From the Archives: Andrew Carnegie
When “robber baron” Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) retired from business life, he donated around $350 million to philanthropic causes. From his “rather successful” business enterprises he donated huge sums to and towards universities, libraries, institutes, churches, foundations, etc. For Carnegie, “the surplus wealth of the few will become, in the best sense, the property of the many.”
Rich men should be thankful for one inestimable boon. They have it in their power during their lives to busy themselves in organizing benefactions from which the masses of their fellows will derive lasting advantage, and thus dignify their own lives. The highest life is probably to be reached, not by such imitation of the life of Christ as Count Tolstoi gives us, but while animated by Christ’s spirit by recognizing the changed conditions of this age, and adopting modes of expressing this spirit suitable to the changed conditions under which we live, still laboring for the good of our fellows, which was the essence of his life and teaching, but laboring in a different means.
This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of wealth: To set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and, after doing so, to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer… to produce the most beneficial results for the community. (Originally entitled, Wealth, in North American Review, 1889)