GOOD HISTORICAL WRITING
GOOD HISTORICAL WRITING
The debate concerning whether the rich have any responsibility to the poor has gone on for a long time. People hold different opinions regarding the issue. They are driven by different sentiments. Some believe that the poor do not work hard enough and hence their status in life. Others posit that those who are rich exploit their poor workers in their quest for more wealth. People have different opportunities in life, and this dictates where they will end up in life. In many cases, the hardest workers are not always the wealthy. Those who have the opportunity to get quality education and to interact with people of influence have greater chances of making it in life and becoming successful. Many people with limited opportunities do not have the same chance. There is therefore a need to help the poor, since not all of them are lazy. Helping people does not necessarily mean giving people money. It means providing opportunities for people to make wealth by different actions such as giving them an opportunity to learn, which will in turn increase the chances they have of getting good employment or starting successful enterprises.
In his essay, The “Gospel of Wealth”, Andrew Carnegie points out that there is a difference between almsgiving or charity and philanthropy. He argues that philanthropy involves more than helping people. It means providing the assistance that people need so that they can be able to help themselves. He notes that individuals and societies have not improved through charity (Carnegie 1901). As a person who grew up in poverty, Carnegie understood its causes and the effects that it had on people. Furthermore, he was fortunate enough to connect with people who saw that he had the potential and desire to succeed (Hewitt and Lawson, 496). This influenced his perceptions concerning philanthropy. He believed that only those who are worthy should receive assistance. Philanthropy involves assisting people with things that will help to improve their bodies and souls, as well as enhance their situation in life. In contrast, he was of the opinion that charity does not have any benefit as it only causes more problems.
William Graham Sumner saw the issue differently. He did not believe that the rich owed any responsibility towards the poor. He blamed the poor for their condition and he believed that they deserved to live as they did. He believed that the poor were a burden to the society. The weak do not add anything to the society but they destroy the efforts of the wealthy. He argues on the side of the wealthy. He seems to think that those who advocate for philanthropy do not seem to consider the rights of the rich. They seem to think that those who are wealthy have acquired their riches using unjust means, are dishonest, and they do not deserve to be respected. On the other hand, those who do nothing benefit by receiving the attention of the philanthropists and their aid. The government ends up protecting some social classes at the neglect of others because of the philanthropists’ efforts to advocate for the poor (Sumner 1883).
Carnegie believes that it is possible for the rich to benefit from their efforts of philanthropy. They will be considered managers of their communities’ wealth. They will leave a legacy because of what they did for the people. The people who are left will experience a sense of loss when they die and they will be honored and remembered in memory (Carnegie, 1901). Sumner believed that the reformers are mistaken in their quest. They take wealth from those who have worked and toiled for it and they distribute it to those who do not deserve it. They are not concerned with justice, since they only look at one perspective. The reformers do not consider the vices of the poor. They tend to think only of the virtues of the weak and poor and they exaggerate their sad and miserable situation in life (Sumner 1883).
Despite their widely varying views, both Summer and Carnegie believed that the government’s decision to help those who are poor indiscriminately would harm the society. In addition, they were of the opinion that not every person deserved to be helped. However, their similarities ended there. Carnegie believed that the rich had a responsibility to help the poor. However, he was against aimless giving and he noted the conditions under which giving was beneficial. The rich had managed to acquire their wealth and they could dispose it for the general good of the society. On the other hand, Sumner believed that the poor deserved to be poor and they were responsible for their situation in life. The wealthy did not have any responsibility to help those who were poor and weak. They too could work hard and change their situation in life.
In his argument, Sumner failed to consider that some people are privileged in life. They have the means to acquire wealth because they have been exposed to favorable opportunities and they have met people of great influence who believed in their potential. Carnegie echoed these sentiments. He believed that charity would not benefit the society in any way but philanthropy would help individuals to achieve much and this would benefit communities. In addition, Sumner failed to consider that some people are rich because they exploit others in terms of their labor and wages. Even though people continue working, they will always remain in poverty since they earn very poor wages. Carnegie presents the best argument, since he presents different opinions and perspectives on the issue of wealth and the responsibility that the wealthy have towards the poor.
Carnegie, Andrew. 1901. The Gospel of Wealth and Other Timely Essays, 16-19. New York: Century
Hewitt, A. Nancy and Lawson, F. Steven. 2014. Exploring American Histories: A Brief Survey, Vol. 2: Since 1865. New York: Bedford St. Martin
Sumner, G. William. 1883. What the Social Classes Owe Each Other, 19-24. New York: Harper and Brothers
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