[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]
Well, this is rather fascinating: here we have a video of the Austrian businessman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who from 1997 until 2008 was CEO of Nestlé Group, one of the largest and most profitable corporations on the planet, talking rather frankly about the “shibboleth” that “nature is good,” about his frustration with his fellow Europeans who have this strange distaste for genetically modified foods (embracing the idea that “organic food is good,” which he considers entirely false), and about his conviction that everything on the planet–especially something like water–would be much managed much better if it could only be privately owned and have an appropriate price attached to it. The idea that access to water ought to be a human right he labels an “extreme” view.
This isn’t anything new to those who spend time listening to claims of the Davos-attending masters of our corporate-dominated governments and our world capitalist system, of course. After all, these are the job creators who are fighting global poverty and fending off the takers, don’t you know. And to be fair, probably any number of people will be quick to insist that he has a point, that efforts to protect natural resources through collective action or government policies have often failed, and so why not turn to the marketplace? After all, perhaps the massive explosion in the bottled water industry over the past 20 years doesn’t teach us a lesson about the power of advertising and the manufacturing of tastes–instead, maybe it just shows us the plain truth that there aren’t any truly public goods out there–only private ones which haven’t yet been appropriately capitalized upon yet. (The air we breathe, like the water we drink, will no doubt be next; Mel Brooks told us so.)
But on the other hand, there is a refreshing candor from Peter Brabeck-Letmathe; they don’t often come right out and tell you the truth.
You can pay your water bills assessed according to the reading on your water meter or you can accept administrative rationing. Not too many alternatives.
He said that water is a food stuff like any other. No, it’s far more. I believe him to be extreme and, I don’t like him. I’m not a fan of wither the bureaucratic government, or the bureaucratic corporation, but I am glad that there is an opposing side way up there.
Can somebody patent water, and then charge you for being made of it? That would be cool. From each according to their anatomy and all that . . .
Interesting thing is, food used to be free too. At some point, it became owned, and sold for a price. I agree with him, that water is like food, but I take it the other way: food, as much the stuff of life as water and air are, ought to be free as well, and they are all human rights.
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