(Seton Motley) – Hershey’s – the candy man — is a BIG business. Its May 2014 market cap was $23.26 billion.
And Hershey’s is very generous with government. Through the second quarter of last year, it had spent $8,332,000 on lobbying and $845,534 on candidates and elected officials. Those are sums no Mom & Pop Candy Shoppe can come close to matching.
Greasing the government to grant you special favors — or impose special impediments on your competitors — is crony socialism. It isn’t crony capitalism — because it has nothing to do with capitalism.
This anti-free market practice is best practiced by big businesses like Hershey’s. Small businesses don’t have the resources to bribe politicians — excuse me, contribute.
But campaign contributions aren’t the problem — huge government is. If the government wasn’t so gi-normous — and didn’t wield such a massive checkbook and regulatory hammer — just about all of the Crony Socialist donations would dry up and go away.
Lobbying isn’t the problem either. Lobbying to keep government off of you is constitutional redress of grievances. Lobbying to sic the government on others is anti-constitutional obnoxiousness.
And having huge government in your back pocket allows you to “negotiate” private sector “agreements” you otherwise would never, ever get. If they know you can unleash the Leviathan — you rarely have to unleash the Leviathan. Having a Big Brother means almost never actually getting into a fight.
So when we read Big Candy Hershey did this:
After a Deal, British Chocolates Won’t Cross the Pond
We have to wonder how free both sides were to “deal.” When is an agreement actually an acquiescence? A capitulation? After all, Let’s Buy British Imports (LBB) — the other side of this “deal” — ain’t anywhere near Hershey’s King Size.
Jeff Beckman, a representative for Hershey’s, said L.B.B. and others were importing products not intended for sale in the United States.
Says who? Why can’t they be intended for sale here? Because Hershey’s says so? In fact, they were sold here — for quite a while.
Another retailer of British goods, who wished to remain anonymous because she feared reprisal from Hershey’s, said she imagined she would go out of business soon.
“Cadbury’s is about half of my business,” she said, while eating leftover Cadbury’s Christmas chocolate, “and more than that at Christmas. I don’t know how we’ll survive.”
What problem does Hershey claim exists?
L.B.B. agreed this week to stop importing all Cadbury’s chocolate made overseas. The company also agreed to halt imports on KitKat bars made in Britain; Toffee Crisps, which, because of their orange packaging, and yellow-lined brown script, too closely resemble Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups; Yorkie chocolate bars, which infringe on the York peppermint patty; and … Maltesers…
Jeff Beckman, a representative for Hershey’s, said L.B.B. and others were … infringing on its trademark and trade dress licensing. For example, Hershey’s has a licensing agreement to manufacture Cadbury’s chocolate in the United States with similar packaging used overseas, though with a different recipe.
The Cadbury licensing agreement I get. If Hershey’s cut a deal to be the U.S. manufacturer — albeit with different recipes — that’s the deal. Though, again, they are the Candy Titans — and can cut “deals” most others can’t.
And British and U.S. KitKat are nearly identical in content and presentation. Get that too.
But orange and yellow packaging? The British bar in said wrapping is the Toffee Crisp – Hershey’s the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. At some point, caveat emptor has to reign. The fact that the names of the bars, not to mention the ingredients, are totally different should be more than enough.
The British Yorkie isn’t peppermint — Hershey’s York Peppermint Pattie is. I’d be more concerned with the Old Country’s version if I were the American Kennel Club.
Maltesers are chocolate malt balls — a competitor to Hershey’s Whoppers. Maltesers have no packaging or name similarities — it’s just a Hershey’s Whopper competitor. And thus it too is blocked.
Free markets are great. Free trade is great.
This is neither, and it is lousy.
Seton Motley is the founder and president of Less Government. Please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@SetonMotley) and Facebook. It’s his kind of stalking. This column was originally published in the Daily Caller on January 28, 2015.