Throughout history, philosophers and businessmen alike have contemplated the unequal distribution of wealth and the struggles associated. Andrew Carnegie and Karl Marx both conceived their own contrasting ideas on how to fix this dilemma. These two men both had the common folks’ best interest in mind, but they had conflicting plans on how to fix the problem of the unequal distribution of wealth. In “The Gospel of Wealth,” Carnegie states that people of the upper class should invest their “surplus wealth” into social institutions that would invigorate the economy and supplement the wages of the lower working class. Marx, on the other hand, in his Communist Manifesto, states that capitalism is fundamentally flawed and must be replaced by a fairer and more just economic system. Although Marx holds many valid points in recognizing the flaws of capitalism, Carnegie makes the more compelling argument by attributing many of the great improvements and achievements of society to competition and innovation.
One stark contrast between Marx and Carnegie is their disagreement on the issue of unequal distribution of wealth and property. Carnegie argues that “This change…. is… essential for the progress of the race, that the houses of some should be homes for all that is highest and best in literature and the arts, and for all the refinements of civilization, rather than none should be so” (364). He believes that the inequality between the rich and the poor is necessary for greatness to be possible, as there would be universal mediocrity if all were equal and without opportunity to come to great achievements. If these opportunities weren’t available to anyone, then society as a whole would suffer, as all would be stuck in the rut of averageness. On the other hand, Marx claims that this system is unjust and can be corrected by “abolition of private property” (348). He discusses that wage labor yields no property or capital for the laborer, but it creates capital for the property owner. Marx believes that this unequal trade-off is outrageous, so the owner should be stripped of their property so that it can become the property of all members of society, causing it to lose its class identity. This solution seems favorable at a glance, but it is idealistic and impractical. While all citizens would be equal, those who came about success and acquired wealth and property would be stripped of their hard earned winnings.
While Carnegie argues that competition is an essential factor of capitalism, Marx believes that the same competition pits workers against each other, which consequently dehumanizes and turns them into property. Carnegie asserts “while the law may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race” (365). He is saying that although the capitalist market can be cutthroat, it creates favorable conditions for the consumer and society as a whole. Companies and individual workers can’t be lazy or complacent, as they can be overtaken or replaced by a competitor overnight. As a result, society sees only the best work from these competitors who attempt to gain favor over the other. Marx thinks that this steady competition causes a divide between individual workers. He explains, “These laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market” (343). Marx is arguing that workers must compete with each other to sell their labor to those who will provide the greatest compensation. This work, however, provides a wage that allows the workers not to thrive, but to merely survive, as the owners of industry gain all of the profits. Furthermore, Marx states that capitalist economies are unstable and unpredictable, ridding the workers of any job stability. Marx has some valid arguments but fails to realize that competition is necessary for the progress of society as a whole.
Although Marx and Carnegie have similar viewpoints on the flaws of capitalism, they each have very different solutions for these issues. Among other things, Marx proposed that all private property and means of production be put under the authority of the state. For example, he proposed the “Centralization of credit in the hands of the state,” and the “Centralization of the means of communication and transport” (Marx 354). While these plans are good in theory, they have yet to work correctly when executed. Contrary to Marx, Carnegie argues that capitalism should stay, but the rich should reinvest their wealth into social programs and institutions for the bettering of the community. He states that “The laws of accumulation will be left free; the laws of distribution free. Individualism will continue, but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; intrusted for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done for itself” (Carnegie 372). Carnegie believes that the wealthy have a moral obligation to use their acquired capital to create more opportunities for the less fortunate. With this wealth, communities can build schools and libraries to further the education and intellect of the public for generations to come. If the same wealth were to be distributed to individuals, it would be spent unwisely and society will have made no further progress.
Though Marx and Carnegie both discuss the unequal distribution of wealth in capitalist societies, they propose different