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After Collision Course and Merchants of Heroin, Moscow was drawn to the Rockefellers, he avers, as a ""positive"" subject. The term smacks of Ovaltine and Ivy Lee--of the bland and salubrious promoted by suave public relations, Lee's forte--and signals the book's basic defect, a boosterism so naive as to equate intent with effect. Chronicled in detail are the exploits of founder John D., whose ""penchant for efficiency""--in Moscow's formulation--led him to merge competing refineries into Standard Oil (rather than ruin them) and produce all the firm's needs (rather than pay outside suppliers); Of philanthropist-heir John Jr., who undertook to disburse the resulting fortune in a businesslike manner, first via personal initiative and direct support, then through the professionally-staffed, precedent-setting Rockefeller Foundation; and of the five benefactor-brothers, each with his own interests--austere John 3rd's in planned parenthood and Far Eastern art; ebullient Nelson's in tribal art, politics, and Latin American development; ironic Laurance's in new technology and conservation; odd-man-out Winthrop's in the state of Arkansas; whiz-kid David's in model real-estate development. But even for Moscow, busy ticking off achievements, certain inauspicious episodes obtrude, from tycoon John D.'s extraction of rebates from railroads (""competing refineries cried unfair competition"") to governor Nelson's inaction at Attica--only to evoke a reference, in most cases, to the clear Rockefeller conscience. (The one exception is John Jr.'s dismay at the 1913 Ludlow mine ""massacre""--and this persnickety Rockefeller is the most sympathetic of the lot.) More seriously detrimental to the book's purposes is Moscow's indiscriminate, uninformed endorsement of every Rockefeller benefaction. You won't learn here, for instance, that Colonial Williamsburg, John Jr.'s pet project, is widely considered the Disneyland of historical reconstructions or that the I.U.D., outgrowth of John 3rd's devotion to planned parenthood, has proven unsafe for many users. What the book does, unwittingly, is to question the workings of uncontrolled largesse--in addition to providing the Rockefellers with one of the world's most extensive resumÉs.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1977
Publisher: Doubleday