It really is a weekend of famous Scottish birthdays! Today in 1835, Andrew Carnegie, one of the riches men in the history of civilisation and Scotland's (and perhaps the world's) most famous ever philanthropist was born in Dunfermiline in Fife. Happy birthday Andrew Carnegie!
Here's a little info from Wikipedia's entry about the truly great Scot.
"Carnegie gave most of his money to establish many libraries, schools, and universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Scotland and other countries, as well as a pension fund for former employees. Carnegie started as a telegrapher and by the 1860s had investments in railroads, railroad sleeping cars, bridges and oil derricks. He built further wealth as a bond salesman raising money for American enterprise in Europe. Carnegie once gave $25,000 to Speaker of the House David B. Henderson to erect a library on the campus of Upper Iowa University in his name"
As someone who grew up 3 miles from Carnegie's birthplace, I'd love to say I agreed with this wholeheartedly. It's an old argument but the question remains. Were the means by which Carnegie accumulated his vast wealth justified, even if he eventually gave most of it away? Did his later actions, however sincere, atone for the brutality that he endorsed? This included the murder of striking steelworkers, injuries to hundreds of strikers by special agents, the employment of thousands of strikebreakers, involvement in speculations which resulted in the deaths of thousands more, and the appalling working conditions of 'his' workers. His Chartist Uncle Dod would surely have spun in his grave. It's no use arguing that he was just a man of his time, since, if brutality and callousness were the exchange values of efficiency and wealth, his was the most profligate. It may also be true that much of the indignities and abuses suffered by Pennsylvanians in his name were executed second-hand. Still, he presided over them and sanctioned many of the actions. We should not deny the immense good that he did the world in the later years of his life. But we should be wary of bandying about the word 'Great' when we speak about Carnegie, unless we mean it in the way that Thomas Carlyle did, to mean the Napoleons, the Hitlers and the Stalins of this world. It would be wrong, when all is said and done, to compare him to them but if we say their greatness resided in the shaping of history without thought to consequences for others, he fits the description sufficiently. He may have had the philanthropic greatness of a Gaius Maecenas but let's not forget the other side.