THE EMPERORS OF CHOCOLATE

INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF HERSHEY AND MARS

Former Washington Post reporter Brenner expands a simple assignment into an inviting visit to candy land, a place dominated by the legacies of two very different corporate dictators. The late Milton Hershey was, reportedly, benevolent and sweet as a Hershey’s Kiss; Forrest Mars Sr., obsessed with control and perfection, was not so sugary. Says Brenner: “where Milton Hershey saw utopia, Forrest Mars saw conquest.” Now their firms are locked in fierce competition for confectionery hegemony. It’s not for peanuts. The retail sales value of candy hit $28 billion last year, and Mars and Hershey together control three quarters of the candy rack. M&Ms by Mars produces more dollars than Camel cigarettes, and Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups outsell Ivory Soap. It’s a global industry, secretive and underreported (especially in the case of privately held Mars). Mars, where they taste dog food to ensure quality, is paranoid, and Hershey, to protect manufacturing techniques, no longer conducts factory tours. Well, how would you get an almond inside a Kiss? Brenner tells how. She tells how Reese’s Pieces became “E.T.’s favorite candy.” She tells how cocoa is transformed from pods in the tropics to Milky Ways in the supermarket and why chocolate tastes so good. And she describes the people whose life’s calling was and is to create cravings for candy. The 25 pounds of sweets Americans ingest each year provide wholesome energy, they say, never acne or tooth decay. The big rock candy mountains have grown and diversified. They sell pasta and dog food. Mars may earn as much from commodity futures trading as from candy sales. With this text, the industry will be a bit better understood by those who don’t read Confectioner magazine. Stock up on Godiva and Goo-Goo Bars and be entertained by this substantial report, without sugar coating, on a surefire topic. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-679-42190-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

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Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

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CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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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