Should I choose Carnegie Mellon or Vanderbilt

USA aspects

In his autobiography, Mark Twain reports that he was ripped off on a business deal, but, as he knows, not because of the other's “business ability”, but because of his own “business failure.” The other, convinced of his outstanding business spirit, leaves with the Wall Street win, “Head full of shabby and dazzling dreams - get rich quick dreams; Dreams that can be realized by virtue of the business ability of the dreaming and the business inability of his counterpart. "

The episode takes place in the time of the 'Gilded Age', so called by Twain, during the last three decades of the 19th century, in which the immense wealth of the nouveau riche after the civil war 'gilded' their lives and concealed their social problems. It was the time of the so-called 'Robber Barons.' Their critics, including Twain, gave them this name because they believed that these robber barons did not earn their fortune through hard, honest work, but immorally ' had robbed '. Not only was the foundation stone laid for the immense fortunes of some American families - names such as Astor, Carnegie, Mellon, Morgan, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt are still known today - but business strategies were used that have since fallen into disrepute as radical capitalist measures are, but are by no means extinct to this day. These included the control of national raw materials achieved through government influence, the acquisition of monopolies and the manipulation of shares to eliminate competition and, last but not least, the payment of extremely low wages, which meant immense exploitation of the labor force.

For Twain, Jay Gould was a particularly dangerous proponent of this kind of capitalist. Gould was active in the banking business, became the owner of several railway companies, which he plundered through various stock manipulations, and after his death (1892) left about seventy-two million dollars. It “was the greatest catastrophe that has ever struck this country. Even before his time, the people wanted money, but he taught them to kneel in front of it. The people had respected wealthy people before Jay Gould, but with that respect came the respect due to the character and diligence that had amassed wealth. Now Jay Gould taught the entire nation to idolize money and people, however the money was acquired. ”Mark Twain, a critical observer of American society, witnesses a historical upheaval. During his lifetime, the old United States' honest, hard-working value system that had been in place for a hundred years since its inception collapses. A new system of values ​​takes its place, embodied in the “Gospel that Jay Gould left behind. His message is, 'Get some money. Get it quickly. Get it in abundance. Get it yourself in huge abundance. Get it dishonestly if you can; honest if you have to. ”The cynicism of this advice has been put into practice by people like Gould and William Tweed, another leading robber baron, by not shrinking from corruption in the railroad and stock business. The real scandal, however, is not that some individuals, then and still today, acquire great wealth, influence and power through immoral machinations. It is that society in general is only too willing to pay these individuals an admiration equivalent to "worshiping money or its owner." With clairvoyant foresight, Twain recognized: "This gospel (of Jay Gould) has, it seems, almost universal validity."

Criticism of capitalism has existed and been abundant since Mark Twain. Nevertheless, a large part of the world, especially the United States as a pioneer, and in its wake also Europe, has decided to make capitalism the central principle of their economy. However, it can be said that the principle of capitalism is applied differently in different countries.

In the founding document of the USA, the Declaration of Independence of 1776, the following “truths” are postulated as “self-evident”, i.e. as self-evident and obvious truths: “that all people are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights by their creator are that among these are life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. ”The principle of equality and its interpretation are of central importance. In view of the blatant gap between rich and poor, which has divided American society in recent decades, the question arises whether the ideal of equality has not completely disappeared here. Is this society really a society of equals? A society in which one percent of the upper class owns 35 percent of the national wealth, the next 19 percent 50 percent. So while 20 percent of the wealthy own 85 percent of the total wealth and the other 85 percent have a share of only 15 percent (figures from 2007, Congressional Budget Office), it is difficult to speak of equality. It is all the more astonishing that this state of affairs is even provocatively justified by Tom Perkins, one of the infinitely rich. In his view, the rich have to get richer in order to create jobs for the socially disadvantaged. In return from the state, he demands more power for the rich through new legislation in which the right to vote is tied to the amount of the tax: “Whoever pays a million taxes should also get a million votes.” This demand was made by the general public ridiculed as a crazy idea of ​​a cynical eccentric. But one can assume that, if not to the extent, but still in the direction, this demand finds a secret response from his rich friends. It is a pity that Mark Twain can no longer comment on all of this.

The fact that the inequality of the distribution of wealth does not lead to an uproar is due to a specifically American basic conviction: the nation sees the greatest value in the ideal of freedom. The ideal of equality must take a back seat to the ideal of freedom. It is true that one recognizes that all human beings were created equal by the Creator. That is, the starting point is the same for everyone. But that doesn't mean that everyone stays the same. People are individuals with different characters, qualifications and motivations. What they do with these characteristics is their own personal responsibility. Success or failure is the result of personal life. State or society would not be held accountable. The only thing that is expected of the state is that it guarantees and protects the freedom that enables the individual to pursue his 'American dream' of happiness unhindered. The American conviction is that this is only possible in an unrestrained free market.

For years, especially since Barak Obama's inauguration, a mood of unease about the existing conditions has developed. The fact that the wealth of the upper class has grown astronomically, and that the financial situation of the middle class has not improved at all despite increased efforts, has become all too visible and palpable. Vice President Joe Biden illustrated this with his personal experience. When he was elected to the Senate in 1972, a CEO made about 25 times more than the lowest paid employee. Today he earns 240 times more. It is also complained that corporations receive tax breaks from the state, but that their priority is the profit of the shareholders at the expense of the employees.

President Obama has clearly recognized the imbalance. He never misses an opportunity to denounce inequity, the blatant inequality in the distribution of wealth. His opponents, the Republicans, accuse him of fueling the class struggle, a totally un-American phenomenon, and of pursuing socialist tendencies. The 'socialist' measures that Obama and his Democratic Party are fighting for include, for example, raising the state minimum wage from $ 7.25 to $ 10.10. In addition, he calls for equal pay for equal work and thus also the equality of women's and men's work. His biggest project was the introduction of compulsory health insurance. It is and remains controversial, especially since there were many technical problems with the applications, and will certainly be used as a weapon by the Republicans in the upcoming elections.

The American motto "Everyone is on their own, is responsible for realizing their dream of happiness through diligence and hard work" is still alive. But given today's conditions, doubts have crept in. Hard work alone no longer leads to success. The impression is increasingly gaining ground that in the age of new technologies and globally operating corporations, individuals are no longer able to work their way up through diligence and intelligence alone, as in earlier times. The counter-evidence is overwhelming. The question remains as to whether this situation should not give rise to the idea of ​​solidarity, born from the knowledge that individual rights can only be fought for in a community with others.

In February 2014, the German Volkswagen group gave its employees at the plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the chance to organize themselves in a union and to implement the German model of works council and codetermination. The efforts and intrigues of the combined republican forces of governor, senator and mayor succeeded in frightening the workers with false announcements. If they decided to form the union, VW would build a planned model instead of Chattanooga, Mexico - which VW denied. They also threatened to withdraw certain state benefits for the VW plant. The election result turned out accordingly. The majority decided against the establishment of a union.

One must assume: it will take a while before American society will get used to a more solidarity working world.

By the way: after thirty-five years, Twain met the man again, with whom he had lost out on business and who went to Wall Street with his winnings. He met him on Broadway, where he borrowed twenty-five cents from Twain as a "ragged and ragged tramp". "Probably to buy some schnapps."

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