THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

The Great American Chocolate Philanthropist

It is impossible to say anything about chocolate and America without mentioning the Hershey Company of Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Milton Snavely Hershey founded the Lancaster Caramel Company in 1883, having failed at three previous attempts to establish confectionaries in different cities across the country.  Although successful in caramel production, he became fascinated with chocolate after seeing modern chocolate making machinery at the Chicago Exposition in 1893.


Milton Hershey

In 1896, Hershey built a milk-processing plant so he could create and refine a recipe for his milk chocolate candies.  In 1899, he developed the Hershey process, which is less sensitive to milk quality than traditional methods.  In 1900, he sold his caramel business for a million dollars to concentrate on chocolate.  When anyone asked him why, he said, “Caramels are just a fad, but chocolate is a permanent thing.”  He then began manufacturing Hershey Milk Chocolate Bars, “the Hershey Bar.”

Hershey selected the town of Derry Church, Pennsylvania — today known as Hershey — as the site for a new factory.  In 1907, Hershey introduced the Hershey Kiss, so called as “kiss” was a common name for small pieces of candy at the time.  Some dispute this, claiming that it came from the sound made by the extruding machinery when producing the candy.

Today, Hershey products are sold in sixty countries.  It has instituted modern labor management systems and is a member of the World Cocoa Foundation.


Perhaps there is something about being a chocolate manufacturer that inclines people to charity and philanthropy.  The factory had no windows so that workers would not be distracted, but like George Cadbury in England, Hershey wanted to provide the best possible living environment for the workers.

After he selected Derry Church as the site for his factory, he undertook a privately funded “urban renewal” project.  Trees were planted along streets, and new houses, public transportation, and public schools were built.  In 1907, he opened what would become known as Hershey Park and in 1915 he established the country’s largest free, private zoo.  During the Great Depression of 1930 to 1940, he built the Hershey Hotel, a community building, sports arena, community theater, and a high school.

George Cadbury


In 1935, Hershey gave $100,000 to the town’s churches for direct poor relief.  That was also the year he established the M.S. Hershey Foundation, to support local educational and cultural charities.  The foundation’s first major project was Hershey Gardens, a botanical garden completed in 1942.  The foundation also built and managed the Hershey Theater, the Hershey Community Archives, and a museum celebrating Milton Hershey’s legacy.

Perhaps Hershey’s greatest accomplishment apart from the company itself, however, was his orphanage.  In 1909 Milton Hershey and his wife Catherine established a trust for the Hershey Industrial School.  In November 1918 Hershey placed all his Hershey Chocolate Company shares into the trust for the exclusive benefit of the school.

Hershey did not make his gift known until 1923 when he gave an interview to the New York Times.  As he told the reporter, “I am 66 years old and do not need much money.  I have no heirs, so I have decided to make the orphan boys of the United States my heirs.”  Possibly influenced by the educational ideas of Gustav Stickley, Hershey said his Industrial School would provide “a thorough common school education, supplemented by instruction in the useful crafts” such as blacksmithing, farming, and the “rudiments of electrical work.”


Robert Maynard Hutchins

Anticipating Robert Maynard Hutchins of the University of Chicago a generation later, Hershey suggested not everyone needed an expensive college degree to be gainfully employed.  As he said, “We do not intend to turn out a race of professors.”  Still, like Hutchins who criticized the use of universities as vocational centers, Hershey noted that boys “of special promise” would be prepared for higher education.  “The thing that a poor boy needs is knowledge of a trade, a way to make a living.  We will provide him with the groundwork.  Of what use is Latin when a fellow has to hoe a patch or run a lathe?”

When Hershey died in 1945, he left little apart from his home and its furnishings.  He had given virtually everything else away during his lifetime.  As he once observed, “I never could see what happiness a rich man gets from contemplating a life of acquisition only, with a cold and legal distribution of his wealth after he passes away.”

Yes, chocolate manufacturers like Cadbury and Hershey were not merely generous, but magnificent in their philanthropy.  It takes nothing away from their accomplishments, it even adds to them, however, to point out that what they did was despite the system, not because of it.


In social justice terms, such individual efforts, laudable, even essential as they were and remain to meet immediate and individual needs, do not and cannot address the underlying problem in a socially just manner.  This is also the difficulty with such well-intentioned efforts as the Universal Basic Income and similar programs as well as other attempts to circumvent the market system instead of working to reform it which, even if they were administered and enforced fairly by competent officials, would still be grossly inadequate to correct the underlying systemic injustice.

That, in fact, is the modern “problem” of social justice, and is based on a profound misunderstanding of the virtue.  Social justice is not concerned with meeting individual needs, at least directly, or individual good.  Individual virtue is concerned with individual needs and goods.  Social virtue, especially social justice, is concerned with the system itself, not with individual good but the common good, that vast network of institutions within which human beings as persons and moral beings realize their individual goods.


Social justice is not a substitute for any individual virtue, not even on a vast scale.  If a fabulously wealthy Milton Hershey or a George Cadbury gave everyone on Earth a well-paying job and built them homes for which they were charged a fair rent, gave free education, healthcare, old age pensions and a candy bar every day, it would still not be social justice, but individual charity.

This is because social justice is something specifically social.  It is concerned not with providing individual goods at all.  Instead, the job of social justice is restructuring the social order, the common good, to make it possible for people to meet their own needs — realize their personal individual goods — becoming more fully human through their own efforts.

In this way people can develop as human beings and grow in virtue, that is, in “humanness.”  People cannot normally become virtuous if others always take care of them.  They can only become virtuous by doing things for themselves and taking responsibility for their own lives.  Social justice makes it possible for people to do this themselves.  It does not and cannot do it for them.