What would Andrew Carnegie have said about Bellamy's vision of a perfect society and critiques of late 19th century America?
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Carnegie is the most interesting of the Gilded Age "robber barons", to me, in that he is more complicated in his motives and philosophies. A truly self-made man who rose from the status of a clerk to a man worth more than $600 million in the late 19th century, it is all the more intriguing that he would choose to give away his entire fortune in philanthropic donations.
Bellamy, on the other hand was more about nationalized public interest. He would have argued that Carnegie's immense wealth, as well as the manner in which he acquired it, was what made Carnegie's entire approach wrong, and that government should not depend on the good will of a few wealthy individuals to provide for public benefits.
There is no way that Carnegie would have liked what Bellamy had to say. He would have said that it was completely the opposite of how society should work.
Carnegie believed in Social Darwinism. He wasn't about to agree with the idea that competition was bad because it allowed some to get rich while others stayed poor. To him, that was good.
Carnegie believed in helping the poor, it is true. But he believed that the rich should do what was best for the poor. He did not believe in giving the government money to do it -- the rich should do it themselves because they were the fittest and woud know what was the best thing to do with the money (how best to hep the poor).
So Carnegie might have agreed with the desire for a better society, but he would have said Bellamy was going about it all wrong.
This is a fairly challenging element. Certainly, I think that there would be some points of agreement. If Carnegie is taken at his word towards the end of his life in the "Carnegie Dictum," many of these elements are embraced by Bellamy's thought. The idea of being able to "give back" wealth is something that both thinkers believed. At the same time, Carnegie envisioned a world where universalism and a sense of collaborative collectivity was evident, something that animated Bellamy into his belief of the "nationalist movement." Yet, I think that the manner in which Carnegie acquired his wealth is precisely the target of Bellamy's writing. While Bellamy believed in the idea of nationalized wealth that was distributed from government seeking out the general good, I don't think that this is where Carnegie stood in his own practices. Carnegie sought to consolidate wealth for his own corporation and did not seem to be an advocate of government action in this realm. Whereas there is a fairly clear convergence between Bellamy's actions and his thoughts, Carnegie held some divisions. He produced steel for the U.S. armed forces, who was driven to embrace expansionism, while he was personally against it. Carnegie understood the workers' need to collectivize, something that Bellamy embraced, yet he did not acknowledge their voices. In reality, he acted in the opposite manner. In leaving the issues of workers' rights to his colleague Frick during the Homestead Strike, the death of workers who were protesting as well as the use of state government to crush the workers have to be seen as a part of Carnegie's legacy. This would certainly be opposite of Bellamy's beliefs.
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