Monday, June 13, 2005


Ever been in a Carnegie library?

Andrew Carnegie, one of this countries wealthiest men decided that philanthropy was what the wealthy should be involved in. He put his money where his mouth was and gave small towns, all over America, libraries to educate those who wanted knowledge. In 1889 he wrote a famous essay entitled "The Gospel of Wealth," in which he stated that wealthy men should live without extravagance, provide moderately for their dependents, and distribute the rest of their riches to benefit the welfare and happiness of the common man--with the consideration to help only those who would help themselves. "The Best Fields for Philanthropy," his second essay, listed seven fields to which the wealthy should donate: universities, libraries, medical centers, public parks, meeting and concert halls, public baths, and churches. He later expanded this list to include gifts that promoted scientific research, the general spread of knowledge, and the promotion of world peace. Many of these organizations continue to this day: the Carnegie Corporation in New York, for example, helps support "Sesame Street."

Libraries were his favorite gift because people could choose to better themselves by using the library.

When Andrew Carnegie died in 1919 at age 84, he had given nearly one-fourth of his life to causes in which he believed. His gifts to various charities totalled nearly $350 million, almost 90 percent of his fortune. In todays dollars, that would be $7 billion!

He took a very dim view of the wealthy who believed in enjoying their wealth to the last minute and then leaving something as a bequest in their wills. "Men who leave vast sums in this way may fairly be thought men who who would not have left it at all, had they been able to take it with them." He also believed in taxing estates (inheritance taxes). "By taxing estates heavily at death the state marks its condemnation of the selfish millionaires unworthy life."

Did you know that plenty (over 120) of today's wealthiest feel the same way? Warren Buffett, George Soros and David Rockefeller are among them, and they have opposed recent Republican efforts to scrap the "death tax".

I've been to half a dozen of those libraries...Roseville has one. Chico has one. I even went to one in Petaluma. Check it might have one where you live.

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