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Madison Gilbert

AP US History

Ms. Forner

27 January 2017

Duty of the Wealthy

Andrew Carnegie’s ​Gospel of Wealth​ outlines his solution to the growing division

between the upper and lower economic classes in America. He believed that the wealthy had

both a social and moral obligation to assist the poor in whatever means they were able to.

Carnegie’s argument also centered around the idea that the wealthy wouldn’t be as affected by

the loss of money; the poor would experience a significant economic boost, while the wealthy

would only suffer a slight economic deficit. ​This concept of philanthropy was not only beneficial

in the late 19th century, as it is still applicable to modern society. Many American innovators

also dabble in philanthropy today.

In 1889, Carnegie had already established himself as one of the richest men in America.

He successfully owned a railroad empire as well as several other endeavors centered around

infrastructure (shipping, oil, etc.). Once Carnegie realized the good that could be done through

philanthropy he wholeheartedly dedicated his resources to helping those worse off than himself.

This is somewhat ironic because at one point in his career, he had been almost obsessed with

outdoing his competition through the process of hostile takeovers. So, through his success,

Carnegie found the joy in giving back to needy Americans. By the time of his death in 1919, he

had given away the equivalent of 350 million dollars in today’s money, which also happened to

be a stunning 90 percent of his total wealth. This is important because philanthropy also
contributed, perhaps somewhat arguably, to the reconnection of the U.S. after the Civil War. If

the poor felt as though they were being helped by the wealthy, and the wealthy felt as though

they were completing a good deed, then the two economic states brought America together.

Bill Gates is a notable 21st century philanthropist. He obtained his riches by founding the

world’s largest software business, otherwise known as Microsoft. As the company progressed

throughout the years, Gates eventually followed in the footsteps of Carnegie and earned the

status of being one of the richest men in the world. In total, Bill Gates has donated over 28

million dollars; specifically, he has contributed 8 million to improving global health.

Controversially, Gates has been sued on a multitude of occasions for monopolizing the industry.

Many have accused his philanthropic actions as more of a penance for his court activity.

However, regardless of the reasoning behind it, Gates follows Carnegie’s ​Gospel of Wealth

perfectly: in order to improve society, he uses his riches to positively influence the lives of the

poor. From a perspective standpoint, Gates philanthropic work is arguably more significant than

Carnegie’s due to the fact that Bill Gates has donated to organizations on a global scale, whereas

Carnegie donated domestically.