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Philanthropy in the Two Gilded Ages



I’ve said this before and I’ll probably say it again–the judge of a wealthy person is in my book about 10% what they do when they have achieved massive wealth and 90% their personal behavior when acquiring that wealth. The sins of Andrew Carnegie could never be washed over by building a bunch of libraries. Interestingly, about half the Pennsylvania towns where he offered to build a library rejected him because they knew the money came from the blood of his workers.

The same is true of today’s capitalists. We should take their money if they want to give it to us. And I suppose I’d rather Bill Gates give his money to global health than invest it in that other status symbol of the two Gilded Ages, a huge art collection. But that doesn’t mean our primary evaluation of these people shouldn’t be on their behavior when collecting that loot. For many capitalists today, there is a whole lot of sin to answer for.

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