Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Free Advice from a Dead Millionaire

Andrew Carnegie, the 19th-Century robber baron, generously endowed the St. Louis Public Library, and for his philanthropy the library graced the back entrance with his words. Nobody goes in this door anymore, if they ever did, so few people ever stop to read what he had to say concerning his bibliomanic fervor. For what it's worth, here are Carnegie's overlooked words, which adhere to the same social Darwinism by which he rationalized his greed:

"I chose free libraries as the best agencies for improving the masses of the people because they only help those who help themselves, they never pauperize. A taste for reading draws out lower tastes."

Across the street from Carnegie's words, on the sidewalk adjacent to Lucas Park, the homeless queue up, as they do every noontime, to help themselves to a taste of free gruel doled out from the back of a pickup truck.