What is meant in the quote from the "Gospel of Wealth" by Andrew Carnegie? How does it relate to rich and poor nations? "The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth, so that...

What is meant in the quote from the "Gospel of Wealth" by Andrew Carnegie? How does it relate to rich and poor nations?

"The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth, so that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and the poor in harmonious relationships."


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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This essay was written by Andrew Carnegie to share his thoughts about how the rich could leverage their wealth to benefit the poor. His thoughts were certainly controversial.

Carnegie never fretted over the discrepancies in wealth between the rich and the poor. He believed that this "great irregularity" was better than "universal squalor." Instead, Carnegie valued individualism and argued that the rich had the right to dispose of their wealth as they saw fit. 

Despite this, Carnegie believed that the proper administration of wealth was a matter of prime importance. He stated that the rich should live modestly and use any surplus funds to benefit the public. He saw the rich as trustees of the poor, and he rejected what he termed as "indiscriminate charity." In other words, Carnegie believed that, in "bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help those who will help themselves... to assist, but rarely or never to do all." He argued that wholesale alms-giving often did more harm than good. 

Carnegie preferred what he called indirect philanthropy. He favored the idea of using wealth to build public institutions (such as libraries, colleges, museums) and places of recreation (such as parks) to "improve the general condition of the people." He maintained that the rich should only aid those who were ready to help themselves and to improve their conditions. So, if we relate Carnegie's ideas about wealth to nations, we can argue that he would have favored the selective flow of charity between rich and poor nations.

Based on Carnegie's paternalistic model, rich nations would only help their poorer neighbors if the latter could prove worthy of the assistance. In other words, the proper administration of wealth would be based on actual need (the kind brought about by extreme changes or catastrophes) rather than on indiscriminate requests for aid from poorer nations. Additionally, charity would take the form of targeted, temporary assistance. Carnegie had little faith that the poor could be good judges of what they needed. To Carnegie, the proper administration of wealth was necessary to promote true harmony between the rich and the poor, and the ones best equipped to make the right choices were the rich.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When this quote was first written, it did not refer to nations, but rather to individuals.  The idea was that the rich were supposed to administer their wealth so that it would help the poor and would, therefore, make rich and poor be able to live together in harmony.

If you related this to nations, the idea would be that the rich nations should use their wealth to help the poor.  But they would (if they followed the Gospel of Wealth) be in charge of everything.  In other words, they would not just give money to the poor countries.

According to the Gospel of Wealth, the poor were poor because they weren't as good as the rich -- not as smart or energetic.  Therefore, the rich had to take care of them.  If you follow this, the rich countries would need to take care of the poor countries as if the poor countries were children.