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Carnegie is often cited as a model for people like Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett, for virtuous elites who use their fortunes for social betterment.
Carnegie’s father was among those destroyed by the rise of industrial textiles.
His young son watched as his father’s craft collapsed and the family slid into poverty.
Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library. —replace any effort to build a stronger public school system for all. Clearly our sole public responsibility must be to keep on giving back to it, through the low taxes and low wages that make it possible for these entrepreneurs to become so grotesquely wealthy in the first place.
Wal-Mart claims that its low wages don’t matter, because of its $150 billion in charitable giving. The idea that philanthropic giving might also provide a justification for the existence of stark economic inequality itself goes back to the person often seen as the founder of the American philanthropic tradition: Andrew Carnegie.
Although later in life he would decry speculation, much of his own fortune in fact came from investments.
By the time the Civil War arrived, he was already a thriving investor (at age 26, his biographer David Nasaw points out, Carnegie’s salary of ,400 only accounted for five percent of his total income); after the war, he poured money into iron manufacturing in time to capitalize on the building of bridges and roads that followed the war’s end.
Today’s titans, Giridharadas argues, about “changing the world”: a project they promise can be accomplished by buying the right brand of tennis shoes or lipstick, by investing millions as “impact investors” in companies that disrupt markets by doing business in virtuous and sustainable ways, by simply using private wealth to step in to do what the public sector, starved for funds, no longer can.
Billionaires step up to fix national monuments and affix their names to institutions such as the Stephen A.
For it reveals how his faith—which ultimately backfired—has nevertheless continued to inspire our own generation of plutocrats.
Most importantly, studying Carnegie reveals how deeply the ideal of philanthropy has permeated across the political spectrum, so deeply that the Koch Brothers and Mark Zuckerberg can be considered two sides of the same coin.