J and R were advancing the virtues of philanthropy and of giving a substantial portion of one’s earnings to the needy. They went too far into that idea for my taste, and I brought up the idea that giving often results in demotivating people from taking care of themselves, perhaps even trying to take care of themselves. I asserted that one can spend their money more profitably by offering opportunities to those who are in need in such a way that they can help themselves. That Andrew Carnegie was probably on the right track when he said, “It would be better if ninety-five percent of charity were thrown into the sea.” This met with a heartfelt disapproval from my friends.
I looked this up, and here is the full quote from his book “The Gospel of Wealth,”
“Those who would administer [charity] wisely must, indeed, be wise, for one of the serious obstacles to the improvement of our race is indiscriminate charity. It were better for mankind that the millions of the rich were thrown into the sea than spent to encourage the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy. Of every thousand dollars spent in so-called charity today, it is probable that nine hundred and fifty dollars is unwisely spent – so spent, indeed, as to produce the very evils which it hopes to mitigate or cure.”
The old proverb about charity came to mind, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” True, the old fisherman said to his son, but if I followed that advice that hungry man would fish out our fishing grounds, and my children would starve. What do you want me to do?
Another Carnegie quote, “People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.” The implication here is that you may hire this person to work for you, but they must be motivated by external means, and as Machiavelli says, “The love of others for you is under their control, but their fear of you is under your control.” Most people work for money and then get into debt because they spend more money than they possess, but if they are working they do have credit and use it to buy beyond what they actually have. Thus, they put themselves into the position of being punished by having those things they possess, being taken away from them because do not them own outright. They must be motivated by external pain or the threat of it.
Carnegie gave much of his fortune to create public libraries, so those who were willing to learn would have access to information, knowledge, and wisdom.
My friends and I then got into an extended conversation on the difference between motivation and inspiration. In part, that came down to the carrot and the stick. The carrot was the inspiration to do something, and the stick was motivation to keep one working on the job. There was also the idea that motivation means to get something one wants that is known, and inspiration means to seek after something that is desirable but does not yet exist.
A good conversation is where everyone can take away something they can use.