Andrew Carnegie believes in a system based on principles and responsibility. The system is Individualism and when everyone strives towards the same goals the system is fair and prosperous. Carnegie’s essay is his attempt to show people a way to reach an accommodation between individualism and fairness. This system can only work if everyone knows and participates in his or her responsibilities. I will discuss Carnegie’s thesis, his arguments and the possible results of his goals.
The Gospel of Wealth is primarily about the dispersion of wealth and the responsibilities of those who have it. Carnegie thinks that inheritance is detrimental to society because it does not do any good for the inheritor or the community. Inheritance promotes laziness and the lack of a good work ethic does not teach the young sons of wealthy men to make money for themselves or help those in community they live in. Carnegie believes that charity is also bad and instead of handouts money should be given to those in a position to help the needy help themselves to be better citizens. It is the responsibility of the wealthy to use their surplus earnings to start foundations for open institutions that will benefit everyone. Men who only leave their money to the public after they are dead which makes it appear to say that if they could take the money with them they would. For this reason Carnegie is in support of Death taxes to encourage men to spend and use their money during their life. Carnegie says in his essay that a definite separation of the classes is productive for society and is very natural. If the classes were to become equal it would be a forced and change thus being revolution and not evolution. Carnegie is firmly against revolution and Social Darwinism ensures the survival of the fittest.
Carnegie’s essay attempts to achieve a balance that is beneficial for all members of society. He seems to say that if everyone had equal amounts of income that there would be no incentive to produce quality work or have a good work ethic. Carnegie shows this by saying that the contrast between the wealthy and the laborer is “essential for the progress of the race”(Carnegie 451). The law of competition means that better quality products come from competition because you have constantly improve to be the best. Competition between companies and laborers forces everyone continually work hard. Carnegie thinks that it is in the best interest of the race to give the wealth to a few because it is better to help many for years to come than equally divided among people to be wasted.
We can form some estimate of the possibilities for the improvement of the race, which lie embedded in the present law of the accumulation of wealth. Much of this sum, if distributed in small quantities among the people, would have been wasted in the indulgence of appetite, some of it in excess, and it may be doubted whether even the part put to results for race”(Carnegie 457).
Carnegie is looking out for the best interests of the rest and his admirable goals are clearly seen from this quote. He puts power in the hands of those who can make a difference with the excess amounts of money given by wealthy men. If inheritances were instead used during life to help the community instead of passing along to family for the pride of continuing the family name, Carnegie feels, the country would be fair and individualism would promote a strong community.
I do not think Carnegie’s scheme is likely to achieve his results or the goals he has set for his plan. I do not think that Americans are willing to give up the fortunes they have built themselves. It is an admirable idea to give your money to help promote a thriving community. Carnegie states that he is against charity and believes that those in need should be taught how to improve their own lives. To fund these institutes and corporations a form of charity must be given. Wealthy citizens give their excess money to a few to disperse of in a way they see fit to help the race. Most Americans are not willing to give up such a large sum of money as noble and respectable of an idea as it is. I think that Carnegie’s plan, in theory, would work and would be best for the race. I do not think it is practical because most would rather spoil their own family with inheritance than give it away to help people unknown to them. Carnegie’s idea of fair is equal opportunities for everyone to help themselves and the race.