Does the Man Who Dies Rich Die Disgraced?

The following piece is inspired by an article written by Andrew Carnegie called “The Gospel of Wealth” (1889) (PLEASE READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

There is nothing wrong with wealth.

Let me say that again.

There is nothing wrong with wealth.

And one more time for the people in back.

There is nothing wrong with wealth.

I want to make it blatantly clear that this title should not be read as “The man who gets rich dies disgraced” because as we have now went over three times- there is nothing wrong with wealth.

This article will be focused on the idea of dying with wealth.

Pat, you really gotta be talking about death on a wonderful Wednesday like today? Give it a rest chief.

Yeah and absolutely not.

I think the easiest way to go about this is to provide a few quotes from the reading and give my interpretation of them.

Let’s get right into it:

Quote #1: 

“By taxing estates heavily at death the state marks its condemnation of the selfish millionaire’s unworthy life”

In my history discussion last Friday, I asked my classmates what they thought about the quote “The man who dies rich dies disgraced” and I’m so happy that one kid had the courage to say what many others were likely thinking:

“Well, I don’t really think that is true. What about the NFL player who earned millions through playing years in the NFL. He worked hard, earned that money, and should get to keep it. What did he do wrong if he wants to keep his money?

It’s a valid objection.

My response was that the hypothetical NFL player didn’t do anything wrong (although their post-career brain might say otherwise).

They just did nothing. 

Quote #2:

“In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help those who will help themselves”

Leaving UMass last spring, I stopped by Starbucks to grab a venti iced coffee unsweetened with two packets of raw sugar (and light ice). When I came out of the store, I saw a homeless man looking desperate and sitting on the sidewalk. For whatever reason, on this day I decided not to avoid eye contact by any means necessary. I gave the man $10 before throwing in a classic “God bless you”  before walking off.

I don’t tell this story to brag about my generosity.

I tell this story because when I came back this year for the start of fall semester and grabbed a slice of Antonio’s pizza- I saw my friend in the exact same spot as last year.

My first thoughts went a little something like this:

“My broke ass gives this fucking homeless guy $10 to better his life and I come back the next year to see him in the exact same fucking spot as before? Fucking bum. That’s the last time I ever give money to a fucking panhandler. Get a job you lazy fuck.

It’s not pretty to see that typed out and I’m not proud of it- but that’s what I originally thought.

But then I really thought about it.

What was he supposed to do with $10?

Giving this man my hard earned money was my fault; it was a terrible investment. Why? Because I let my emotions of seeing a person struggling on the street overcome my logic.

I don’t know his exact situation but I do know that if you’re holding a can on the sidewalk- you probably don’t have a lot going for you.

Issues could include (but are not limited to):

-Lack of stable shelter

-Lack of food

-Lack of education

-Addiction/Substance abuse

This experience taught me that monetary handouts to those who don’t know what to do with it don’t work. I’d suspect this type of thinking explains why 70% of lottery winners wind up bankrupt (amongst other factors).

This experience is also why I like the cliche quote “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.”

The point I’m trying to make is that I understand a reluctance to give money to people who are going to turn around and throw it all away on crap.

But what if that money went to people who have all the basic necessities of life but have never had the opportunities or guidance necessary for growth?

People who:

-Grew up in low-income neighborhoods and went to schools with shitty uninspired teachers.

-Are truly intelligent but have never succeeded in a typical school setting.

And in the broadest sense?

-Want to succeed; but just don’t know how.

Quote #3:

“The man who dies rich dies disgraced”

I’ll leave the rest up to you.


Editor’s Note: 

Andrew Carnegie practiced what he preached in some ways by funding public libraries and giving lots of money to philanthropic endeavors. However, as an employer he was tyrannical, strongly opposed unions, and even approved of violence against his workers when they went on strike. With that being said, this piece was not about the man; it was about the man’s ideas.











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