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Made You Think

Jul 17, 2018

“Of every thousand dollars spent in so-called charity today, it is probable that $950 is unwisely spent, so spent indeed as to produce the very evils which it proposes to mitigate or cure.”

In this episode of Made You Think, Neil and Nat discuss The Gospel of Wealth by Andrew Carnegie. An essay written later in Carnegie’s life on his philosophy on using money, wealth (and the power that comes with it) well. While still very relevant today it goes against the idea that successful business people are bad people. It’s a model for how wealthy people should use their money for the good of the community.

"The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced."

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Billionaires through the ages
  • Monopolies and antitrust laws
  • Ways of disposing of wealth (including our Patreon page)
  • Tangents on life expectancy, intergalactic travel and cyborg pets!
  • Carnegie’s legacy of libraries, music halls and universities
  • Using wealth to enrich the lives of others
  • How to help others and effective altruism

And so much more! Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of The Gospel of Wealth by Andrew Carnegie

You can also listen on Google Play Music, SoundCloud, YouTube, or in any other podcasting app by searching “Made You Think.”

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to check out our episode on The Psychology of Human Misjudgements by Charlie Munger to uncover your mental biases and Skin In The Game by Nassim Taleb for more on responsibility and reciprocity.

Be sure to join our mailing list to find out about what books are coming up, giveaways we’re running, special events, and more.

Links from the Episode

Mentioned in the show

Books mentioned

People mentioned

Show Topics

00:14 – This episode has been planned since April, however other books and travel got in the way. So we pushed it on so we could record a good episode for us. Carnegie’s still here and relevant whenever we do the episode.

00:46 – Background on the book, written as an essay later in life. Covers his philosophy of wealth, based on his experience of getting more money and power as he got older.

01:25 – Historical context for the book, how the era it was written in was one of the first periods where it was possible to amass such wealth as an individual business man.

01:36 – Excess of money as a new problem to be solved. Posing the question - How do we use it well?

01:50 – Converting Carnegie’s wealth in today’s dollars and how far beyond current wealth it still is today. Comparing wealthy figures from the past like Rockefeller, Mellon, J.P Morgan and Vanderbilt with the likes of Jeff Bezos today.

02:55 – Monopoly laws, levels of wealth and disparity between the business owner and the second layer of workers within the company.  Microsoft, Google and their worth.

03:52 – Relevance of the advice Carnegie gives today. Going against the idea of super successful business people as inherently bad people. He says that people should be able to gain heights of success and then they can do good things with their wealth.

04:21 – Carnegie’s model of distributing wealth for good acts. He also followed these rules using his own money. This essay was a call to arms to voluntarily use wealth wisely.

04:56 – Warren Buffett and The Giving Pledge. Carnegie wanted to convince others but also rehabilitate his own image following strikes by his workers. Carnegie’s biography contained context to this essay. He originally saw himself as a self-made man however he realized that during the strikes at his own companies that he had lost his connection with the poor.

05:48 – He described the issues with amassing wealth as ‘the problem of his age’. First national corporations, the catalysts of the railroad creating a transformational era.

07:00 – Lack of social safety nets during Carnegie’s era which created freedom to build runaway success. Levels of wealth, tribal equality through poverty.

08:20 – He poses the question - is inequality a bad thing? Or are we all better off today? Irregularity of income is better than universal squalor. Garden of Eden concept.

"The good old times, were not good old times. Neither master nor servant was as well situated then as today."

10:49 – Acceptable levels of inequality. Monopolies in technology today, Google, Yahoo, AT&T and the dismantling of corporations. Antitrust lawsuits impacting on the innovation of Microsoft. Apple, iPhones and the ‘non-corporate’ design of their devices. Breaking up Google and Facebook in smaller companies.

17:34 – Competition in business and the improvements it brings. Lowering prices caused by competition. Amazon as hyper-efficient. Removing bloat from traditional businesses. Costco and their own brand product range passing cost benefits on to the consumer.

24:04 – Revival of independent bookstores, clearing the playing field for those that can deliver true value. Competition forest-fire analogy. Podcast themes and common topics.

25:36 – Join our Patreon to get book notes, bonus audio, upcoming book info.

26:19 – Ways of administering wealth when it’s in the hands of the few. Three modes - Inheritance, Government or use it yourself. Bad impact on society when generational wealth is handed down or wasted when given to government.

31:30 – Darwinism, Evolution. Financial competence of government officials. Dictatorships vs democracies.

35:46 – Tangent. Opting out of social security, skin in the game problem. Young vs Old and who benefits most. Biological limiters for aging, extension of life expectancy. Intergalactic space travel and cyborg Pepper.

40:52 – Lump sums of money making the most difference. Small monetary gains don’t change the individual but collectively that could benefit the community. Libraries and universities as great uses for wealth. Books as a way of speaking to great people throughout history.

43:30 – Carnegie family and descendants. Priorities in wealth building. Unostentatious living followed by surplus revenues given to the community. By building wealth you are better placed to distribute it wisely.

45:29 – Modern community benefits, Internet access as equivalent to libraries. University education as accessible knowledge. Language learning simplified by technology. Impact on exposing tribes to technology.

49:10 – Bill Gates, philanthropy as a legacy. Effective altruism. Charity organizations and the second order effects of disrupting economies.

56:13 – Book on second-order effect follies. Medium blog posts, psychological fallacies. Gorilla tests and inattentional blindness.

59:51 – Flat earth theory, getting angry on the Internet. Climate change denial, ice wall theory. Strongman arguments.

01:02:26 – Sphinx, aquatic ape theory, Polynesian Islands and travel within our galaxy. Communication and sustaining life in space.

01:07:53 – Carnegie suggested that the goal of being wealthy should be to enrich the lives of others. Helping those that help themselves first. Compound effect of aiding those who are motivated to improve. Dangers of charity.

"Neither the individual nor the race is improved by almsgiving those worthy of assistance except in rare cases seldom require assistance."

01:09:56 – How to help those that won’t help themselves? Tune in next week! Nat the cannibal. Kanye West episode, positive role models in society.

01:12:27 – Dying rich means dying disgraced. Wealth is like a trust fund that should be used for the betterment of society.

01:14:01 – So if you enjoyed this episode, definitely check us out on Patreon. It's a good way to use your wealth. It gets you access to discussions for these episodes, the book notes, show notes, what is coming up and any bonus material we record before or after the episode.

Leave us a review on iTunes that just helps more people find the show.

Tweet us, we love hearing from you guys. I'm @NatEliason and I'm @TheRealNeilS. Send book recommendations, what you think about the show, feedback.

01:17:31 – You can always also go to We've got some show supporting sponsors there that'll give you discounts that give us a little kick back at no cost to you.

We will see you all next week where we will continue some of the themes that we discussed today. Join Patreon if you want to know what that is ahead of time so you can read the book before then. Cheers everyone. See you next time.

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