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According to Andrew Carnegie, what are the duties of the man of wealth?

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According to Andrew Carnegie, what are the duties of the man of wealth?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

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Andrew Carnegie is well-known for his philanthropy.  His attitude towards philanthropy was laid out in an essay that is often called the "Gospel of Wealth" essay.  There, he lays out the duties of a man of wealth.

Essentially, Carnegie argued that a man of wealth ought to spend his money for the benefit of all the people.  Such a man should first live in a way that was not too showy or ostentatious.  He should then provide for his own family, but not beyond their "legitimate wants."  After that, with whatever money is left over, he needs to help the rest of society.  Carnegie argues that the man of wealth must essentially act as a trustee.  He must act as if his money is supposed to be used for the benefit of society as a whole.  To use Carnegie's own words, the man of wealth should

... consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer, and strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community...



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Andrew Carnegie understood poverty since he experienced it earlier on as a Scottish immigrant. He also understood wealth as the owner of Carnegie Steel Corporation, a company that generated millions in profits. He sought to define the duty of the man of wealth and here is a summary of his ideas and opinions about such a man:

  • A wealthy individual should not display opulence and should live a modest life.
  • Any excess revenues should be used wisely to benefit the community.  
  • The wealthy individual should use the experience and wisdom acquired over time to uplift the community.

By providing charity the wealthy individual should exercise wisdom to ensure that the charity does not cause more harm than good. The wealthy should provide an opportunity to those who want to help themselves in body and in mind to do so.

"The best means of benefiting the community is to place within its reach the ladders upon which the aspiring can rise ­ parks..."


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