Andrew Carnegie on the Gospel of Wealth

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland in 1835. His father, Will, was a weaver and a follower of Chartism, a popular movement of the British working class that called for the masses to vote and to run for Parliament in order to help improve conditions for workers. The exposure to such political beliefs and his family's poverty made a lasting impression on young Andrew and played a significant role in his life after his family immigrated to the United States in 1848. Andrew Carnegie amassed wealth in the steel industry after immigrating from Scotland as a boy. He came from a poor family and had little formal education. The roots of Carnegie's internal conflicts were planted in Dunfermline, Scotland, where he was born in 1835, the son of a weaver and political radical who instilled in young Andrew the values of political and economic equality. His family's poverty, however, taught Carnegie a different lesson. When the Carnegies emigrated to America in 1848, Carnegie determined to bring prosperity to his family. He worked many small jobs which included working for the Pennsylvania Railroad where he first recognized the importance of steel. With this recognition, he resigned and started the Keystone Bridge Company in 1865. He built a steel-rail mill, and bought out a small steel company. By 1888, he had a large plant. Later on he sold his Carnegie Steel Company to J. P. Morgan's U.S. Steel Company after a serious, bloody union strike.

He saw himself as a hero of working people, yet he crushed their unions. The richest man in the world, he railed against privilege. A generous philanthropist, he slashed the wages of the workers who made him rich. By this time, Carnegie was an established, successful millionaire. He was a great philanthropist, donating over $350 million dollars to public causes, opening libraries, money for teachers, and funds to support peace. In the end, he gave away about 90% of his own money to various causes. He also preached to others to do the same as in giving money for education and sciences.

The problem, however, was that there was such a contrast between the rich and the poor. By this he was referring to the inequalities in rights, hereditary powers, and such things. He also felt we should have a continuum of forward progress, i.e. civilizing, industrializing.

Apparently in his time there was a movement to drift back into a time when there was little advance in modernizing and technologically advancing; when "neither master nor servant was as well situated." This proves that the direction the U.S. took until now was, in fact, the right path since the goal was already in progress. He has to argue and prove that through forward motion all of these problems of social difference, that the poor would also advance with the times, thus diminishing the difference slowly but surely. As the rich get richer they bring up the standard and, in effect, the poor with them as the economy grows. The government comes up with a way to run money that is suited to be in the best interest of the most possible people. In the end, you realize that the majority of the wealth made in this new system is going only to a few people.

Then it says about the only question that could possibly arise in this type of a situation. Since the wealth inevitably goes to a concentrated amount of people in the best possible set of circumstances, the question is what to do with the money in order to best serve the general public. So what can a man do with the excess wealth he has amassed? His money is not just for "competence," but rather surplus money. There are three solutions that Carnegie gives for this. The first includes leaving one's money to his family or his oldest son, a common practice in western Europe. This is a "misguided affection", and a bad idea according to Carnegie, because one cannot duplicate the styles and strategies of another no matter how hard he tries. A son can make mistakes and lose his fortune or he can lose it "from the fall in the value of land." It has also been proven that it is not good for the state for a son to take his father's place as a leader. He could mean that the son has been given all of these treasures from birth and does not appreciate what he is getting. He also may not be sensitive to all that is necessary in the processes of development. Another way one could dispose of surplus wealth is to have all the money earned be spent by the one who earns it. This is not always possible these days and perhaps also back then, because ther is no limit to what one can earn. But spending frivolously just because one can isn't exactly the best trait; one should live in modesty.

One other way Carnegie suggests the money could be distributed would be to donate it to public services. This is the one he personally chose because it serves the most good to most amount of people possible. It is therefore not detrimental to the value of money to others, and is enjoyed by he who earned it - a very fair way of disposal. The objective, however, he wished to achieve may not be achieved after he's gone because he can't oversee the operation of the distribution, and there's nothing he could do about it then. Taxing the hoards of wealth obtained by a recently deceased man is a great way of giving back to the community what was taken over the years. It also condemns the lifestyle of the "selfish millionaire's unworthy life." This helps make men deal with the distribution of their money while they're still alive, with the intent that the best possible solution would be achieved and finding the way that would be "most fruitful for the people." There is only one solution which pleases both rich and poor and works out best for everyone. This idea differs from communistic ideals of spreading wealth evenly throughout, at all times, and doesn't require an overthrow of the government, rather an "evolution of existing conditions." The idea is that each individual work for himself in attaining wealth (as in the concept of laissez-faire); each man fighting for his place, creating competition. In the end, there will still be a concentration of wealth in a few, but they will spread their wealth to the masses through public services, thus benefiting all, instead of money coming to all people in small increments as suggested by communistic ideas. This appealed to the people especially in the concept of anti-communism sprinkled in Carnegie's document. This also gives concrete evidence proving U.S. superiority in understanding their nation's needs.

Finally, there are specific duties of the rich in order to maintain the balance. The wealthy must be modest in their ways. They must provide modestly for those dependent on him and he must think and administer his money in the best possible manner to benefit the most possible people. We trust in this wealthy man because he obviously became wealthy through superior wisdom, etc.... - This I believe may be immodest, but true nonetheless.