Analyzing Carnegie's Gospel Of Wealth Research Paper
The inspiration for the “Gospel of Wealth” stays in its author’s factual living. Growing up as a poor Scottish boy, Andrew Carnegie came to Unites States with his very modest family for finding a better living. After his first job as a telegrapher, Carnegie entered in business, becoming a famous and successful entrepreneur. He invested in railroads and soon developed his own enterprise, Carnegie Steel Company, which he sold to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for a fabulous amount of money at that time, $480 million, representing $13.6 billion in 2015 (Carnegie, “Andrew Carnegie’s Legacy”). Carnegie knew what it was like to be poor and what it meant to be rich, as he discovered wealth on his own, through his own resources, talents and competencies. When he became a wealthy Scottish American industrialist he felt responsible to help others to also succeed, and devoted a great part of his fortune to philanthropy; it is estimated that as much as $350 million, representing $4.76 billion, and 90% of his wealth was directed to the charity (Carnegie, “Andrew Carnegie’s Legacy”). Only from these figures one can interpret that the philanthropic call from “The Gospel of Wealth” is based on his life model and personal philosophy.
Carnegie published the “Gospel of Wealth” in 1889, when he was already a successful business man, involved intensively in charity actions. The purpose of the article was to create a philosophy of sharing, of donating a part of people’s accumulated wealth to the poor, in order to solve many issues facing their existence and to improve the world. The author of the article insisted on the fact that the beholder of the wealth should be the administrator of the wealth and should guide the expenses, focusing on encouraging the virtues, and not the vices.
Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth” is addressed to the wealthy individuals or the newly enriched capitalists, who posed a larger amount of money than they would need for a comfortable living. Carnegie advices them to turn to philanthropy, by investing in others’ well – being, just like a businessman invests in a good business opportunity. He indicates that philanthropy and supporting the right causes represents the solution for making the world a better place. Consequently, he prompts the wealthy individuals towards selecting the right causes and administering them through a fund, with the purpose of generating “the most beneficial results for the community” (Carnegie para 1). At this point, Carnegie pleads for what is known today as corporate social responsibility (CSR). Through CSR, organizations and wealthy families decide on charity actions that they support for the betterment of communities, as a way of giving back to the world for their performances, while helping the ones in need (Fernando 218).
In the 19th century, when “Gospel of Wealth” was created, the modern world, especially Great Britain and America, was influenced by a growing social justice trend, meant to improve the living and working conditions of the disfavored groups of individuals, such as the slaves or the poor working class (Hammond 417). Among other pioneers of this trend, such as John Ruskin and Octavia Hill, Andrew Carnegie was a significant representative, committed to alleviate the hardships and to help the ones who wanted to help themselves (Whelan 3).
Helping the ones who want to help themselves was in fact an important indication of his pleas for philanthropy. Through this indication, it is implied that Carnegie was aware of the fact that philanthropic acts could attract a lot of opportunist and ill-intended individuals, aiming to take advantage of wealthy and good-hearted people. The specification according to which a philanthropist should be a trustee and an administrator of the funds aimed for charity implies responsibility for one’s management of wealth but also responsibility towards the society. The article suggests that the philanthropists should be careful and aware of the world problems and they should responsibly donate to people whom make considerable efforts to better themselves. Wisdom is a quality that must guide the charity decisions, according to Carnegie (para 2), in order to discern those who are worthy of help and those who are only searching to take advantage of a philosophical ideology of social justice. In writing his philanthropist ideology, the author of “Gospel of Wealth” was inspired by the reality that himself experienced. The 19th century saw a mass emigration of the Scottish to North America, due to the high poverty from Scotland. The cause of the general poverty in Scotland was the unfavorable rocky lands, improper for agriculture, and the lack of employment opportunities (Mooney & Scott 209). Scotland benefited of many educated individuals, because there were five university centers there in the 19th century, but still, they could find nothing to work and would emigrate to England, North of Europe and North America (Herman 162). Knowing the reality of his country, wherein virtuous people were deeply entrenched in poverty but were still trying to find a way to survive and to provide an existence for their families, Andrew Carnegie focused his credence on helping those in need. Through his “Gospel of Wealth”, he inspired many other newly enriched in the industrialized America to do the same.
Not only did Carnegie’s philosophy militate for a philanthropic give-away from the rich to the poor, but it also sustained the idea of not spending more than one needed. Hence, since the 19th century, the author proclaimed a way of life opposed to the nowadays consumerism. The text of his article indicates that wealthy people must set an example of being modest, not exposing opulence and a glamorous lifestyle (Carnegie para 1). According to Nasaw (351), Carnegie’s article also implied that only the wealthy people knew how to solve the world’s problems and to ensure a social equilibrium by donating, which was the condition for which the rich had to continue to accumulate wealthy. Carnegie even attributes “superior wisdom” (para 2) to men like him, who were able to achieve a consistent wealth and were still pursuing to accumulate more, presumably to sustain those with inferior wisdom, unable to provide for themselves. Carnegie (para 5) goes on with his philosophy by explaining that the wealthy or the newly enriched men are able to guide the improvement of communities better than they could be able to do, stating like this the rich man’s superiority over an entire community.
With this interpretation of the text, “Gospel of Wealth” becomes a controversial philosophy, disguising as good philanthropic intentions the actual desire of accumulating more and more wealth. The factual data indicate that Carnegie did spend 90% of his fortune by donating to communities, world peace causes, aiming to reduce the poverty (Sargent 126). In the same time, the factual data also indicate that Andrew Carnage could have been the richest man in the world after selling his business, Carnegie Steel, to J.P. Morgan (Nasaw xiv).
On the controversial premises according to which the rich people should continue to accumulate wealth for organizing the world’s well-being, donating to charity could have been for Carnegie a philosophy for making money. Nowadays organizations are gaining increased business and brand reputation by investing in various social responsibility projects, which are capitalized in their earnings and profits, hence confirming the idea id “Gospel of Wealth” that the rich should continue to accumulate wealth for helping others. Similarly, Carnegie could have initiated the idea of giving responsibly and wisely, encouraging others to sustain his idea and in the same time, promoting his business while increasing his reputation. With a dedicated philanthropist, committed to social justice, there were many companies interested in doing businesses.
The nowadays arguable the richest man in the world, Bill Gates, also donates impressively to charity. After building a fortune from his business Microsoft, Bill Gates dedicated a significant part of his profits to various charity actions. In addition, just as Andrew Carnegie recommended for the wealthy individuals to do for continuing to help the poor, Gates continues to accumulate, and it does so probably better than anybody in the world. In this time, his business continues to proliferate, gaining increased business by the day, and an important influencer of his increased business might be his commitment to charity. Returning to community is more than a business slogan, is a business strategy, proven valuable for both Carnegie in the 19th century and still available in the 21st century, as Bill Gates and others like him demonstrate.
The mechanism of accumulating more wealth by investing in philanthropic acts is defined by Frumkin (61) as the philanthropic leverage. The philanthropic leverage is a strategy through which wealthy people or organizations are “maximizing the impact of their contributions, ideally by creating significant activity or change with modest grant dollars” (Frumkin 61). This description of philanthropic leverage implies that the giving away to charity is a modest investment, targeted to generate the real profits for the donors. The studied documents indicate that Carnegie spent 90% of his wealth on philanthropic acts, but the analyzed documents only present his official, declared wealth. Continuing to investigate into the theory of philanthropic leverage, Frumkin (109) exemplifies that Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation spends hundreds of millions of dollars for vaccinating people suffering from polio, knowing that this disease will soon be eradicated. The ones who will be healed will become Microsoft clients, hence, a return of investments for Bill Gates.
Written in the 19th century, “Gospel of Wealth” presents a theory of accumulating by giving. Presumably, the wealthy people know better how the world and communities’ problems should be handled and they are directing their financial resources to specific causes that deserve their wise responsible investment. In fact, according to the philanthropic leverage theory, the donors are only investing in their own businesses, for achieving a higher return on investment, increasing their market share and profits. Understanding how philanthropy works beyond the good-hearted intentions of doing good deeds is why this article is still relevant today. Organizations and wealthy individuals as Bill Gates select the charity actions in which they donate with the purpose of later transforming their beneficiaries into clients, hence the wisdom that Carnegie mentioned in “Gospel of Wealth”.
Carnegie, Andrew. Gospel of Wealth. Available at http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5766, accessed 5 February 2015. N.d. Online.
Carnegie Corporation of Network. Andrew Carnegie’s Legacy. Available at http://carnegie.org/about-us/foundation-history/about-andrew-carnegie/carnegie-for-kids/andrew-carnegie-legacy/. Accessed 5 February 2015. N.d. Online.
Fernando, A.C. Business Ethics: An Indian Perspective. New Delhi: Dorling Kindersley. 2009. Print.
Frumkin, Peter. The Essence of Strategic Giving: A Practical Guide for Donors and Fundraisers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2010. Print.
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