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Book Title: Andrew Carnegie|
The author of the book: David Nasaw
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 22.58 MB
Edition: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Date of issue: October 30th 2007
ISBN 13: 9780143112440
Read full description of the books Andrew Carnegie:This is a solid biography that raises a crucial question that it never answers. As a result it has a very interesting subject but for the wrong reasons.
I will declare an interest. As a little lad every Saturday morning I'd shoulder my green satchel and set off to my nearest library to exchange my borrowed books. My nearest library then was the Lambeth Carnegie library(view spoiler)[ since my legs were short then this still involved the long march down Fawnbrake Avenue pass the Monkey puzzle tree(view spoiler)[ but since Nationalists didn't control the intersections during daylight hours it was safe enough(view spoiler)[ at night perhaps the Kuomintang reestablished control over strategic waypoints on the path to the library - it was hard to know - at the time I'd have been in bed with the bed lamp on reading library books (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)]endowed by the subject of this book and still standing in red brick and yellow stone(view spoiler)[ although I think it is no longer a library but instead a contentious local issue and potentially on the way to becoming a gymnasium or something(view spoiler)[ which for the classical Greeks would have been fine and appropriate no doubt (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] . I'll come back to the libraries later.
The question is how did Carnegie get rich. If Carnegie is the embodiment of the American Dream this is important. The implication is, and apparently there is a lacuna in the evidence, that Carnegie was set up to be a sleeping partner in a railway company (obviously insider dealing was involved, this was the 19th century after all) and then took advantage of the capital/security this gave him. In other words to succeed you don't need hard work and application, you need someone to give you a handful of magic beans.
Carnegie was not a source of creativity in the steel industry as the book makes clear. Rather his access to capital was his competitive advantage - he was able to buy successful steelworks and subsidiary industries, buy expertise, buy patent security, buy political support for armaments projects that required steel and to break strikes. Hard work and application make a Frick (though he got shot for his efforts along the way). Magic beans however make you a titan of industry.
Clearly I benefited from Carnegie's philanthropy. However I can't help feeling that once you've accrued a certain amount of wealth that giving it away becomes a more interesting past time than accumulating more it particularly when giving it away involves asserting your superiority over other people and institutions, here I will point out that the cover features a very small man wearing a very tall hat. Local authorities had to ask Carnegie for the money for the capital investment to build the libraries, but in order to get it had to demonstrate that they would fund the running costs. By the late 1970s, early 1980s when I was going to the library I should think that what had been spent on the operating costs was comfortably in excess of the capital cost of construction. However this the story of a Plutocrat deciding how an elected authority should spend it's money. While I'm happy about the object of investment I'm disturbed at the principle. The power game seems apparent when relatively modest endowments at time of construction would have paid for maintenance, stock and staff, particularly as he was earning money faster through earned interest than he could give it away.
It is more troubling to think that the money was generated through the long working hours and low wages of his employees and that he didn't invest in libraries in those communities where possibly the children of those employees could have studied, improved themselves and escaped poverty or made more of a contribution to the economy. But then philanthropy is a form of conspicuous consumption, the potlatch winner.
Reading between the lines the nature of 19th century capitalism is clear - access to capital is everything. Being a cheery telegraph boy who looks as though he can keep his mouth shut doesn't hurt either.
Read information about the authorDavid Nasaw is an American author, biographer and historian who specializes in the cultural and social history of early 20th Century America. Nasaw is on the faculty of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he is the Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History.
In addition to writing numerous scholarly and popular books, he has written for publications such as the Columbia Journalism Review, American Historical Review, American Heritage, Dissent, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, The London Review of Books, and Condé Nast Traveler.
Nasaw has appeared in several documentaries, including The American Experience, 1996, and two episodes of the History Channel's April 2006 miniseries 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America: "The Homestead Strike" and "The Assassination of President McKinley". He is cited extensively in the US and British media as an expert on the history of popular entertainment and the news media, and as a critic of American philanthropy.
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