The Gospel of Wealth by Andrew Carnegie

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Andrew Carnegie’s The Gospel of Wealth contains interesting remarks from one of the wealthiest men in history. In the book, Carnegie asserts that poverty has more advantages than anyone can think of. In his opinion, living in wealth works to your disadvantage as you are forced to come up with inheritance plans amongst other problems of the rich. Carnegie goes ahead to insist that instead of getting your family to inherit your property, it is best to give to society. The book contains a significant insistence on philanthropic deeds by the corporate sector. It is quite ironic for a man of his riches to castigate the need to accumulate wealth.

Introduction

Poverty. This is something that has always been looked at from a negative perspective. Not one single person would like to be identified as being poor. That’s because a life of poverty is characterized by endless needs and borrowing. For that reason, we are all working towards getting wealth. However, one of the most successful businessmen in America’s history, Andrew Carnegie, thinks otherwise. According to him, poverty has its own advantages. He makes these assertions in the book The Gospel of Wealth.

It is quite ironic for a man of his calibre and wealth to actually claim poverty can be good. In chapter two of the book, Carnegie is seen disputing assertions that great wealth is a great blessing. He maintains the assertions even as he acknowledges that his own position in society makes it hard for him to talk about poverty. Rather, society expects him to be more focused on wealth creation.

The book points out a considerable number of questions related to labour and wealth. Carnegie asks if it would be possible to talk to laborious about “growing poverty” rather than “growing wealth”. Well, when you wake up in the morning for work, you expect to get more wealth. It would make no sense to put all the hours at work only to end up in more poverty. But in some way the questions asked by Carnegie make sense. You realize he wrote the book at a time when industrialists were known for exploiting workers. The minimum wage was extremely low despite the workers in these factories spending a better part of their day in the factories under harsh and dangerous conditions.

Why would Carnegie then continue to hold a discussion on poverty as an advantage? Was he really honest about his assertions or it was some kind of ridicule? I don’t think so. I think Carnegie was as honest as he can be throughout the heated discussions he makes in the book as well as his attacks on Mr. Hughes, a reputable writer whose work focused on the eradication of poverty. What makes The Gospel of Wealth an interesting book to read is the fact that as Carnegie doesn’t castigate poverty, he advocates for industrialists to enter more into charitable courses. The essence of charity is to get rid of poverty, the very thing that he does not seem to have a problem with. When you brand yourself as a philanthropist, you basically display the desire to improve the lives of those you work with. Could such sentiments have ended up influencing his real-life decision to sell the company Carnegie Steel to J.P. Morgan?

From businessmen to industrialists, this is a book I highly recommend you have a look at. Carnegie not only shares his own thoughts but also those of other respected members of society. As such, you have a decision to either agree with what he says or learn more about the observations of other instrumental individuals. Don’t forget that he was a man of wealth but before he got that kind of status in society, he had been raised by a middle-class father.

Inequality and wealth

The Gospel of Wealth by Andrew Carnegie concentrates on a nice difficulty, which is a difficulty none the less: you might accumulate wealth, but what will you do with all that money when you die? He was wealthy, as a matter of fact, the richest man of his age, worth $225 million. This was despite having been raised by a poor Scottish linen weaver.

Carnegie highlights in his essay the huge disparity of wealth in the modern world. Just like all capitalists, he does not decry this disparity. Instead, Andrew Carnegie praises it, noting that today’s poor person is far much better than the poor of the past. His claim is based on the fact that they are able to buy what might have been thought only a luxury for the rich.

One may be quick to criticize Carnegie for this, but then a second look at his statement makes some sense. Take the case of computers and smartphones when they first came out. These were gadgets that only the rich could buy. As they grew in popularity and their prices became favourable, even the middle-class person found it possible to comfortably own a smartphone or a computer. Thus, Carnegie is justified to assert that the poor person of our time is much better than the one who lived decades or centuries ago. As Bill Gates scrolls through his Windows computer from a bungalow, someone else across the world could be doing the same from a poorly furnished apartment.

Carnegie acknowledges the existence of inequality but then notes that it is a design of the natural world to balance things. Without such inequality, there would be nothing like the rich and the poor, which again sets on course a set of new problems. Consider it this way, you have the same amount of wealth as your boss. Whom would he employ to accomplish the tasks you normally do? Since money seems to be the main motivational factor for people to wake up each new day for work, doing so would soon be a huge struggle. The law of competition has it that we must strive to out-do each other. However, that becomes a far-fetched idea in a state where there are no inequalities. Somehow I tend to agree with Carnegie on this. After all, the poor have their own issues to deal with, just as there is a specific problem of the rich.

As Carnegie agrees with the way things have happened by nature, he still battles with the same problem that all capitalists face: if this order makes too much wealth be accumulated by a few individuals, what would happen to the excesses? Well, this is where the idea of general good comes in. The duty of the man is to take care of his family. However, if they have had more than enough, then you have a duty to also look out to society and determine where you can be of help. Industrialists are called upon to assist but rarely do they do so. Carnegie’s insistence on charity is motivated by the notion that wealth should ultimately belong to society. Yes, you might have been born lucky with a lot of money or made it via enterprising, but if you cannot be of service to the society, then all that is of no essence.

The millionaire of his time writes that without wealth, there wouldn’t be any Maecenas and that the “good old times” were actually not that good. That might actually be true to a great extent. Even practically speaking, when Carnegie Steel busted the union in 1892, Carnegie was shelved from criticism. That’s because his attention at that time was more on his doctrine than wealth creation.

Inheriting family wealth

For the wealthy members of the society as they near their final days on earth, much of their concentration diverts from accumulating more wealth to longevity. They need to be assured that their businesses will live on just as their names will. In that respect, they lay down well-thought plans for someone to inherit their money. This is something that Carnegie seems to have a problem with. In the book, he asks, why would someone leave all that money to their family? He further explains his reasoning, stating that history shows large fortunes are a burden to their heirs as opposed to helping them have a better life. Even though some heirs proceed to become exemplary individuals and stewards of family resources, a bigger number of children proceed to live mediocre lives due to lack of right stewardship and incentive to work hard. There are some who even end up being destroyed by the very money which should help them live a better life. Carnegie comments that even though you might want to live your “wife and daughters” well-taken care of, you should think twice before doing the same with your son.

Instead of passing over wealth to heirs, Carnegie points out the best uses for which surplus can be put. This means giving as much of it as possible to society. He goes ahead and argues that it was better for mankind if millions of the rich were cast into the sea. This is in contrast to them acting as vessels to encourage the slothful the drunken the unworthy. Inheritance is not a proper mode of administering wealth after the laws since it only makes it be thrown into the hands of a few.

It is the duty of the man of wealth to set an example. This is done through modest unostentatious living shunning displays. Whether you will do this via death to the public by paying more taxes or through the charitable course, it is all good. In so doing, you will have played your role in the progress of the race.

Conclusion

Carnegie’s remarks are completely different from what would be expected of a man of his immense wealth. His writings can be considered revolutionary in some way whereby he motivates the rich to become more avid givers. He further asks families to be careful when it comes to inheriting their sons the family’s wealth. He seems not to have a problem doing the same with your wife or daughters. That explains why despite having castigated the issue of inheritance, he still let his only child Margaret Carnegie Miller inherit the Carnegie fortune.

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