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Monday, 26. December 2011 - 14:06 Uhr

Wealth And Its Issues!

andrew carnegie“Wealth,” as Mr. Gladstone has recently said, “is the business of the world.” That the acquisition of money is the business of the world arises from the fact that, with few unfortunate exceptions, young men are born to poverty, and therefore under the salutary operation of that remarkably wise law which makes for their good: “Thou shalt earn thy bread by the sweat of thy brow.”It is the fashion nowadays to bewail poverty as an evil, to pity the young man who is not born with a silver spoon in his mouth; but I heartily subscribe to President Garfield's doctrine, that “The richest heritage a young man can be born to is poverty.” I make no idle prediction when I say that it is from that class from whom the good and the great will spring. It is not from the sons of the millionnaire or the noble that the world receives its teachers, its martyrs, its inventors, its statesmen, its poets, or even its men of affairs. It is from the cottage of the poor that all these spring. We can scarcely read one among the few “immortal names that were not born to die,” or who has rendered exceptional service to our race, who had not the advantage of being cradled, nursed, and reared in the stimulating school of poverty. There is nothing so enervating, nothing so deadly in its effects upon the qualities which lead to the highest achievement, moral or intellectual, as hereditary wealth. And if there be among you a young man who feels that he is not compelled to exert himself in order to earn and live from his own efforts, I tender him my profound sympathy.…One gets a great many good things from the New York Sun.… I beg to read this to you as one of its numerous rays of light:Our Boys Every moralist hard up for a theme asks at intervals: What is the matter with the sons of our rich and great men? The question is followed by statistics on the wickedness and bad endings of such sons. The trouble with the moralists is that they put the question wrong end first. There is nothing wrong with those foolish sons, except that they are unlucky; but there is something wrong with their fathers.… He ruins his children, and then, when he gets old, profusely and sadly observes that he has done everything for them, and yet they have disappointed him. He who gives to his son an office which he has not deserved and enables him to disgrace his father and friends, deserves no more sympathy than any Mr. Fagin deliberately educating a boy to be dishonest. The fat, useless pug-dogs which young women drag wheezing about at the end of strings are not to blame for their condition, and the same thing is true of rich men’s sons. The young women who overfeed the dogs and the fathers who ruin their sons have themselves to thank. No man would advocate the thing, perhaps; but who can doubt that if there could be a law making it impossible for a man to inherit anything but a good education and a good constitution, it would supply us in short order with a better lot of men?…

iIt is not the poor young man who goes forth to his work in the morning and labours until evening that we should pity. It is the son of the rich man to whom Providence has not been so kind as to trust with this honourable task. It is not the busy man, but the man of idleness, who should arouse our sympathy and cause us sorrow. “Happy is the man who has found his work,” says Carlyle. I say, “Happy is the man who has to work and to work hard, and work long.” A great poet has said: “He prayeth best who loveth best.” Some day this may be parodied into: “He prayeth best who worketh best.” An honest day's work well performed is not a bad sort of prayer. The cry goes forth often nowadays, “Abolish poverty!” but fortunately this cannot be done; and the poor we are always to have with us. Abolish poverty, and what would become of the race? Progress, development, would cease. Consider its future if dependent upon the rich. The supply of the good and the great would cease, and human society retrograde into barbarism. Abolish luxury, if you please, but leave us the soil, upon which alone the virtues and all that is precious in human character grow; poverty—honest poverty.I will assume for the moment, gentlemen, that you were all fortunate enough to be born poor. Then the first question that presses upon you is this: What shall I learn to do for the community which will bring me in exchange enough wealth to feed, clothe, lodge, and keep me independent of charitable aid from others?…The young man, therefore, who resolves to make himself useful to his kind, and therefore entitled to receive in return from a grateful community which he benefits the sum necessary for his support, sees clearly one of the highest duties of a young man. He meets the vital question immediately pressing upon him for decision, and decides it rightly.So far, then, there is no difference about the acquisition of wealth. Every one is agreed that it is the first duty of a young man to so train himself as to be self-supporting. Nor is there difficulty about the next step, for the young man cannot be said to have performed the whole of his duty if he leaves out of account the contingencies of life, liability to accident, illness, and trade depressions like the present. Wisdom calls upon him to have regard for these things; and it is a part of his duty that he begin to save a portion of his earnings and invest them, not in speculation, but in securities or in property, or in a legitimate business in such form as will, perhaps, slowly but yet surely grow into the reserve upon which he can fall back in emergencies or in old age, and live upon his own savings. I think we are all agreed as to the advisability—nay, the duty—of laying up a competence, and hence to retain our self-respect.Besides this, I take it that some of you have already decided, just as soon as possible to ask “a certain young lady” to share his lot, or perhaps his lots, and, of course, he should have a lot or two to share. Marriage is a very serious business indeed, and gives rise to many weighty considerations. “Be sure to marry a woman with good common-sense,” was the advice given me by my mentor, and I just hand it down to you. Common sense is the most uncommon and most valuable quality in man or woman. But before you have occasion to provide yourself with a helpmate, there comes the subject upon which I am to address you—“Wealth”—not wealth in millions, but simply revenue sufficient for modest, independent living. This opens up the entire subject of wealth in a greater or less degree.Now, what is wealth? How is it created and distributed? There are not far from us immense beds of coal which have lain for millions of years useless, and therefore valueless. Through some experiment, or perhaps accident, it was discovered that black stone would burn and give forth heat. Men sank shafts, erected machinery, mined and brought forth coal, and sold it to the community. It displaced the use of wood as fuel, say at one-half the cost. Immediately every bed of coal became valuable because useful, or capable of being made so; and here a new article worth hundreds, yes, thousands of millions was added to the wealth of the community. A Scotch mechanic one day, as the story goes, gazing into the fire upon which water was boiling in a kettle, saw the steam raise the lid, as hundreds of thousands had seen before him; but none saw in that sight what he did—the steam engine, which does the work of the world at a cost so infinitely trifling compared with what the plans known before involved, that the wealth of the world has been increased one dares not estimate how much. The saving that the community makes is the root of wealth in any branch of material development. Now, a young man's labour or service to the community creates wealth just in proportion as his service is useful to the community, as it either saves or improves upon existing methods. Commodore Vanderbilt saw, I think, thirteen different short railway lines between New York and Buffalo, involving thirteen different managements, and a disjointed and tedious service. Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, Auburn, Rochester, etc., were heads of some of these companies. He consolidated them all, making one direct line, over which your Empire State Express flies fifty-one miles an hour, the fastest time in the world; and a hundred passengers patronize the lines where one did in olden days. He rendered the community a special service, which, being followed by others, reduces the cost of bringing food from the prairies of the West to your doors to a trifling sum per ton. He produced, and is every day producing, untold wealth to the community by so doing, and the profit he reaped for himself was but a drop in the bucket compared with that which he showered upon the State and the nation.…… It is a great mistake for young men to say to themselves, “Oh! we cannot enter into business.” If any of you have saved as much as $50 or $100, I do not know any branch of business into which you cannot plunge at once. You can get your certificate of stock and attend the meeting of stockholders, make your speeches and suggestions, quarrel with the president, and instruct the management of the affairs of the company, and have all the rights and influence of an owner.…The principal complaint against our industrial conditions of to-day is that they cause great wealth to flow into the hands of the few. Well, of the very few, indeed, is this true. It was formerly so, as I have explained, immediately after the new inventions had changed the conditions of the world. To-day it is not true. Wealth is being more and more distributed among the many. The amount of the combined profits of labour and capital which goes to labour was never so great as to-day, the amount going to capital never so small. While the earnings of capital have fallen more than one-half, in many cases have been entirely obliterated, statistics prove that the earnings of labour were never so high as they were previous to the recent unprecedented depression in business, while the cost of living,—the necessaries of life,—have fallen in some cases nearly one-half. Great Britain has an income tax, and our country is to be subject to this imposition for a time. The British returns show that during the eleven years from 1876 to 1887 the number of men receiving from $750 to $2,500 per year, increased more than 21 per cent., while the number receiving from $5,000 to $25,000 actually decreased 2 1/2 per cent.You may be sure, gentlemen, that the question of the distribution of wealth is settling itself rapidly under present conditions, and settling itself in the right direction. The few rich are getting poorer, and the toiling masses are getting richer. Nevertheless, a few exceptional men may yet make fortunes, but these will be more moderate than in the past. This may not be quite as fortunate for the masses of the people as is now believed, because great accumulations of wealth in the hands of one enterprising man who still toils on are sometimes most productive of all the forms of wealth.…The bees of a hive do not destroy the honey-making bees, but the drones. It will be a great mistake for the community to shoot the millionnaires, for they are the bees that make the most honey, and contribute most to the hive even after they have gorged themselves full. It is a remarkable fact that any country is prosperous and comfortable in proportion to the number of its millionnaires. Take Russia, with its population little better than serfs, and living at the point of starvation upon the meanest fare—such fare as none of our people could or would eat, and you find comparatively few millionnaires, excepting the Emperor and a few nobles who own the land.… In the old home of our race, in Britain, which is the richest country in the world save one—our own—there are more millionnaires in pounds sterling (which may be considered the European standard) than in the whole of the rest of Europe, and its people are better off than in any other. You come to our own land: we probably have more millionnaires and multimillionnaires, both in pounds and dollars, than all the rest of the world put together.…The inventions of to-day lead to concentrating industrial and commercial affairs into huge concerns. You cannot work the Bessemer process successfully without employing thousands of men upon one spot. You could not make the armour for ships without first expending seven millions of dollars, as the Bethlehem Company has spent. You cannot make a yard of cotton goods in competition with the world without having an immense factory and thousands of men and women aiding in the process. The great electric establishment here in your town succeeds because it has spent millions and is prepared to do its work upon a great scale. Under such conditions it is impossible but that wealth will flow into the hands of a few men in prosperous times beyond their needs.…But assuming that surplus wealth flows into the hands of a few men, what is their duty? How is the struggle for dollars to be lifted from the sordid atmosphere surrounding business and made a noble career? Now, wealth has hitherto been distributed in three ways: The first and chief one is by willing it at death to the family. Now, beyond bequeathing to those dependent upon one the revenue needful for modest and independent living, is such a use of wealth either right or wise? I ask you to think over the result, as a rule, of millions given over to young men and women, the sons and daughters of the millionnaire. You will find that, as a rule, it is not good for the daughters; and this is seen in the character and conduct of the men who marry them. As for the sons, you have their condition as described in the extract which I read you from The Sun. Nothing is truer than this, that as a rule the “almighty dollar” bequeathed to sons or daughters by millions proves an almighty curse. It is not the good of the child which the millionnaire parent considers when he makes these bequests, it is his own vanity; it is not affection for the child, it is self-glorification for the parent which is at the root of this injurious disposition of wealth. There is only one thing to be said for this mode, it furnishes one of the most efficacious means of rapid distribution of wealth ever known.There is a second use of wealth, less common than the first, which is not so injurious to the community, but which should bring no credit to the testator.

Money is left by millionnaires to public institutions when they must relax their grasp upon it. There is no grace, and can be no blessing, in giving what cannot be withheld. It is no gift, because it is not cheerfully given, but only granted at the stern summons of death. The miscarriage of these bequests, the litigation connected with them, and the manner in which they are frittered away seem to prove that the Fates do not regard them with a kindly eye. We are never without a lesson that the only mode of producing lasting good by giving large sums of money is for the millionnaire to give as close attention to its distribution during his life as he did to its acquisition.…The third use, and the only noble use of surplus wealth, is this: That it be regarded as a sacred trust, to be administered by its possessor, into whose hands it flows, for the highest good of the people. Man does not live by bread alone, and five or ten cents a day more revenue scattered over thousands would produce little or no good. Accumulated into a great fund and expended as Mr. Cooper expended it for the Cooper Institute, it establishes something that will last for generations. It will educate the brain, the spiritual part of man. It furnishes a ladder upon which the aspiring poor may climb; and there is no use whatever, gentlemen, trying to help people who do not help themselves. You cannot push any one up a ladder unless he be willing to climb a little himself. When you stop boosting, he falls, to his injury. Therefore, I have often said, and I now repeat, that the day is coming, and already we see its dawn, in which the man who dies possessed of millions of available wealth which was free and in his hands ready to be distributed will die disgraced.… By administering surplus wealth during life great wealth may become a blessing to the community, and the occupation of the business man accumulating wealth may be elevated so as to rank with any profession. In this way he may take rank even with the physician, one of the highest of our professions, because he too, in a sense, will be a physician, looking after and trying not to cure, but to prevent, the ills of humanity. To those of you who are compelled or who desire to follow a business life and to accumulate wealth, I commend this idea. The epitaph which every rich man should wish himself justly entitled to is that seen upon the monument to Pitt:
He lived without ostentation, And he died poor.