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

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Andrew Carnegie believed in the concept of Social Darwinism. According to this theory, the fittest and strongest survive. Those people that are less fit or less strong will not experience as much success. Carnegie believed it was acceptable to make a lot of money. That is what can happen from those that are the strongest and the fittest. However, Carnegie believed those who were wealthy had an obligation to use that wealth for good purposes.

Carnegie believed in a concept called the Gospel of Wealth. According to this philosophy, the wealthy had an obligation to do charitable acts. They needed to do things to help those who were less fortunate. For example, Andrew Carnegie donated a great deal of money to have libraries built. He believed that if people read books and used the library, they might be able to improve their condition in life. Andrew Carnegie was against giving handouts to the less fortunate. He felt that was not the way people would really be helped. Andrew Carnegie believed wealthy people should use their wealth to do things that would allow the less fortunate do things to help themselves.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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...


thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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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