Socialism vs. Capitalism: Karl Marx vs. Howard Marks

This past week, I spent some time with two famous men named Marx and Marks.

The first is the infamous Karl Marx, who authored “The Communist Manifesto.” Published in February 1848, Marx’s short book came just in time for the revolutions that swept across the European continent that year. My visit with Karl Marx took the form of a walking tour of Soho in central London where he lived in exile starting in 1847.

The second is Howard Marks, founder and CEO of Oaktree Capital. Marks is the author of a very different book: “The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor.” I saw Howard Marks speak at King’s College Business School last week just across the street from the London School of Economics.

Despite their similar names, these two figures could hardly be more different.

Karl Marx evokes the image of a bushily bearded intellectual. Even today, the image of the impoverished philosopher Marx — along with Che Guevara — is the global icon of the Left.

In contrast, Howard Marks is the very embodiment of a Wall Street institutional fat cat. This self-made billionaire is a living, breathing example of Marx’s argument for revolution.

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