Inequality In Andrew Carnegie's The Gospel Of Wealth

In the late 19th century when the United States began industrializing, the increasing wealth inequality became a contentious issue. Adherents to Social Darwinist theory, such as William Graham Sumner, advocated against government intervention to address inequality, to naturally allow the fittest to survive and, in turn, spur progress. Other groups, such as the socialists and populists, called for government regulation to address this inequality and other important social issues. Yet Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest Americans to ever live, offered a unique approach to address inequality, one that had nothing to do with government, and instead explored private philanthropic efforts. In “The Gospel of Wealth,” Carnegie addresses the issue of …show more content…
At the time, many left their surplus wealth almost exclusively to their descendants after death. Not only does Carnegie object to this on the grounds that the wealth could better overall society through administrative philanthropy, but also Carnegie believes bequeathing money ultimately hurts the recipients. Carnegie argues that those who simply inherit wealth typically waste it by looking at those who inherit estates in Europe and writing: “The successors have become impoverished through their follies or from the fall in the value of land” (657). Carnegie uses this evidence to claim that those who inherit wealth are ultimately worse off than those who work hard to generate fortunes. Carnegie writes: “It is no longer questionable that great sums bequeathed oftener work more for the injury than for the good of the recipients” (658). Carnegie instead offers that those who work hard to accumulate their own fortune, using family pride as a motivator, are the most deserving to become wealthy and the most worthy to administrate philanthropy. Carnegie writes: “I would as soon leave to my son a curse as the almighty dollar, and admit to himself that it is not the welfare of the children, but family pride, which inspires these enormous legacies” (658). Carnegie asserts that hard work should be the primary factor in determining who accumulates vast wealth. In fact, Carnegie did not inherit his own fortune, but rather created it in the railroad and steel industries. Carnegie argues that leaving fortunes to descendants ultimately hurts the beneficiaries, and therefore bequeathals should not serve as an alternative to administrative philanthropy, which has the power to most progress

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