This statement is mainly explained by the relative novelty of this philosopher’s views and a large number of his ideas’ proponents.
Considering the ideas of classical political economists, economists need to understand the peculiarities of their philosophy and the factors influencing it. The views of scholars are largely conditioned by their historical period, the situation in the country, and views on the future. Specific theories were constructed under conditions of statistical information scarcity, which also created limits in the work of philosophers. These factors explain the irrelevance of many theories in present time and other historical periods. At the same time, many ideas of notable economists of the past are relevant and are embodied in modern economic concepts. In particular, this applies to those ideas that relate to the general economic development of the planet and do not focus on local issues.
Piketty, Thomas. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press, 2013.
Ravallion, Martin. The Economics of Poverty History, Measurement, and Policy. Oxford University Press, 2016.