Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Happiness

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Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are the three rights granted to every American, however, this did not seem to apply to the poor during the Gilded Age. The poor lacked opportunities to climb the ladder of social class to escape poverty, and the wealth of America was so concentrated in an individual few that one man, J.P. Morgan, was able to end the Financial Panic of 1893, preventing an economic depression. The rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. The disparity between the wealthy and those facing poverty was ever growing, which makes one question, what should be done, if anything at all? This was a major problem during the time and was the topic of many debates. Figures like William Graham Sumner,…show more content…
He believes that the poor cannot be simply given things, for if a man is given fish, they are fed for a day, but if that man is taught how to fish, they will be fed for a lifetime. The only way for the poor to become productive members of society is to provide them the chance to succeed. In Carnegie’s, Wealth, 1889, he shares a similar view with Sumner. Carnegie sees the rich as, “the trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could for themselves…” (Carnegie, 54). Unlike Sumner, Carnegie believes that the ever widening gap between the rich and poor is a problem and that action should be taken. Carnegie views the poor as almost helpless, unable to provide for themselves and overcome poverty, but he also sees that not all are unable. There are those who are capable of prevailing against the odds and that it is the duty of the rich to help lead these people towards prosperity. However, like Sumner, Carnegie also believed that the poor cannot simply be given wealth for it is a waste. “Of every thousand dollars spent in so called charity to-day, it is probable that $950 is unwisely spent…” (Carnegie, 55). He even goes on to say how it would be more beneficial for mankind if
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