“310 corporate leaders such as Carnegie the

“310 billion US Dollars. That is the estimated net worth in today’s dollars of Andrew Carnegie when he died”(Time Money 1). Andrew Carnegie was a philanthropist, who gave away approximately 90% of his wealth. He was also  a cutthroat businessman, one of the best known of the so-called “Gilded Age.” Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland in 1835, and immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1848. He started work as a telegrapher, and through wise and profitable investments under the tutelage of Tom Scott, future president of the Pennsylvania Railroad,  had become a  millionaire by the year 1864, at age 29.  He built Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company, which he sold to J. P. Morgan in 1901 for $480 million, 12 years after having published his book,  The Gospel of Wealth. The Gospel of Wealth was published in 1889, during the height of the”Gilded Age.” This term was coined by Mark Twain in his novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which satirized an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding. The word “Gilded” is defined as having a pleasing or showy appearance that conceals. This thought accurately describes the public’s sentiments towards the cutthroat, powerful 19th century businessmen attributed the name “Robber Barons”(Captains of Industry 1).  During the Gilded Age, Novel business innovations including Scientific Management, advertising, vertical integration, concentration, and the formation of trusts, had given corporate leaders such as Carnegie the ability to predict the costs, profits, and timetables of production better than ever before (Captains of Industry 21). Though this resulted in great wealth, the public sentiment disapproved of their practices, viewing them as abusing the consumers and eliminating competition in efforts to create monopolies. Wealthy businessmen thereby developed an ideology to justify and to defend their practices they called “The Gospel of Wealth”. They combined Laissez-Faire economics and Social Darwinism into this ideology. Laissez-Faire economics was virtually synonymous with the free market for 19th Century industrialists. Business leaders believed that they should be able to create and dispose of their wealth however they saw fit. Industrialists saw the economy as a competitive environment where any business tactic should be permitted. In addition, they wanted to be free from any type of government regulation. These events led Carnegie to write the Gospel of Wealth as an explanation for and defense of his own business achievements and accumulated wealth (Captains of industry 21). Carnegie’s bias while writing is apparent. He is writing about rich and successful businessmen from the perspective of a rich and successful businessman. Carnegie was also a proponent of Social Darwinism, and The Gospel of Wealth is looked on by some to simply be softer version of Herbert Spencer’s ideas of Social Darwinism. The idea of Social Darwinism emerged in the second half of the 19th century and tried to apply the evolutionary concept of natural selection to human society. “In The Social Organism (1860), Spencer compares society to a living organism and argues that, just as biological organisms evolve through natural selection, society evolves and increases in complexity through analogous processes”(Livingstone 1). Another proponent of Social Darwinism,Francis Galton, also advocated for Eugenics. He viewed social institutions such as welfare and insane asylums as allowing inferior humans to survive and reproduce at levels faster than the more “superior” humans in respectable society, and if corrections were not soon taken, society would be awash with “inferiors”. Carnegie’s version of Social Darwinism was that that each individual competed for himself in attaining wealth. In the end, there will still be a concentration of wealth in a few, the “fittest”, but they will spread their wealth to the masses through public services, thus benefiting all. The Gospel of Wealth ‘s central argument is that the new upper class had a responsibility to be philanthropic in order to better society and help the poor. This was not merely an ideal for Carnegie as he had actually lived through poverty and had a legitimate rags-to-riches story. (Captains of Industry 21). Carnegie starts out his book claiming that differences in living conditions between the poor and rich were few. “In former days, there was little difference between the dwelling, dress, food, and environment of the chief and of those of his retainers”(Carnegie 1). Now however, though the difference is evident, “The contrast between the palace of the millionaire and the cottage of the laborer”, it is highly beneficial. (Carnegie 1). Despite being worse off than the millionaire today, the poor man is still much better off than the king of yesterday. “The poor enjoy what the rich could not before afford. What were the luxuries have become the necessaries of life”(Carnegie 1). This is why Carnegie argues that the reason for a disharmonious relationship between the rich and poor was not the wealth itself, but the “administration of wealth”(Carnegie 1). He therefore  bases the rest of this publication on  the premise that the newfound wealth of these “Captains of Industry”, had improved life for everyone, including the poor. The author states that “The price we pay for this salutary change is great”(Carnegie 1). He then argues that though the “Law of Competition” has a costly price, its advantages are outweigh its cost. Nevertheless, Carnegie is of the opinion that regardless of the law’s moral value, it is here and cannot be changed. “While the law may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race because it insures the survival of the fittest”(Carnegie 2). He then argues that, “Objections to the foundations upon which society is based are not in order, because the condition of the race is better with these than it has been with any other which has been tried”(Carnegie 2). He explains that to attack the “Law of Competition”, is to attack the foundation of civilization itself. Carnegie is a strong proponent of personal responsibility and hard work, which he labels “Individualism”. “If thou dost not sow, thou shalt not reap”(Carnegie 2). He therefore denounced communism with the phrase, “The race has tried that”(Carnegie 2). Furthermore, the author argues that were Communism desirable, it is not practicable in our day in age, and “Our duty, is what is practicable now”(Carnegie 3). Next, Carnegie follows the logical conclusions one would reach if his premises are valid. “Thus far, if the foregoing be correct, the question with which we have to deal is, What is the proper mode of administering wealth”(Carnegie 3)? There are but three modes to dispose of surplus wealth. Leave it to the families, bequeath it for public purposes, or use it up during the possessors lifetime. (Carnegie 3) The author denounces the practice of leaving property to children, because it is motivated not for the welfare of the children, but for family pride. “But the question forces itself, why should men leave great fortunes to their children”(Carnegie 3)? He states that in doing so there is no benefit to the state, and wealth can be a burden or curse to ones children. “Wise men will sonn conclude that, for the best interests of the members of their families, and of the State, such bequests ar improper use of their means”(Carnegie 3). The author also disavows of the practice of leaving wealth for public use at one’s death because “Men who leave vast sums in this way may fairly b thought men who would not have left it at all had they been able to take it with them”(Carnegie 4). “There remains, then, only one mode of using great fortunes; but in this we have the true antidote for the temporary unequal distribution of wealth, the reconciliation of the rich and the poor– a reign of harmony, another ideal, differing indeed, from that of the Communist in requiring only the further evolution of existing conditions, not the total overthrow of our civilization”(Carnegie 5). According to Carnegie, the only worthwhile way of administering wealth, is to use it for the public good. His ideal is that “the surplus wealth of a few will become the property of many”(Carnegie 5). Carnegie does not however, advocate for distributing sums of money to individuals. He argues that a donation of 5 million dollars to open a public library is more beneficial to the race than were that donation allowed to circulate in small sums through the hands of the masses (Carnegie 5). Next, Carnegie argues from a religious standpoint. He states that in adopting the spirit of Christ, and applying it to changed conditions of the present age, the rich man does the will of God. He asserts that the duty of the man of wealth is to set an example of a modest life, provide moderately for those dependent on him, and to administer surplus revenue in a manner that will produce the most beneficial results for the community. As a proponent of Social Darwinism, Carnegie argues that the rich man with his superior wisdom and ability, should use it to benefit his poorer brethren. He does not believe that money given to charity does any good, and claims that giving money to a beggar does him ill. Carnegie’s idea of bestowing charity is to “help those who will help themselves; to provide part of the means by which those who desire to improve may do so; to give those who desire to rise aids by which they may rise; to assist, but never to do all”(Carnegie 6). His theories of Social Darwinism come into play here as he doesn’t believe in aiding “the unworthy”(Carnegie 6). The author concludes his answer to the question of how a rich man is to spend his wealth with the idea of “placing ladders  upon which the aspiring can rise, such as free libraries, parks, public institutions, and supporting the arts”(Carnegie 6). The author believes that obedience to his “gospel concerning wealth” will solve the problems between rich and poor. He concludes with the verdict, “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced”(Carnegie 6).In Conclusion, The Gospel of Wealth ‘s effect on society can be observed in divers manners. From the perspective of successful businessman, Andrew Carnegie’s 1889 essay, “Wealth,” argued for a broad social and cultural role for fellow industrialists. The Gospel of Wealth was the term for a notion promoted by many successful businessmen that their massive wealth was a social benefit for all. Carnegie himself abided by his own principles, and gave away over 350 million dollars over his lifetime. He did not leave a substantial fortune to either his wife or his daughter. The significance of his philanthropy isn’t necessarily the fact that he donated money, but he was one of the first to state publicly that the rich have a moral obligation to give away their fortunes.


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