Thingish Things

Random Anecdote, Andrew Carnegie

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - May• 19•11

Carnegie, Andrew (1835-1919), Scottish-born U.S. businessman and philanthropist. He considered that the rich had a responsibility toward society, a view put forward in his book The Gospel of Wealth (1900).  He provided capital for numerous social and educational projects, including many libraries.

A fervent socialist, visiting Carnegie, spoke at some length about the evils of capitalism and the need for fair distribution of wealth.  Carnegie called his secretary and asked for two figures: the total value of his assets and possessions, and the latest estimate of the world population. After a simple calculation he instructed his secretary:  “Give this gentleman sixteen cents. That’s his share of my wealth.”

Courtesy of The Little Brown Book of Anecdotes, Clifton Fadiman, Editor. (A recommended buy.)

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  1. Me says:

    I had no idea Carnegie was Scottish-American by way of Africa…

  2. Your Friend says:

    Nice anecdote. Maybe I’m reading too much into your inclusion of it in this space, but I feel obliged to point out that arguing against the massive wealth disparity that has built up in this country over the last 30 years is not the same as the socialist notion of a fair distribution of wealth. Throughout history, poor people have been screwed. If we can pay a bank teller $15/hour instead of $8/hour, that would be a good thing. Unlike his CEO boss who makes $120M/year, the teller will actually spend every last cent of his $15/hour. That helps the economy.

    Carnegie was the greatest philanthropist in the history of the world, giving away about $300B in today’s money. Even Bill Gates and Warren Buffet will get no where near that. But the average multi-millionaire does not give away their estate and won’t no matter how many times Gates and Buffet ask them to. Wealth disparity is not a good thing. Check out the list of countries where it’s the worst. Do we really want to hang with these folks?

    (Click on the UN Gini column header to sort numerically. Depressing stuff, hanging with Ghana, Turkmenistan, Senegal and Cambodia.)

  3. That chart is admittedly startling. I just don’t think government intervention is the solution. But the self dealing in corporate America is, indeed, a problem. It’s disgusting. But I would sooner live with that than an overraeching state.

    • Your Friend says:

      The problem is that we have both. And they feed off each other in ways that are really unhealthy. That’s why you need people in government who are adverse to corporate America, which is to say, progressives.

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