Andrew Carnegie writes about Wealth and Class Distinction
The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth, so that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and poor in harmonious relationship. The conditions of human life have not only been changed, but revolutionized. . . .
The contrast between the palace of the millionaire and the cottage of the laborer with us today measures the change which has come with civilization.
This change, however, is not to be deplored, but welcomed as highly beneficial. . . . Much better this great irregularity than universal squalor. . . . The "good old times" were not good old times. Neither master nor servant was as well situated then as to day. A relapse to old conditions would be disastrous to both-not the least so to him who serves-and would sweep away, civilization with it. . . .
The poor enjoy what the rich, could not before afford. What were the luxuries have become the necessaries of life. The laborer has now more comforts than the farmer had a few generations ago. The farmer has more luxuries than the landlord had, and is more richly clad and better housed. The landlord has books and pictures rarer, and appointments more artistic, than the King could then obtain. The price we pay for this salutary change is, no doubt, great. We assemble thousands of operatives in the factory, in the mine, and in the countinghouse, of whom the employer can know little or nothing, and to whom the employer is little better than a myth. . . .
Rigid castes are formed, and, as usual, mutual ignorance breeds mutual distrust. . . .
The price which society pays for the law of competition, like the price it pays for cheap comforts and luxuries, is also great; but the advantages of this law are also greater still, for it is to this law that we owe our wonderful material development, which brings improved conditions in its train. . . .
We start, then, with a condition of affairs under which the best interests of the race are promoted, but which inevitably gives wealth to the few. Thus far, accepting conditions as they exist, the situation can be surveyed and pronounced good. The question then arises,-and if the foregoing be correct, it is the only question with which we have to deal,-What is the proper mode of administering wealth after the laws upon which civilization is founded have thrown it into the hands of the few? . . .
There are but three modes in which surplus wealth can be disposed of. It can be left to the families of the decedents [deceased]; or it can be bequeathed for public purposes; or, finally, it can be administered during their lives by its possessors. . . .
The first is the most injudicious [unwise]. . . .
As to the second mode, that of leaving wealth at death for public uses, it may be said that this is only a means for the disposal of wealth, provided on us by opening their doors and taking us in, together with helping with our keep.