Andrew Carnegie: The Law of Competition

(Carnegie, Andrew * Dunfermline 25. 11. 1835, + Lenox (Mass.) 11. 8. 1919, amerikan. Industrieller schott. Herkunft. Kam 1848 in die USA; erwarb sich in der Stahl-Ind. ein großes Vermögen, das er in Stiftungen anlegte, u. a. 1910 das Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, eine Stiftung zur Friedenssicherung und zur Völkerverständigung)

The price which society pays for the law of competition, like the price it pays for cheap comforts and luxuries, is also great; but the advantages of this law are also greater still, for it is to this law that we owe our wonderful material development, which brings improved conditions in its train. But, whether the law be benign or not, we must say of it, as we say in change in the conditions of men to which we have referred: It is here; we cannot evade it; no substitutes for it have been found; and while the law may sometimes be hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department. We accept and welcome, therefore, as conditions to which we must accommodate ourselves, great inequality of environment, the concentration of business, industrial and commercial, in the hands of a few, and the law of competition between these, as being not only beneficial, but essential for the future progress of the race. Objections to the foundations upon which society is based are not in order, because the condition of the race is better with these than it has been with any others which have been tried. Of the effect of any new substitutes we cannot be sure. The Socialist or Anarchist who seeks to overturn present conditions is to be regarded as attacking the foundation upon which civilization itself rests, for civilization took its start from the day that the capable, industrious workman said to his incompetent and lazy fellow, "if thou dost not sow, thou shalt not reap", and thus ended primitive Communism by separating the drones from the bees. One who studies this subject will soon be brought face to face with the conclusion that upon the sacredness of property civilization itself depends - the right of the laborer to his hundred dollars in the savings bank, and equally the right of the millionaire to his millions. To those who propose to substitute Communism for this intense Individualism the answer, therefore, is: The race has tried that. All progress from that barbarous day to the present time has resulted from its displacement. Not evil, but good, has come to the race from the accumulation of wealth by those who have the ability and energy that produce it.


Carnegie: "The law of Competition", Pros and Cons

In his text "The Law of Competition" A.C. points out that we owe our "wonderful material developement" to the principle that only the fittest will survive. However, what he forgets is that this applies only to the happy few people who live in so called developed countries. Here is where the accumulation of wealth takes place on the one hand and the concentration of political power on the other. But thinking about money day and night doesn't make you happy necessarily. Along with it there is a tendency that spiritual values, emotions, and even philosophical questions are being constantly neglected. What Carnegie calls the "Survival of the fittest" turns out to be a merciless competition at all levels of society, a "rat-race" for survival. He speaks of eliminating the drones and selecting the bees. But what does occupy his mind really? It is his contempt for the poor, underprivileged, weaker members of the society, in one word: his contempt of the underdogs. These are the ones - in his view - who ought to be eliminated, not to say extinguished or exterminated. Man is a social being and what positively is coined "intense individualism" develops to egoism, excessive ambition and unscrupulous ruthlessness. Should one not be concerned about this advancement of dangerous traits and condemn it?

The supporters of Carnegie's line of thought might say that productive energy and ability are fostered by competition. But isn't this simply a view which focuses only on the GNP as the most important thing in life? What they seem to forget is that creativity, leisure, and - yes - simple fun makes our life worth to live. These values are indispensable.

They say: "Concentration of business is necessary." Yes, but it is accompanied with the concentration of political power.Once it's impossible to control political leaders democracy is at stake. History has taught us bitterly that without the control of power in the hands of a few millions of lives will be risked.

They also hold the view that it is quite natural for humans not to be equal. Of course. But this idea means that we have the moral task to improve the chances and eliminate injustices.

And finally, when there is no other argument left for them to put forward, the supporters of Carnegie's ideas help themselves with the worn notion of "civilisation", or "progress" which the "Law of Competition" is allegedly strongly connected with. Lets take a look at "civilisation", or "progress": A planet made almost uninhabitable for future generation, pollution everywhere, a defective ozone layer, which e. g. makes it necessary for the Australians to find out from the daily newspaper how many minutes they can leave the sunshine on their skin.

Nobody doubts that there is a serious alternative to capitalist thinking. Yet, this doesn't allow us not to continue our search for a socially balanced, pluralistic and tolerant society.