Thrift, 1909

Andrew Carnegie


Subjects: Teaching thrift, Thrift Collection, Curricula, What is thrift?

More by: Andrew Carnegie

The Socialistic system, as we shall see, does not harmonise with our present home and family relations, which many of us treasure, for their holy and ennobling influence upon human life, as the most precious of all institutions.

We find it also attacks or belittles one of the virtues which, as we believe, lie at the root of the progress of our race, that of Thrift.

Most men and women are born to poverty. Comparatively few are provided for and free to spend lives of ease. The vast majority must work to live. Fortunately for himself, in all probability Keir Hardie is no exception. If he had been one of the few born to competence, he might never have attained eminence through service to his fellows. In his booklet in the “Labor Ideal” series (p. 38) after writing that the Sermon on the Mount is full of the spirit of pure Socialism, he continues, “Nay, in its lofty contempt for thrift and forethought, it goes far in advance of anything ever put forward by any Communist, ancient or modern.”

Thrift cannot commend itself to the true Socialist, who forbids private capital, but the story of the talent hid in the ground inculcates the duty of man not only to guard his capital but to increase it, and we are told that “he that provides not for those of his own house hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.”

Proper provision certainly requires a reserve fund for contingencies. If we were to divide the vast army of workers of mature age into two classes, the savers and the spendthrifts, we should practically separate the creditable from the discreditable, the exemplary from the pitiable, the progressive from the backsliders, the sober from the intemperate. A visit to their respective homes would confirm this classification. The thrifty would be found not only the best workmen, and foremost in the shop, but the best citizens and the best husbands and fathers, the leaders and exemplars of their fellows. Many are those who have risen from the ranks of manual labor and achieved reputation for useful work performed for the community, and been held in general esteem as model citizens. Much good have they accomplished for their fellows. That they were thrifty, thoughtful men goes without saying. They could not otherwise have risen. If the workmen depositors in savings banks, members of friendly and of building societies, cooperative stores, and similar organisations were to march in procession, preceded by the workmen who are not, spectators would take heart again after their depression from seeing the first. If the workmen who own their homes were to march and be followed by those who do not, the contrast in appearance would be striking.

Apply to the masses of men any of the tests that indicate success or failure in life, progress or stagnation, valuable or worthless citizenship and none will more clearly than that of thrift separate the well-behaved, respected and useful from the unsatisfactory members of society.

The writer lived his early years among workmen and his later years as an employer of labor, and it is incomprehensible to him how any informed man, having at heart the elevation of manual laboring men, could fail to place upon the habit of thrift the highest value, second only to that of temperance, without which no honorable career is possible, for against intemperance no combination of good qualities can prevail. Temperance and thrift are virtues which act and react upon each other, strengthening both, and are seldom found apart.

The pure, elevating, happy home with wife and children is the product of both. When some part of the weekly earnings is not saved all is not as well with that home as could be wished.

Available online at: Source: Carnegie, Andrew. Problems of To-day: Wealth, Labor, Socialism (New York: Doubleday, Page, & Co., 1908): 97-100.


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