Thursday, July 29, 2021

Andrew Carnegie & the Art of Giving

With all the hype and the gripe about billionaires heading into space on their own privately funded rockets, I'm thinking about Andrew Carnegie. 

Discussions about wealth, science, and philanthropy are certainly reasonable and valid topics for commentary, but oversimplification is always a problem. While I understand the comments from critics of Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson spending their billions on vanity thrill rides, I don't agree that these trips and the companies that made them happen are simply a waste of money that should have been spent on any number of other causes. I've been a minor critic of the space race in the past, but I don't consider this advancement of science a waste. 

That said, the vast billions of dollars in the hands of private individuals these days bares scrutiny of these tech and finance titans. The Giving Pledge is an admirable and appropriate decision by people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, among many others, to give away the vast majority of their wealth. While I have my reasons to criticize Bill Gates and even his philanthropy, there is no doubt the Gates Foundation, and many like it, is doing great things. And I firmly believe the world could use a lot more of Mackenzie Scotts. Which leads me to Carnegie:

Arguably the richest man of his era, and by some measures one of the richest still, Andrew Carnegie used his massive wealth to build libraries and museums. By the time he died, he had given away 90% of his fortune. I'm not sure what leads some people to be so generous and others to ... well, not. So many of us, when we fantasize about winning the MegaMillions or PowerBall, talk a big game of how we would do so much good with the money. 

Let's hope a few more people who achieve such fabulous wealth start thinking the same way.

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