You might be surprised but here is the direct quote from non other than Andrew Carnegie who was one of the first capitalists, along with John D. Rockefeller Sr, to become American billionaires. Here is Carnegie’s exact quote from 1889.
” The gulf between rich and poor threatened the very survival of capitalism.”
You might not think that view was espoused by the self-made bobbin boy who came to America and worked his way into the founding of U.S. Steel! Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller Sr. competed daily to see who would become the wealthiest magnate in America! Rockefeller with Standard Oil may have edged out Carnegie for the title but the great irony is that both men became two of the world’s greatest philanthropists benefiting nearly every conceivable worthwhile socially important endeavor. However, as both biographies clearly reveal, it was not pretty along the way. Just ask Ida Tarbell!
I write this post today after reading in the New York Times the latest government figures on the distribution of wealth in America . It ties in perfectly with my Occupy Wall Street post of earlier this week. In that post I commended to you Gretchen Morgenson’s Reckless Endangerment and Tom Friedman’s That Used To Be Us.
Why Carnegie and Rockefeller? If you want a solid historical perspective on the accumulation of wealth by two of America’s richest men , Ron Chernow’s TITAN The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr. and Peter Krass’s CARNEGIE offer the reader tremendous insight.
Never before in the American capitalistic system had so much wealth been accumulated by just two industrialists. Both books are complete in their historical perspective of the personal lives of Carnegie and Rockefeller and admirably translate their personas into their business and later their philanthropic philosophy.
As I have read the daily accounts of Occupy Wall Street my memory clicked upon these two most worthy biographies. They provide a meaningful and necessary historical backdrop to the discourse of today. Chernow’s book was published in 1998 and Krass’s work in 2002.
If you have the time, these are wonderful back to back reads. By chance , I read TITAN first and having done so would recommend that order. Each is of course deserving of a stand alone read.