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The Gospel of Wealth

"Wealth", more commonly known as "The Gospel of Wealth", is an article written by Andrew Carnegie in June of 1889 that describes the responsibility of philanthropy by the new upper class of self-made rich. Carnegie proposed that the best way of dealing with the new phenomenon of wealth inequality was for the wealthy to redistribute their surplus means in a responsible and thoughtful manner. This approach was contrasted with traditional bequest (patrimony), where wealth is handed down to heirs, and other forms of bequest e.g. where wealth is willed to the state for public purposes. Carnegie argued that surplus wealth is put to best use (i.e. produces the greatest net benefit to society) when it is administered carefully by the wealthy. Carnegie also argues against wasteful use of capital in the form of extravagance, irresponsible spending, or self-indulgence, instead promoting the administration of said capital over the course of one's lifetime toward the cause of reducing the stratification between the rich and poor. As a result, the wealthy should administer their riches responsibly and not in a way that encourages "the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy".

"I should consider it a disgrace to die a rich man" -Andrew Carnegie, 1887

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland in 1835. The only schooling he received was from the local grammar school. He held onto his Scottish roots throughout most of his life - he retained close ties with his relative that stayed in Scotland; many of his early business associates were americanized Scots; his English school friends had Scottish ties; he returned home to Scotland almost every summer. Even his radicalism can be tied to his Scottish roots. His immediate family rejected the establishment, from his grandfather who was a controversial orator and contributor to Register, William Cobbet's political journal, to his mother and father, who rejected the Presbyterian Church.

Due to their radicalism, the Carnegies moved to Antebellum America in 1848. His father lost nearly everything he owned, and never recovered from the shock of his poverty, so Carnegie's mother supported the family until he, himself, was able to become the primary breadwinner, and support the family. He felt indebted to his mother for the rest of his life, which contributed to his determination to succeed, and his generosity with his money later in life. Carnegie didn't marry until after his mother died.

Unlike many industrialists of his time, Carnegie was not an inventor or a risk-taking Wall Street financier. Many of his fellow capitalists financed their various business ventures with watered-down stocks. This is not how Carnegie chose to conduct his business. All of his early organizations were either partnerships or associations. He chose to focus on the vertical integration of a single industry, specifically the steel industry. Most others made their profits by creating a horizontal monopoly. He worked hard to control entire industries, rather than parts of many. By 1890, Carnegie was a multi-millionaire.



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