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Monmouth University Economics Andrew Carnegie Gospel of Wealth Question

Monmouth University Economics Andrew Carnegie Gospel of Wealth Question

Question Description

I’m working on a economics discussion question and need support to help me study.

Andrew Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth” article contains a variety of perspectives from his own industrial and life experience. Write a well- developed essay in which you describe his attitude on how wealth is successfully acquired and amassed and how it should be appropriated and used. As well, address his views on production and the changes he made in it and how he viewed labor and its use in the production process.

In conclusion, take a position on the following statement: “Carnegie in many ways seems to be the typical industrialist representative of the Gilded age yet he also exhibits a conflicted attitude about his own wealth and its acquisition.”

The Gospel of WealthBY ANDREW CARNEGIE

The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth, so thatthe ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and poor inharmonious relationship. The conditions of human life have not only beenchanged, but revolutionized, within the past few hundred years. In formerdays there was little difference between the dwelling, dress, food, andenvironment of the chief and those of his retainers. The Indians are todaywhere civilized man then was. When visiting the Sioux, I was led to thewigwam of the chief. It was just like the others in external appearance, andeven within the difference was trifling between it and those of the poorest ofhis braves. The contrast between the palace of the millionaire and the cottageof the laborer with us to-day measures the change which has come withcivilization. This change, however, is not to be deplored, but welcomed ashighly beneficial. It is well, nay, essential for the progress of the race, thatthe houses of some should be homes for all that is highest and best inliterature and the arts, and for all the refinements of civilization, rather thanthat none should be so. Much better this great irregularity than universalsqualor. Without wealth there can be no Mæcenas. The “good old times ” werenot good old times. Neither master nor servant was as well situated then astoday. A relapse to old conditions would be disastrous to both—not the leastso to him who serves—and would sweep away civilization with it. Butwhether the change be for good or ill, it is upon us, beyond our power to alter,and therefore to be accepted and made the best of. It is a waste of time tocriticize the inevitable.

It is easy to see how the change has come. One illustration will servefor almost every phase of the cause. In the manufacture of products we havethe whole story. It applies to all combinations of human industry, asstimulated and enlarged by the inventions of this scientific age. Formerlyarticles were manufactured at the domestic hearth or in small shops whichformed part of the household. The master and his apprentices worked side byside, the latter living with the master, and therefore subject to the sameconditions. When these apprentices rose to be masters, there was little or nochange in their mode of life, and they, in turn, educated in the same routinesucceeding apprentices. There was, substantially social equality, and evenpolitical equality, for those engaged in industrial pursuits had then little orno political voice in the State.

But the inevitable result of such a mode of manufacture was crudearticles at high prices. Today the world obtains commodities of excellentquality at prices which even the generation preceding this would havedeemed incredible. In the commercial world similar causes have produced

similar results, and the race is benefited thereby. The poor enjoy what therich could not before afford. What were the luxuries have become thenecessaries of life. The laborer has now more comforts than the landlord hada few generations ago. The farmer has more luxuries than the landlord had,and is more richly clad and better housed. The landlord has books andpictures rarer, and appointments more artistic, than the King could thenobtain.

The price we pay for this salutary change is, no doubt, great. Weassemble thousands of operatives in the factory, in the mine, and in thecounting-house, of whom the employer can know little or nothing, and towhom the employer is little better than a myth. All intercourse between themis at an end. Rigid castes are formed, and, as usual, mutual ignorance breedsmutual distrust. Each caste is without sympathy for the other, and ready tocredit anything disparaging in regard to it. Under the law of competition, theemployer of thousands is forced into the strictest economies, among which therates paid to labor figure prominently, and often there is friction between theemployer and the employed, between capital and labor, between rich andpoor. Human society loses homogeneity.

The price which society pays for the law of competition, like the price itpays for cheap comforts and luxuries, is also great; but the advantage of thislaw are also greater still, for it is to this law that we owe our wonderfulmaterial development, which brings improved conditions in its train. But,whether the law be benign or not, we must say of it, as we say of the changein the conditions of men to which we have referred: It is here; we cannotevade it; no substitutes for it have been found; and while the law may besometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insuresthe survival of the fittest in every department. We accept and welcometherefore, as conditions to which we must accommodate ourselves, greatinequality of environment, the concentration of business, industrial andcommercial, in the hands of a few, and the law of competition between these,as being not only beneficial, but essential for the future progress of the race.Having accepted these, it follows that there must be great scope for theexercise of special ability in the merchant and in the manufacturer who hasto conduct affairs upon a great scale. That this talent for organization andmanagement is rare among men is proved by the fact that it invariablysecures for its possessor enormous rewards, no matter where or under whatlaws or conditions. The experienced in affairs always rate the MAN whoseservices can be obtained as a partner as not only the first consideration, butsuch as to render the question of his capital scarcely worth considering, forsuch men soon create capital; while, without the special talent required,capital soon takes wings. Such men become interested in firms orcorporations using millions; and estimating only simple interest to be made

upon the capital invested, it is inevitable that their income must exceed theirexpenditures, and that they must accumulate wealth. Nor is there anymiddle ground which such men can occupy, because the great manufacturingor commercial concern which does not earn at least interest upon its capitalsoon becomes bankrupt. It must either go forward or fall behind: to stand stillis impossible. It is a condition essential for its successful operation that itshould be thus far profitable, and even that, in addition to interest on capital,it should make profit. It is a law, as certain as any of the others named, thatmen possessed of this peculiar talent for affair, under the free play ofeconomic forces, must, of necessity, soon be in receipt of more revenue thancan be judiciously expended upon themselves; and this law is as beneficial forthe race as the others.

Objections to the foundations upon which society is based are not inorder, because the condition of the race is better with these than it has beenwith any others which have been tried. Of the effect of any new substitutesproposed we cannot be sure. The Socialist or Anarchist who seeks to overturnpresent conditions is to be regarded as attacking the foundation upon whichcivilization itself rests, for civilization took its start from the day that thecapable, industrious workman said to his incompetent and lazy fellow, “Ifthou dost not sow, thou shalt not reap,” and thus ended primitiveCommunism by separating the drones from the bees. One who studies thissubject will soon be brought face to face with the conclusion that upon thesacredness of property civilization itself depends–the right of the laborer tohis hundred dollars in the savings bank, and equally the legal right of themillionaire to his millions. To these who propose to substitute Communismfor this intense Individualism the answer, therefore, is: The race has triedthat. All progress from that barbarous day to the present time has resultedfrom its displacement. Not evil, but good, has come to the race from theaccumulation of wealth by those who have the ability and energy thatproduce it. But even if we admit for a moment that it might be better for therace to discard its present foundation, Individualism,—that it is a noblerideal that man should labor, not for himself alone, but in and for abrotherhood of his fellows, and share with them all in common, realizingSwedenborg’s idea of Heaven, where, as he says, the angels derive theirhappiness, not from laboring for self, but for each other,—even admit all this,and a sufficient answer is, This is not evolution, but revolution. Itnecessitates the changing of human nature itself a work of eons, even if itwere good to change it, which we cannot know.

It is not practicable in our day or in our age. Even if desirabletheoretically, it belongs to another and long-succeeding sociological stratum.Our duty is with what is practicable now; with the next step possible in ourday and generation. It is criminal to waste our energies in endeavoring to

uproot, when all we can profitably or possibly accomplish is to bend theuniversal tree of humanity a little in the direction most favorable to theproduction of good fruit under existing circumstances. We might as well urgethe destruction of the highest existing type of man because he failed to reachour ideal as favor the destruction of Individualism, Private Property, the Lawof Accumulation of Wealth, and the Law of Competition; for these are thehighest results of human experience, the soil in which society so far hasproduced the best fruit. Unequally or unjustly, perhaps, as these lawssometimes operate, and imperfect as they appear to the Idealist, they are,nevertheless, like the highest type of man, the best and most valuable of allthat humanity has yet accomplished.

We start, then, with a condition of affairs under which the bestinterests of the race are promoted, but which inevitably gives wealth to thefew. Thus far, accepting conditions as they exist, the situation can besurveyed and pronounced good. The question then arises,—and, if theforegoing be correct, it is the only question with which we have to deal,—What is the proper mode of administering wealth after the laws upon whichcivilization is founded have thrown it into the hands of the few ? And it is ofthis great question that I believe I offer the true solution. It will beunderstood that fortunes are here spoken of, not moderate sums saved bymany years of effort, the returns on which are required for the comfortablemaintenance and education of families. This is not wealth, but onlycompetence which it should be the aim of all to acquire.

There are but three modes in which surplus wealth can be disposed of.It can be left to the families of the decedents; or it can be bequeathed forpublic purposes; or, finally, it can be administered during their lives by itspossessors. Under the first and second modes most of the wealth of the worldthat has reached the few has hitherto been applied. Let us in turn considereach of these modes. The first is the most injudicious. In monarchicalcountries, the estates and the greatest portion of the wealth are left to thefirst son, that the vanity of the parent may be gratified by the thought thathis name and title are to descend to succeeding generations unimpaired. Thecondition of this class in Europe to-day teaches the futility of such hopes orambitions. The successors have become impoverished through their follies orfrom the fall in the value of land. Even in Great Britain the strict law ofentail has been found inadequate to maintain the status of an hereditaryclass. Its soil is rapidly passing into the hands of the stranger. Underrepublican institutions the division of property among the children is muchfairer, but the question which forces itself upon thoughtful men in all landsis: Why should men leave great fortunes to their children? If this is done fromaffection, is it not misguided affection? Observation teaches that, generallyspeaking, it is not well for the children that they should be so burdened.

Neither is it well for the state. Beyond providing for the wife and daughtersmoderate sources of income, and very moderate allowances indeed, if any, forthe sons, men may well hesitate, for it is no longer questionable that greatsums bequeathed oftener work more for the injury than for the good of therecipients. Wise men will soon conclude that, for the best interests of themembers of their families and of the state, such bequests are an improper useof their means.

It is not suggested that men who have failed to educate their sons toearn a livelihood shall cast them adrift in poverty. If any man has seen fit torear his sons with a view to their living idle lives, or, what is highlycommendable, has instilled in them the sentiment that they are in a positionto labor for public ends without reference to pecuniary considerations, then,of course, the duty of the parent is to see that such are provided for
in moderation. There are instances of millionaires’ sons unspoiled by wealth,who, being rich, still perform great services in the community. Such are thevery salt of the earth, as valuable as, unfortunately, they are rare; still it isnot the exception, but the rule, that men must regard, and, looking at theusual result of enormous sums conferred upon legatees, the thoughtful manmust shortly say, “I would as soon leave to my son a curse as the almightydollar,” and admit to himself that it is not the welfare of the children, butfamily pride, which inspires these enormous legacies.

As to the second mode, that of leaving wealth at death for public uses,it may be said that this is only a means for the disposal of wealth, provided aman is content to wait until he is dead before it becomes of much good in theworld. Knowledge of the results of legacies bequeathed is not calculated toinspire the brightest hopes of much posthumous good being accomplished.The cases are not few in which the real object sought by the testator is notattained, nor are they few in which his real wishes are thwarted. In manycases the bequests are so used as to become only monuments of his folly. It iswell to remember that it requires the exercise of not less ability than thatwhich acquired the wealth to use it so as to be really beneficial to thecommunity. Besides this, it may fairly be said that no man is to be extolledfor doing what he cannot help doing, nor is he to be thanked by thecommunity to which he only leaves wealth at death. Men who leave vastsums in this way may fairly be thought men who would not have left it at all,had they been able to take it with them. The memories of such cannot be heldin grateful remembrance, for there is no grace in their gifts. It is not to bewondered at that such bequests seem so generally to lack the blessing.

The growing disposition to tax more and more heavily large estates leftat death is a cheering indication of the growth of a salutary change in publicopinion. The State of Pennsylvania now takes—subject to some exceptions—

one-tenth of the property left by its citizens. The budget presented in theBritish Parliament the other day proposes to increase the death-duties; and,most significant of all, the new tax is to be a graduated one. Of all forms oftaxation, this seems the wisest. Men who continue hoarding great sums alltheir lives, the proper use of which for – public ends would work good to thecommunity, should be made to feel that the community, in the form of thestate, cannot thus be deprived of its proper share. By taxing estates heavilyat death the state marks its condemnation of the selfish millionaire’sunworthy life.

It is desirable that nations should go much further in this direction.Indeed, it is difficult to set bounds to the share of a rich man’s estate whichshould go at his death to the public through the agency of the state, and byall means such taxes should be graduated, beginning at nothing uponmoderate sums to dependents, and increasing rapidly as the amounts swell,until of the millionaire’s hoard, as of Shylock’s, at least

The other half
Comes to the privy coffer of the state.

This policy would work powerfully to induce the rich man to attend tothe administration of wealth during his life, which is the end that societyshould always have in view, as being that by far most fruitful for the people.Nor need it be feared that this policy would sap the root of enterprise andrender men less anxious to accumulate, for to the class whose ambition it isto leave great fortunes and be talked about after their death, it will attracteven more attention, and, indeed, be a somewhat nobler ambition to haveenormous sums paid over to the state from their fortunes.

There remains, then, only one mode of using great fortunes; but in thiswe have the true antidote for the temporary unequal distribution of wealth,the reconciliation of the rich and the poor—a reign of harmony—anotherideal, differing, indeed, from that of the Communist in requiring only thefurther evolution of existing conditions, not the total overthrow of ourcivilization. It is founded upon the present most intense individualism, andthe race is projected to put it in practice by degree whenever it pleases.Under its sway we shall have an ideal state, in which the surplus wealth ofthe few will become, in the best sense the property of the many, becauseadministered for the common good, and this wealth, passing through thehands of the few, can be made a much more potent force for the elevation ofour race than if it had been distributed in small sums to the peoplethemselves. Even the poorest can be made to see this, and to agree that greatsums gathered by some of their fellow-citizens and spent for public purposes,from which the masses reap the principal benefit, are more valuable to them

than if scattered among them through the course of many years in triflingamounts through the course of many years.

If we consider what results flow from the Cooper Institute, forinstance, to the best portion of the race in New York not possessed of means,and compare these with those which would have arisen for the good of themasses from an equal sum distributed by Mr. Cooper in his lifetime in theform of wages, which is the highest form of distribution, being for work doneand not for charity, we can form some estimate of the possibilities for theimprovement of the race which lie embedded in the present law of theaccumulation of wealth. Much of this sum if distributed in small quantitiesamong the people, would have been wasted in the indulgence of appetite,some of it in excess, and it may be doubted whether even the part put to thebest use, that of adding to the comforts of the home, would have yieldedresults for the race, as a race, at all comparable to those which are flowingand are to flow from the Cooper Institute from generation to generation. Letthe advocate of violent or radical change ponder well this thought.

We might even go so far as to take another instance, that of Mr.Tilden’s bequest of five millions of dollars for a free library in the city of NewYork, but in referring to this one cannot help saying involuntarily, how muchbetter if Mr. Tilden had devoted the last years of his own life to the properadministration of this immense sum; in which case neither legal contest norany other cause of delay could have interfered with his aims. But let usassume that Mr. Tilden’s millions finally become the means of giving to thiscity a noble public library, where the treasures of the world contained inbooks will be open to all forever, without money and without price.Considering the good of that part of the race which congregates in andaround Manhattan Island, would its permanent benefit have been betterpromoted had these millions been allowed to circulate in small sums throughthe hands of the masses? Even the most strenuous advocate of Communismmust entertain a doubt upon this subject. Most of those who think willprobably entertain no doubt whatever.

Poor and restricted are our opportunities in this life; narrow ourhorizon; our best work most imperfect; but rich men should be thankful forone inestimable boon. They have it in their power during their lives to busythemselves in organizing benefactions from which the masses of their fellowswill derive lasting advantage, and thus dignify their own lives. The highestlife is probably to be reached, not by such imitation of the life of Christ asCount Tolstoi gives us, but, while animated by Christ’s spirit, by recognizingthe changed conditions of this age, and adopting modes of expressing thisspirit suitable to the changed conditions under which we live; still laboring

for the good of our fellows, which was the essence of his life and teaching, butlaboring in a different manner.

This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of Wealth: First, to set anexample of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance;to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him;and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simplyas trust funds, which he is called upon to administer, and strictly bound as amatter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is bestcalculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community—the manof wealth thus becoming the mere agent and trustee for his poorer brethren,bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience and ability toadminister, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves.

We are met here with the difficulty of determining what are moderatesums to leave to members of the family; what is modest, unostentatiousliving; what is the test of extravagance. There must be different standards fordifferent conditions. The answer is that it is as impossible to name exactamounts or actions as it is to define good manners, good taste, or the rules ofpropriety; but, nevertheless, these are verities, well known althoughindefinable. Public sentiment is quick to know and to feel what offends these.So in the case of wealth. The rule in regard to good taste in the dress of menor women applies here. Whatever makes one conspicuous offends the canon.If any family be chiefly known for display, for extravagance in home, table,equipage, for enormous sums ostentatiously spent in any form upon itself, ifthese be its chief distinctions, we have no difficulty in estimating its natureor culture. So likewise in regard to the use or abuse of its surplus wealth, orto generous, freehanded cooperation in good public uses, or to unabatedefforts to accumulate and hoard to the last, whether they administer orbequeath.

The verdict rests with the best and most enlightened public sentiment.The community will surely judge and its judgments will not often be wrong.

The best uses to which surplus wealth can be put have already beenindicated. These who, would administer wisely must, indeed, be wise, for oneof the serious obstacles to the improvement of our race is indiscriminatecharity. It were better for mankind that the millions of the rich were thrownin to the sea than so spent as to encourage the slothful, the drunken, theunworthy. Of every thousand dollars spent in so called charity to-day, it isprobable that $950 is unwisely spent; so spent, indeed as to produce the veryevils which it proposes to mitigate or cure. A well-known writer of philosophicbooks admitted the other day that he had given a quarter of a dollar to a manwho approached him as he was coming to visit the house of his friend. He

knew nothing of the habits of this beggar; knew not the use that would bemade of this money, although he had every reason to suspect that it would bespent improperly. This man professed to be a disciple of Herbert Spencer; yetthe quarter-dollar given that night will probably work more injury than allthe money which its thoughtless donor will ever be able to give in truecharity will do good. He only gratified his own feelings, saved himself fromannoyance,—and this was probably one of the most selfish and very worstactions of his life, for in all respects he is most worthy.

In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help thosewho will help themselves; to provide part of the means by which those whodesire to improve may do so; to give those who desire to use the aids by whichthey may rise; to assist, but rarely or never to do all. Neither the individualnor the race is improved by almsgiving. Those worthy of assistance, except inrare cases, seldom require assistance. The really valuable men of the racenever do, except in cases of accident or sudden change. Every one has, ofcourse, cases of individuals brought to his own knowledge where temporaryassistance can do genuine good, and these he will not overlook. But theamount which can be wisely given by the individual for individuals isnecessarily limited by his lack of knowledge of the circumstances connectedwith each. He is the only true reformer who is as careful and as anxious notto aid the unworthy as he is to aid the worthy, and, perhaps, even more so,for in alms-giving more injury is probably done by rewarding vice than byrelieving virtue.

The rich man is thus almost restricted to following the examples ofPeter Cooper, Enoch Pratt of Baltimore, Mr. Pratt of Brooklyn, SenatorStanford, and others, who know that the best means of benefiting thecommunity is to place within its reach the ladders upon which the aspiringcan rise—parks, and means of recreation, by which men are helped in bodyand mind; works of art, certain to give pleasure and improve the public taste,and public institutions of various kinds, which will improve the generalcondition of the people; in this manner returning their surplus wealth to themass of their fellows in the forms best calculated to do them lasting good.

Thus is the problem of Rich and Poor to be solved. The laws ofaccumulation will be left free; the laws of distribution free. Individualism willcontinue, but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; intrusted for aseason with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, butadministering it for the community far better than it could or would havedone for itself. The best minds will thus have reached a stage in thedevelopment of the race which it is clearly seen that there is no mode ofdisposing of surplus wealth creditable to thoughtful and earnest men intowhose hands it flows save by using it year by year for the general good. This

day already dawns. But a little while, and although, without incurring thepity of their fellows, men may die sharers in great business enterprises fromwhich their capital cannot be or has not been withdrawn, and is left chiefly atdeath for public uses, yet the man who dies leaving behind many millions ofavailable wealth, which was his to administer during life, will pass away “unwept, unhonored, and unsung,” no matter to what uses he leaves the drosswhich he cannot take with him. Of such as these the public verdict will thenbe: “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.”

Such, in my opinion, is the true Gospel concerning Wealth, obedienceto which is destined some day to solve the problem of the Rich and the Poor,and to bring “Peace on earth, among men good will.”

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