A superb, quietly devastating environmental and business history.

CITIZEN COKE

THE MAKING OF COCA-COLA CAPITALISM

An eye-opening account of the “unmatched ecological appetite” behind Coca-Cola’s worldwide success.

In this deeply informed debut, Elmore (History/Univ. of Alabama) details the outsourcing strategy that he calls “Coca-Cola Capitalism,” which has allowed Coke to become the world’s top brand, with operations in more than 200 countries, at a huge cost to the environment and human health. Acknowledging the company’s marketing genius, Elmore claims that Coke’s real secret formula has been to rely on other people’s time and money, often using public infrastructure to extract raw materials and transport finished products. The strategy—first developed by mass marketers at the turn of the 20th century and later imitated by McDonald’s, large software firms and other corporations—eliminates upfront costs and risky investments. Since its founding in 1886, Coke has relied on partnerships for the sugar, caffeine, water, cans and bottles, and other raw materials needed to create its beverages (now selling more than 1.8 billion servings per day). Drawing on archival sources, the author devotes chapters to the ecological impact of each key Coke ingredient. At little cost, the company uses 79 billion gallons of public water supplies yearly to dilute Coke syrup and an estimated 8 trillion gallons to produce bottles and agricultural commodities. The company also has bottling operations in many arid world regions. Elmore describes how Coke has weathered supply disruptions and controversies regarding caffeine and sugar obtained from others and how its huge success during World War II paved the way for overseas expansion. In recent years, the company’s sugary beverages have been a major factor in the worldwide obesity epidemic. Without a doubt, Coke has been a good public citizen that stimulates economies and improves lives, writes the author, but the costs to taxpayers—for recycling systems, public pipes and subsidized farms—and the environment call into question how such unsustainable practices can continue in an age of scarcity.

A superb, quietly devastating environmental and business history.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-24112-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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