A University for the People becomes an Apple Store

During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I worked near the Carnegie Library, dedicated in 1903 as “A University for the People” and engraved with the names of authors such as Shakespeare and Plato. Today it is a place for people who prefer to read Facebook posts on their iPhones…

In my own Facebook post at the time of encountering this mixture of private philanthropy, government administration, and conspicuous consumption, I wrote

it is a shame that the Republicans who control the DC local government could not resist becoming stooges for Corporate America.

Are the minds of District residents being elevated by this repurposed temple to reading? Here’s a sticker from a nearby lamppost:

(I saw these in multiple location around the city; see also https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2019/07/01/resist-permanently-on-a-d-c-public-sidewalk/)

Who is excited to order an iPhone 11?

Also, from the nearby Smithsonian American Art Museum, a 1905 portrait of Andrew Carnegie:


  • https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2007/03/03/andrew-carnegie/ Carnegie was the Bill Gates of his day. Carnegie became the richest man in the world through a combination of intelligence, hard work at an early age, a certain amount of what we today would regard as illegal insider trading, and connections. Once he was the richest guy in the world, everyone listened to everything he said very carefully. He looked around and decided that the greatest evil facing the world was war. War did not provide who was right, only who was stronger. After concluding that he was, in addition to being the richest guy in the world, probably one of the smartest, he invested much of his money and most of his energy in achieving peace among nations. Folks such as Teddy Roosevelt privately thought that he was an old fool, but nobody would say it to his face. Carnegie pushed for peace and mediation among nations and spent four of the last five years of his life watching World War I sweep through Europe. [The analogy with Bill Gates is that, after becoming both the richest and smartest guy in the world, he decided that he could solve the problems of poverty and disease in Africa that had defied attempts by the world’s biggest governments and NGOs.]

One thought on “A University for the People becomes an Apple Store

  1. Carnegie also endowed an actual university, my dad is an alumnus.

    It seems malaria could be eradicated by 2050 for about $2B/year, using gene drives to eradicate mosquitoes (one species extinction no one would mind) and new medicines that make human blood toxic for mosquitoes and the plasmodium. This is well within the capabilities of the Gates Foundation, and if he did fund it, he would join the ranks of humanity’s greatest benefactors.

    As for governments and NGOs, the less said about their corruption and self-dealing, the better. That said, the progress in fighting poverty in the last 20 years has been nothing short of spectacular.

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