In his essay "Wealth," published in the North American Review in 1889, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie argued that individual capitalists were duty bound to play a broader cultural and social role and thus improve the world. Carnegie's essay later became famous under the title "The Gospel of Wealth."
According to Andrew Carnegie's essay, how should wealth be used? What is the best way to use it?
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Andrew Carnegie believed very strongly that the government should not be involved in the economy. He also believed that it should not be involved in trying to improve society. Instead, he believed that the richest people should be the ones to try to improve society. They should use their wealth to do so.
Carnegie argued that three things could be done with excess wealth. He believed that the rich could leave the money to their heirs. He believed that they could leave it to charity when they died. Lastly, he believed that they could spend it while they were alive to help improve society. Carnegie felt that there were serious problems with each of the first two options. He believed that the best use of wealth was for the rich man to
…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…
The best use for wealth, then is for the rich person to use it in ways that are, in his opinion, going to help society the most.
Carnegie believed that the best way to help society was to help people improve themselves. He did not believe in simply giving money to the poor. Instead, he believed in setting up institutions that would allow people to help themselves. As he said,
In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be 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 use the aids by which they may rise; to assist, but rarely or never to do all. Neither the individual nor the race is improved by alms-giving.
So, what Carnegie believes is that the way to use wealth is for the rich man to, in his own lifetime, set up foundations and institutions that will not give alms but which will help those people who really are willing to work to improve themselves.
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