The Gospel of Wealth

The Gospel of Wealth

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish immigrant who became one of America's pioneering philanthropists, and a popular baron and business oligarch in the 19th and 20th centuries. In his time, he used to be regarded as the second richest man in history after John D. Rockefeller.

In early 1908, he commissioned a survey of the top 500 wealthy achievers in the US to find out their secrets for success. The findings came out in a published book in 1928 (about a decade after Carnegie's death) entitled, "The Law of Success."

Carnegie was a turning point in the Spanish-era Philippines. He opposed the acquisition of the colony by the US. After the Spanish American War, Carnegie offered Spain the amount of US$20 million (more than what the US government offered) in order to give the Filipinos their independence. He failed.

As a leading and very influential philanthropist (he established the major charities, foundations, museums, schools and libraries in the US and Europe), he came out with the so-called Carnegie's Dictum, which became the foundation of his Gospel of Wealth. These documents influenced the evolution and growth of the philanthropic movements in the US and the whole world.

The Carnegie Dictum

To spend the first third of one's life
getting all the education one can.

To spend the next third
making all the money one can.

To spend the last third
giving it all away for worthwhile causes.

The Gospel of Wealth

1. All personal wealth beyond that required to supply the needs of one's family should be regarded as a trust fund to be administered for the benefit of the community.

2. Much better this great irregularity than universal squalor.

3. The Socialist or Anarchist who seeks to overturn present conditions is to be regarded as attacking the foundation upon which civilization itself rests.

4. The highest result of human experience: individualism, private property, the law of accumulation of Wealth, the law of competition.

5. There are but three modes in which surplus wealth can be disposed of. It can be left to the families of the decedents; or it can be bequeathed for public purposes; or finally, it can be administered by its possessors during their lives.

6. It were better for mankind that the millions of the rich were thrown into the sea than so spent as to encourage the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy.

7. Of every thousand dollars spent in so-called charity today, it is probable that nine hundred and fifty dollars is unwisely spent -- so spent, indeed, as to produce the very evils which it hopes to mitigate or cure.

8. Neither the individual nor the race is improved by almsgiving. Those worthy of assistance, except in rare cases, seldom require assistance. The really valuable men of the race never do, except in case of accident or sudden change.

9. The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.

INSIGHTS: The dictum provides an excellent basis for entrepreneurialism, education and philanthropy. The first, seventh and eight gospels are very striking and indisputable. The third, fourth and ninth gospels are debatable.

The first, second and sixth gospels are good arguments against society's corruption, as well as for advancing the virtue of integrity. In this regard, I would re-state the ninth gospel: the man who dies thus rich and filthy dies disgraced!


Carnegie, Andrew. 1900. The Gospel of Wealth and Other Timely Essays. New York: The Century Co.

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