Depraved Injustice and the Privatization of the Global Freshwater Commons

Of all our natural resources water has become the most precious. By far the greater part of the earth’s surface is covered by its enveloping seas, yet in the midst of this plenty we are in want. By a strange paradox, most of the earth’s abundant water is not usable for agriculture, industry, or human consumption because of its heavy load of sea salts, and so most of the world’s population is either experiencing or is threatened with critical shortages.

– Rachel Carson

Around the world, scarcity of potable water is becoming a portentous matter. Admonishing phrases like “water is the next oil,” and “wells are running dry” have percolated their way into the collective lexicon of global issues. Rivers and streams are vanishing, and the desiccation and depletion of entire watersheds and aquifers is increasing the world over. Desperately seeking a reason for the withering away of drinkable water and the silencing of gushing streams, it becomes obvious that there is not one sole factor contributing to this dire situation, but many. Global warming and climate change, industrial modes of production, dam construction, and water privatization all conduce to the problem of water scarcity.

The supply of freshwater on this planet is only 2.5 percent of the world’s total water. Considering the amount that is frozen up in ice and snow, roughly one percent is left for human use. Water consumption has grown twice as fast as the world’s population.

We are often told that we’ve exceeded our carrying capacity here on Earth (or are arriving at that calamitous denouement of the story of civilization in no time soon), and water – a finite resource – is being exacerbated at an alarming rate in tandem to population growth. It is very true that we’ve reached our carrying capacity, this planet cannot healthily sustain so many people living in current arrangements; it cannot support our lifestyle. But anyone who has closely studied the conflation of civilization, agriculture, and Capitalism understand well that human population booms are endemic to the aforementioned social formula. And in all honesty, to blame the problem of water scarcity upon an increasing global population is sneaky as hell. Ninety percent of human water use is for industrial purposes – 70 percent being used exclusively for large-scale agriculture and factory farming. If the dominant economic mode were to shift gears, to one that wasn’t defined globally, and predicated upon the funneling of resources to the producer rather than the community, the availability of water would be much different. If community-scale projects and strict environmental protection policies were implemented to define our economic behavior, then I’m pretty sure billions of people would not be facing such dire water related plights. However, in a world where market theory has greatly influenced the dominant praxis of economic intercourse, the privatization of the planet’s water has been pitched as the panacea that will solve our troubles.

Such pernicious tropes like “blue gold” used to describe water have motivated many corporations to privatize water with much alacrity. Here in Vermont I quickly got wind of the contentions surrounding the privatization and commercialization of water. Like sprouting cowslips that push their way through marshy soils in the springtime, private water-bottling operations were popping up left and right along Vermont’s pristine springs. These enterprises have set up shop with the intent to siphon the state’s fresh water from age-old springs and commercialize it.

There was the New Jersey resident, East Montpelier landowner, and chief executive officer of Montpelier Spring Water Company, Daniel Antonovich, who initially pitched forward the Montpelier Spring Water Company in May of 2007 to the East Montpelier Selectboard.

Antonovich envisions constructing a subterranean pipeline that will transport the water over several miles from the East Montpelier site to a bottling factory (yet to be erected) alongside U.S. Highway 2 in Montpelier, where the water will then be bottled, capped – ready for shipment, and consigned to its mercantile fate.

Following the proposal, many citizens became skeptical and concerned that the Montpelier Spring Water Co. could follow suit of other companies and someday sell out to a larger corporation that would aggrandize the water-bottling operation. This had already occurred in Randolph, Vermont with Vermont Pure; ClearSource, being a leviathan in the commercial bottled-water industry, bought them out.

ClearSource has a history of violating their traffic violations, as well as transgressing their sewage discharge limits. According to its permit, ClearSource’s sewage discharge is restricted to 2,960 gallons of sewage on a daily basis. Currently, ClearSource pumps out 8,000 gallons a day – a considerable decrease from 23,000 gallons only a few years ago – but still, ClearSource is over its limit, and well – rightly so, any company that can’t tolerate administrative precepts implemented to carefully manage human ordure scores a big fat zero with concerned citizens.

In accordance with their permit, ClearSource must maintain no more than 120 roundtrips per day for all vehicles into the bottling plant. As a response to the guidelines, ClearSource’s CEO Jay Land stated that if the company were to suddenly follow this requirement “the result would be a mass layoff this morning in the plant,” and that, “I’d have to tell [employees] that if you go home for lunch you have to stay home…But I will not do that to the people in the plant.” Geez Land, ever think about offering incentives for carpooling, or having your employees pack a lunch? Fortunately, ClearSource “has fallen upon difficult economic times” and had to shut down their bottling plant in Randolph, VT in early May ‘09. Good riddance.

In October of 2007, Ice River Springs (aka Aquafarms and Aquafarms 93) one of Canada’s paramount “private label bottled-water companies” announced that it would be opening two new bottling plants in the U.S., one of those plants being constructed on the New Hampshire/Vermont border in Claremont, New Hampshire. The company further announced that 75 percent of its water would be extracted from a Vermont source in Stockbridge, Vermont, while the remainder would be retrieved from Claremont’s municipal water supply, alongside manufacturing the plastic bottles at the plant.

According to an article titled “Ice River Springs/Aquafarms 93 Exposed” at “…the company locates plants in small rural communities that are desperate for economic development and jobs…” and that “…Ice River Springs uses paid lobbyists to put pressure on politicians to push for or against policies that effect [sic] the company’s profit.” I thought of all the other water privatization injustices, sanctioned in tandem by the IMF, World Bank, and transnational corporations like Nestle™, Bechtel™, Suez™ and Coca-Cola™, ad nauseam, that have occurred throughout the world in places such as Belize, Buenos Aires, Atlanta, Georgia, Manila in the Philippines, Cochabamba, Bolivia, Jakarta, Indonesia, Nelspruit, South Africa, and The United Kingdom. The article goes on to expose that Ice River maintains a plant located in Morganton, North Carolina, an area of the state suffering from one of the worst drought conditions ever recorded, and that it hasn’t curtailed its production and has made no indications that it will be doing so.

The precipitating trend of privatizing and commercializing Vermont’s freshwater is a microcosm of a larger corporate zeitgeist to seize control of much of the world’s fresh water.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.2 billion people worldwide go without access to clean drinking water, and approximately 2.5 billion people don’t have access to “adequate sanitation services.” Over five million – mostly children in Africa and Asia – die annually from preventable, water-related diseases. The following countries (population provided) consume only contaminated water: Sudan (12.3 million); Venezuela (5 million); Zimbabwe (2.7 million); Tunisia (2.1 million), and Cuba (1.2. million).

Proponents of water privatization argue that privatization of water in developing nations, where millions are subjected to abject poverty, would be a boon, delivering clean water for drinking and sanitation to many who go without. Conversely, many posit that these nations are not equipped to negotiate contracts and the poor bear the brunt of fee increases. The ensuing information will corroborate the latter allegations.

In 1997, the people of Bolivia did not choose to privatize their water – it was forced upon them. Bechtel’s subsidiary, Aguas del Tunari, along with the Abengoa Corporation of Spain, went into Bolivia, enforced a forty-year contract that privatized much of their fresh water, and not soon after, rate increases quickly doubled and tripled for most of the poor water users. The private investment relied stringently on market-rate pricing. According to Jim Shultz, in an article for The Nation on January 28, 2005 titled “The Politics of Water in Brazil,” the cost of water and sewage hookup, in El Alto, was more than half a year’s income for those making minimum wage.

The contract was so draconian that protest broke out in the streets of Cochabamba, the people demanding an immediate rescinding of the water contract. The protest led to martial law to save the companies’ contract, which led to the death of a teenage boy, and the wounding of more than a hundred people. Over the course of five years in Bolivia, there have been two citizen revolts decrying the privatization of their water. Bechtel’s contract was indeed cancelled, but in 2001 Bechtel filed suit against the Bolivian government, claiming they were entitled to $25 million in compensation for the loss of future profits.

By the end of 2000, more than 93 countries worldwide had partially privatized water or wastewater services. The larger the company, the more control. According to research done by Elizabeth Brubaker at the Energy Probe Research Foundation, at the largest scale, private water companies construct, own, and run water systems around the globe, raking in revenues of more than $30 billion – excluding revenue from the sales of bottled water. Most of this money does not make it back into the communities, but is rather transferred to the transnationals.

The largest players in water privatization are two French transnationals: Veolia Environment (owned by media conglomerate Vivendi) and Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux whose water and wastewater businesses are run by its subsidiary Ondeo (I’m sure you can find the CEOs’ names and home addresses if you reconnoiter hard enough on the Internet …to send them letters, silly). These two companies have interests in water projects in over 120 countries and provide to roughly 100 million people. Suez alone is active in more than 100 countries, and has become the second largest overseer of municipal systems in the U.S. – right behind American Water Works.

In 1993, Suez and Buenos Aires consummated a privatization deal (lauded by the World Bank); over the years the results were: drastic increases in consumer water prices; more than 95 percent of the city’s sewage dumped into the Rio del Plata river, to name but a couple. In 1998, Atlanta, Georgia signed a 20-year, $428 million contract with United Water, a Suez subsidiary. The results? Rate increases of sewer bills – 12 percent annually. According to a report procured by Public Citizen, the company also charged “an extra $37.6 million for additional service authorizations, capital repair, and maintenance costs.” The denizens of Atlanta paid about $16 million of these costs, and then an additional $1 million to hire investigators to verify United Water’s reports. Which turned out to be fishy. How’s that for venality – as if selling people water isn’t enough of a depraved iniquity.

As for abroad, the U.K. has used a large private system since the late 80s. A 1994 study purported to show rates of dysentery ascending in a majority of the urban areas. And according to the Public Citizen report, in 1998, “the major water companies in the U.K. were ranked as the second, third, and fourth-worst polluters.” And, “…ten water companies were prosecuted a total of 260 times between 1989 and 1997.”

Other noted effects of water privatization include: Improper protection of water quality; ecological destruction of downstream habitat; failure to protect public ownership of water and water rights; wasted water and neglect of conservation; and the transfer of assets of local communities to transnationals.

Despite corporate claims (which are fallacious beyond a doubt), the privatizing of water heavily increases the price of water. According to, “International corporations can easily expect to make a 20 percent to 30 percent margin of profit from investment in water service… In 2006, Veolia made a consolidated net income of €759 million (nearly $1.12 billion), according to its 2006 annual report. In addition, 35 percent of Veolia’s total revenue came from water, with 10 percent from North America,” and “In the same year Suez earned a gross operating income of €7,083 million (nearly $10.38 billion), and RWE had a net income of €3,847 million (almost $5.66 billion). Some €689 million ($1.02 billion) of RWE’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) came from its water division, known as U.S. water provider American Water.” All of this money is funneled out of the community and into the pockets of the shareholders. There is virtually no case in which the privatizing of water has benefited everyone in a specific community. Kendra Okonski, editor of The Water Revolution, observed, “In most poor countries today, governments perpetuate water scarcity – which harms both people and the environment. They fail to provide water to the poor, but provide massive subsidies for water use by vested interests, such as big landowners.”

Conflicts over water issues arise as well. Along the Tigris and Euphrates River System, the countries of Iran, Iraq, and Syria face problems. As early as 1974 Iraq mobilized troops along the Syrian border, threatening to destroy Syria’s al Thawra dam along the Euphrates. In India, Arundhati Roy claims, “…over the last fifty years in India alone big dams have displaced more than thirty-three million people.” And according to the World Bank’s “Water Resources Strategy,” the World Bank will continue its policy of funding big dams.

In 1992, Hungary and Czechoslovakia took a dispute over Danube River water divisions and dam construction to the International Court of Justice. Other conflicts include disputes between: North and South Korea, Israel and Palestine, and Egypt and Ethiopia, to name a handful.
Dams, big or small, are deleterious to entire riparian ecosystems, disrupting sediment flow and fish populations, alongside uprooting people from their communities. They must go. There are over 75,000 dams, most inoperable, within the continental U.S. alone. If we were to take down a dam-a-day, it would take over 215 years. Meanwhile, salmon, steelhead, and trout are disappearing at an inexorable rate. For the Coho salmon, the apocalypse has already begun.

As for climate change and the latter’s effect on the world’s water systems, warmer climates will conduce to the desiccation of Himalayan glaciers as soon as 2035, as claimed by many reports. These glaciers are the sources of Asia’s largest river systems, i.e. Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, and the Yellow. Roughly 2.4 billion people live in the drainage basin of the Himalayan Rivers. Much trepidation presides over these folks with the morbid knowledge of likely being inundated by glacial melt, and the subsequent disappearance of their sacred, nascent glaciers.

Australia, too, faces desperate conditions in the near future. As a result of an epic drought, there is severe ecological damage done to the Murray-Darling basin, which provides for 40 percent of the country’s agricultural produce. In the opinion of environmentalist Tim Flannery, unless there are drastic changes, Perth (home of my former bands’ record label – I should give Cam, the owner of Hidden Shoal Records, a call and see how everything is going for him, water-wise) could become the world’s first “ghost metropolis” – virtually no water to support its population.

I recently had a chat with local environmentalist, Annette Smith from Vermonter’s for a Clean Environment (VCE), over the issues of water privatization, and the reprehensible bottled-water industry. She explained to me that “large extractions of water, the size at which commercial bottled-water companies operate, can taper stream channels, alter temperatures fish rely upon for their life cycles, and can expend aquifers and other nearby water sources.

“Furthermore, the impact goes far beyond the actual water extraction.” Smith explained that, “the plastic bottles have their environmental impacts as well. For one, the plastic bottles contain phthalates, which are chemical compounds that are added to plastics to increase their flexibility. Phthalates have been known to be culpable for organ damage, adverse hormonal activity, and birth defects.”

Plastic is a polymer, which is a very complex molecule. When plastic is disposed of in a landfill, it takes thousands upon thousands of years for that polymer to break down. In the U.S. approximately 60-70 million plastic water bottles are discarded every day.

The industrial process of manufacturing plastic bottles is very intensive as well. It uses the equivalent of four pints of water to manufacture one plastic bottle. A quote taken from the Chicago Tribune pretty much sums up a brief but comprehensive analysis of the water-bottle industry’s uses: “The 1.5 million barrels of crude oil used each year to manufacture plastic water bottles in the U.S. could fuel 100,000 cars for a year [or just stay in the ground and mitigate our military involvement in the Middle East]. Thousands of tons of greenhouse gases are emitted transporting bottled water around the world. Just 23 percent of all plastic bottles are recycled, meaning 52 billion end up in landfills or littered.”

Did you know that there is a trash vortex in the Pacific Ocean larger than the continental United States, and that there is now more plastic by weight than plankton?

Phytoplankton populations are in inexorable decline.

Whale populations are in inexorable decline.

This is what I do know: People manufacture plastic while sea otters choke to death on polyethylene rings from beer six-packs. People buy plastic while nylon nets strangle the lives out of great gulls. People discard plastic into the landbases and oceans while plastics get lodged in sea turtles – killing them. Fulmars wash ashore, lifeless, their stomachs distended with plastic. Whales, too, have been found dead along shorelines, autopsies revealing stomachs bloated with plastics.

As we’re all aware global warming is a consequence of green house gas emissions, especially CO2 emissions, and the water-bottling industry clearly isn’t helping the situation. I was curious to hear what Smith had to say about the impact global warming will have on watersheds. Her response was sharp: “Drought is the equalizer, because you can have water extractions that do not seem to be having an impact, but in drought the impacts can turn a neighborhood from barely having enough water to having no water at all.” I was beginning to see some irony here, as the song goes: “You don’t miss your water ‘til your well runs dry.”

Annette was also kind enough to forward me information she had retrieved herself when she attended a symposium at the Omega Institute in upstate New York in 2003, addressing the condition of the planet’s fresh water resources. The conference included some venerable and sagacious thinkers such as John Todd, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Ralph Nader, Winona Hauter, Maude Barlow, and the prolific, left of center author, Kirkpatrick Sale. Annette was so impressed by Sale, that she attached a piece he had written following the conference. I have to concur with Annette, it is quite poignant and so I’d like to adduce an excerpt:

Of all the social and natural crises we humans [and nonhumans] face, the water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of our [sic] planet Earth. No region will be spared from the impact of this crisis which touches every facet of life, from the health of children to the ability of nations to secure food for citizens. Water supplies are falling while the demand is dramatically growing at an unsustainable rate.

In an article written last year by John Walters, in Montpelier’s The Bridge, as a response to Montpelier Spring Water Co.’s proposal “…skeptics circulated a petition calling for a three-year moratorium on any large-scale withdrawal of East Montpelier – anything over 10,000 gallons a day.”
The idea of the petition began with the lone voice of East Montpelier resident, Carolyn Shapiro. She became outraged two years back after getting wind of the Montpelier Spring Water Co.’s proposal in a local paper that “covered a request from the fledgling water company for Montpelier City Council’s approval work in the city’s right-of-way.” She had harangued the selectboard for “not informing the public of the company’s application to the town and for not granting an information meeting after she presented the board with a petition signed by 60 East Montpelier residents.”

Eventually, after much public concern, the petition came under Article 15 at East Montpelier’s town meeting on March 4, 2008. Dean Hedges, the town water manager, opposed the moratorium, stating: “permitting by the State Agency of Natural Resources, Act 250 and oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would suffice enough to protect the town’s water.” The idea of leaving this issue exclusively in the hands of the state to be dealt with legally did not seem like the best of ideas, considering how much influence corporate lobbyists have over politicians. Moreso, I recalled Annette stating: “The Clean Water Act required Zero Discharge and we [the state] are not doing that at all. In Vermont, an attorney at ANR told me the other day that in his position it is legal to contaminate the groundwater under your site. I asked another attorney in private practice and he said no it isn’t.”

At the town meeting, Paul Earlbaum proposed an amendment to the moratorium, stating the selectboard and planning commission should “take all steps necessary to realize the intent of…a three-year and three-week prohibition on withdrawing water…for the purpose of allowing citizens adequate time to gather information.” The meeting adjourned and the amendment was passed. The citizens’ voices proved not only to be loud, but effective, and there seemed to be a realization that this was more than just a fight against private industry – it was about preserving Vermont’s pristine watershed.

As a result of East Montpelier’s victory, Vermont Natural Resources Council was inspired to push for legislation that would enact law making it so Vermont’s groundwater be mapped and accounted for; to much success, the initiative received a great response and a write-up in the New York Times.

However, the issues surrounding water access around the world still remains dire and demanding. Mexico City has sunk more than thirty feet into the ground due to their extracting from the underlying aquifer. Routine shutting off of taps has become compulsory as they are over 50 percent below their water table. The same conditions exist in Beijing and Shanghai, China, as well as in many regions of India, Africa and the Global South.

Between 1970 and 2000, virtually all vegetation of Madagascar’s highland plateau had been lost to deforestation for irrigation and agriculture. The endeavor transformed the country’s biomass into a wasteland. The detrimental effects are widespread erosion that produce heavily silted rivers that “run red;” the loss of ecosystems, and species driven to the brink of extinction; as well as the loss of fresh water, and coral reef reformations.

In California farmers are on strike because of drought conditions and lack of adequate water supply for agricultural purposes.

We’re told this is an issue that is commensurate with a growing global population. But the truth is, it is the result of social arrangements. Ninety percent of the use of water is for industrial agriculture and the commodification of nature, viz. for the industrial production of consumables and energies. Population growth is not responsible for the desiccation of fresh water as much as capitalism is, as much as industrial civilization is (it is self-evident that cities do not have a clean source of fresh water – fluoridation does not count, to find out why, go buy some rat poison at your local grocer and read the ingredient – there’s only one: sodium fluoride. Or better yet, see how long it takes for one of your friends to take a swim in the Hudson in the NY Bay area; I’ll give you a hint at how long it’ll take – unless s/he’s fucking bonkers, you’ll get well beyond quadruple-dog-dare).

If we want to preserve our freshwaters, it is imperative that our modes of production change radically, that the dams the world over come down – immediately, and by any means necessary; and that water is not viewed objectively as a catalyst for generating financial wealth, meaning no more commercial bottled water.

Every river, stream, and brook in the continental U.S. is tainted with carcinogenic material. There are approximately 41 million Americans drinking water that has traces of pharmaceuticals in it – in India the waters contain 150 times the highest levels of pharmaceutical contamination than in the U.S. The reasons for this abuse to our watersheds and freshwaters runs deep folks, but if we want to preclude further devastation we must act now, we must engender what the residents in East Montpelier had last year, this time on a global scale.

In April 2000, after weeks of civil disobedience and vehement protest in the streets, the president of Bolivia was forced by the popular upheaval to terminate the 40-year water privatization contract granted to Aguas del Tunari. This victory shows that if we align voices with actions, then community agency can direct what’s in our best interest, and that is to preserve the natural world – especially its freshwaters.

Frank Smecker is a writer and social-worker from VT. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Frank, or visit Frank's website.

19 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on June 13th, 2009 at 9:33am #

    “What kind of society isn’t structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system”
    Milton Friedman

    Not only is Milton wrong but so far do the least harm is not exactly what is going on. Two articles today one on the Amazon and this one that’s what is going on. In the face of what we know is happening to the Earth better known as the home planet does capitalism seem like the system that will do the least harm? This little economic downturn debt get it now pay later and the fix more debt pay later climate change pay later. On this present path paying later will not be a problem and social organization well organization is probably the wrong word. Milton forgot about the Earth and he was not the first to do that just on a grand scale this time.

  2. bozh said on June 13th, 2009 at 12:20pm #

    milton friedman is a mistake. Good news is, nature never makes the same mistake twice.
    i gave you first the good news; now i’ll give you even better news:
    after our evanescence, nature will not make us ever again and get fooled twice.
    and nobody likes to be made fool of even once let alone twice.

  3. Don Hawkins said on June 13th, 2009 at 12:27pm #

    I think my wife feels I am a fool because I wash most of the dishes. Well the reason is because I think wife finds washing dishes strange. I find it easy should I feel strange?

  4. Don Hawkins said on June 13th, 2009 at 1:06pm #

    Have all these countries found a genius like Greenspan? … What the foreign experience suggests is, you don’t need a genius. You just need someone willing to make fighting inflation his top priority.” Milton

    Well Milton inflation is now the least of our problems. It looks like we used most of our energy into making money and forgot about almost anything else you can think of.

    Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money. ~Cree Indian Proverb

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain said on June 13th, 2009 at 5:14pm #

    Friedman, like all his ilk was, in my opinion at least, a psychopath. Of course there are other useful labels like robopath and shit, but the straight psychological definition is, I believe, sufficient. Lack of empathy, indifference to the fate of others (although these two are often feigned, for PR purposes)gigantic egomania, boundless avarice etc. The corporate psychopaths and their propagandists sit, safe for now, inside a coccoon of larcenously acquired wealth, either believing their own lies, or unconcerned as they will be dead in a decade or two. Our one faint hope of survival depends critically on the complete transformation of society, and that cannot be achieved unless market capitalism is ended, forever. All the technological fixes that are, indeed, possible, will simply put off the evil hour if the system of rule by corporate psychopaths remains intact. Indeed, unless the psychopaths are brought under control, it would be better that human ‘civilization’ suffers a cataclysmic collapse, rather than see the spiritual disease of the death cult of market capitalism escape into the cosmos. Unless humanity takes the opportunity of the greatest crisis in its history to make a moral and spiritual leap to a higher level of consciousness and a new view of life as lucky happenstance to be enjoyed while it lasts, not an arena for contention, displays of egomania and boundless greed, we are stuffed. I doubt we are capable of such a transformation, if only because it only takes a tiny proportion of evil shits to wreck things for everyone else, and at present there seems no shortage of such types.

  6. Don Hawkins said on June 13th, 2009 at 6:09pm #

    Friedman a psychopath well at least a smart ass kind of like the people I see on TV who like to bring up his name. You know according to Friedman lower tax’s on the rich is the answer. Clowns and not very good ones. If Friedman could see the big picture today would he say the same thing? I think he would like the tiny proportion of evil shits we now see. Are they really evil shits well at the very least very very confused although evil shits is probably a better way to put it.

  7. Don Hawkins said on June 14th, 2009 at 5:12am #

    As Al Bartlett, the guru of exponential math and resource economics, is fond of noting: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”

    If you read this do a few on Wall Street or at the Fed and Treasury understand exponential function? Sort of as it seems it is a big part of moving forward where one plus one is now 20 still with the help of compound interest. With oil or coal and growth 20 heads back the other way. The answer again is Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. We could start with a come back of one and one is two not 20. So far I don’t think that fit’s into there model and just change the facts with that illusion of knowledge they know well.

  8. Frank J. Smecker said on June 14th, 2009 at 5:12pm #

    To Mulga Mumblebrain:
    You’re absolutely right – Friedman was a psychopath; and as a student matriculating towards a psychology degree, here is the definition of ‘psychopath’ straight out of the text book:”Psychopaths are individuals who exhibit a persistent pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others.” Although, it’s difficult to distinguish whether ‘Uncle Milty’ was a psychopath or sociopath…I’d like to think of him as a conflation of both.
    Milton Friedman, the progenitor and patriarch of globalization and neoliberal free trade once observed that, “only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” Friedman went on to act as adviser to General Augusto Pinochet, at which point he advised Pinochet to “impose a rapid-fire transformation of the economy – tax cuts, free trade, privatized services, cuts to social spending and deregulation.” This inevitably led to acute hyperinflation and the loss of thousands of lives. So yeah, Friedman is nothing less than a sociopathic psychopath. But it takes a sociopathic-psychopathic culture to construct the framing conditions that produce sociopathic pyschopaths.
    How’s this for a cultural product: “Shock and Awe are actions that create fears, dangers, and destruction that are incomprehensible to the people at large, specific elements/sectors of the threat society, or the leadership. Nature in the form of tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, uncontrollable fires, famine, and disease can engender Shock and Awe.”
    – ‘Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance,’ the military doctrine for the U.S. war on Iraq.

  9. gorilla in the mist said on June 16th, 2009 at 1:18am #

    one qoute from milton taken out of context does not make for intelligent analysis. Chicago school is gaining traction a second time around among policy makers in developing countries becuase it’s underpinnings provide a very compelling structure to build an economic growth model that works. Capitalism is sprerading because it works well when harnessed correctly, just as motors and engines spread as tools, over past centuries because they work well at what they do. The problem on here is so many conflate capitalism, which is simply an economic model with socio-political system.

    One thing most westerners fail miserably to grasp, is that everyone else has caught on that the models that have given westerners the wealth to develop, are all market based capitalism. So everyone is adopting those models, period. The less market based your system, the worse the failures, period. It’s that simple. Everyones onto the gigf. But self absorption and the ego are an infinite force, and so many westerners are convinced that the economic struggles of the rest of the world, are caused by westerners themselves, beacuse well…westerners are so hugely important. That’s why many parrot compliants about the Bretton Twins, IMF, or the Chicago boys or WTO, etc. etc. while those organizations have been hawking there ideas for decades with variuos levels of adoption, you would need to grow up in a developing country to grasp, just how little all that external bullshit really had on what went down. And dont tell me about the CIA and all that crap either.

    But, reading comments here western egomania is an invinvible force.. your so convinced of your own relevence you cant shake the idea that the whole world will look like the u.s in 50 years time wether you like it or not. And the environmental armegedon you speak of, well there will be environmental losses, and there will be adaptations to limits, and there will be new technologies and conservation, BUT like the other thousands of years of history, we will muddle along, and do fine..histrionics from braty westerners or not, were comming strong from the third world, so FUCK YOU CHICKEN LITTLES!

  10. Frank J. Smecker said on June 16th, 2009 at 6:57am #

    Your words are hollow man – not to mention lacking any intelligible foresight or common sense. Friedman was an adviser to Pinochet, which is more than enough said of his lack of morality.
    You pompously aver, “The less market based your system, the worse the failures, period. It’s that simple.” What a way to slide your assumption by. How do you figure you’re correct? Show me how market based formula has ameliorated anything? Jamaica? I’m afraid not, the World Bank has destroyed their ability for endogenous growth. Jamaica’s currency has become virtually destitute of any value because of IMF policy, and the more debt they incur, the less money they have to export, in turn leading to less money to import what they need. Haiti? Market theory gone praxis has devastated that country and their people. The same with Africa, the Global South, and any indigenous community that is still remaining on the globe. India, a country that’s domestic condition has been influenced greatly by transnationals such as Monsanto as well as by American foreign policy, “allowed sixty-three million tons of grain to rot in its granaries. Twelve million tons were exported and sold at a subsidized price the Indian government was not willing to offer the Indian poor…in the period between the early 1990s and 2001, food grain absorption…dropped to levels lower than during the World War II years, including during the Bengal Famine, in which three million people died of starvation.”
    Poverty, illiteracy, disease, malnutrition, ethnocide, genocide, species extinction, and landbase degradation, to name a handful, are common repercussions of globalized market based economics.
    The U.S. consists of 5 percent of the global population, yet consumes the majority of the world’s resources. In 1960 corporate CEOs received forty times the average worker’s salary – today CEOs receives over three hundred times the average worker’s salary; between 1983 and 1995 the bottom 40 percent of U.S. households lost about 80 percent of their wealth through debt, and now approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population owns more than three fourths of all real estate, corporate stock, and bonds. If you want to know what’s wrong with that, ask a poor person – there’s more of them than there are rich people. Don’t be so myopic. Furthermore, the more international trade there is, the higher the third world debt. The wealth disparity between the first and third world is starker than the U.S. wealth gap.
    Sorry, Gorilla in the Mist, but your conceited view of faring ‘fine’ through ecological mess is a truncated view. Technologies cannot be made without resources, and well, the latter are finite. Humans have been around for roughly 2 million years. Capitalism and civilization is just a dust particle on that scale. Un’civilized’ peoples lived for thousands of years without hyperexploiting their environment – it makes more sense not to compete, competition leads to overextraction of resources, and well, that leads to a lack of requirements to live. Do you think the lion or the grizzly compete for food? No. It’s in their best interest not to overeat, therefore they can continue living. Competition invariably leads to growing extraction rates, which in a finite world is just fucking dumb.
    I have some advice for you. Get out of your sociopathic, wretched mind; find some friends – a community – and practice relation and cooperation. Read some books that aren’t sanctioned by the dominant culture – give yourself at least a chance to experience a different perspective: having only one leads to a distorted narrow view of the world. Your argument resonates with confusion, hence the unoriginal reiterated trash-talking that anyone can listen to if they turn on a TV, a radio, etc. You’re spewing acerbic banalities – here’s my final advice: Grow up and find your own voice.

  11. Barry99 said on June 16th, 2009 at 7:27am #

    gorilla – You forget, perhaps conveniently, that the Tigers of Asia, all success stories, all ignored the Friedman approach. They went on to do precisely the opposite of Friedman’s radical right recommendations. The countries that followed his path all went belly up economically until they came to their senses.

  12. bozh said on June 16th, 2009 at 7:51am #

    may i point out to you that you have omitted regress which the ‘progress’ had caused and is causing today?
    the socalled progress had brought us WMD, illnesses, warming, warfare, anxiety, worries, etc.
    today world uses some 130K chemicals; what many of them do us, nobody knows!
    and we don’t know because governance [education, media, clergy, pols,etc.] doesn’t want us to know.
    if minuses and pluses wld be tallied we wld be minus and not plus.

    if ‘progress’ harms but one person or even animal, this represents a regress to me as long as i have healthy food to eat, clean air to breed, and two legs to use.
    that is my progress and wealth/power. Let the selfish people ski, play sports, fly their jets, ply waters, ride cars, etc., but i am happy with my wealth. tnx bozhidar balkas vancouver

  13. Benno Hansen said on June 20th, 2009 at 4:02am #

    Thank you for this article. I use it in my latest post, Freshwater industrialization, privatization and pollution.

  14. Andrew said on June 23rd, 2009 at 12:53pm #

    No-one gets water infrastructure for free. The problem with publicly owned water systems is that they don’t get enough revenue, because politicians can’t resist holding down the charges, and they don’t get enough investment, because governments won’t fund them. So they can’t cover their costs and often end up verging on bankruptcy and unable to deliver service provision to the needy poor. Private water systems are less likely to have problems with investment (unless the politicians are holding down the charges again, which discourages investors), and are more likely to be run efficiently, but they obviously aren’t going to give water away for free. So in each case, you only get what you are prepared to pay for. The poor usually end up having to pay over the odds for bottled water.
    BTW, the main article here is long, boring and confused – needs an executive summary. Like bottled water, there’s plenty of much clearer stuff out there. See for example:

  15. Andrew said on June 24th, 2009 at 6:20am #

    @ Frank Joseph Smecker
    There’s no way Milton Friedman “was an adviser to Pinochet”. He visited Chile only once, in 1975.

    “In the years following that visit, Friedman found that he had to discuss the issue over and over again, and he used the same main arguments each time: that his visit to Chile was not unique—he had been to several dictatorships, including the USSR; that he felt that academic contacts with countries which had oppressive governments could help the process of political liberalization in those countries; and that the opinion he had offered on how countries could resolve economic difficulty had been the same irrespective of these countries’ political regime. Friedman insisted that the advocates of monetary control and free market reforms in Chile should not be tarred with the same brush as Chile’s junta: “There are old students of mine down there and I’ll be God——d if I’m going to turn my back on them.” (Sunday Times, December 12, 1976.)”

  16. Frank J. Smecker said on June 24th, 2009 at 6:46am #

    Andrew, that’s all wonderful and all that Friedman started to slightly second-guess his depravity after some time. But that doesn’t negate the fact in any way that Pinochet was backed by the U.S. every step of the way – militarily, politically, and economically. The result of that was the loss of thousands of innocent lives. The same conditions have transpired many regions elsewhere – Iraq being one of the latest and more extreme cases; and the ‘Shock & Awe’ protocol that has been responsible for Iraq’s spiral into abject bedlam and violent decay was borne out of Chicago, heralded by folks like Friedman.
    As for your circular logic for privatizing water – let’s not forget that for thousand upon thousands of years human beings – anywhere – had access to clean water. It has not been until large-scale industrial usages have been conceived and implemented, that water issues have emerged.
    When the periphery is exploited by the capitalist core for ‘resources’ to be stolen (because that’s what Imperial conquest is), in order to continue economic growth for the privileged few, landbases become ruined; and then along comes institutions like the IMF and World Bank, forcing them into development programs to clean up the mess that western transnationals made in the first place, to make transport of the exploited resources back to the epicenters of growth more efficient, to construct large scale dams to power invading industry, etc. After all is said and done, the landbase is not the same as it was when it was lived on by the indigenous of the area.
    You can argue all you want in favor of market-based economics and globalization, and the privatization of water, but your view is tendentious and sociopathic if it excludes the history of the indigenous peoples of exploited regions as well as an understanding of the FACT that before the West imposed itself upon peripheral landbases, those landbases were pristine, and communities virtually without poverty, that had easy access to clean water. Did some wells, blow up some mountains for tin, coal, etc., construct some mega-dams, and monocrop industrial plantations, and suddenly you have the real reason for water scarcity. The answer to solving this problem lies in halting altogether the dominant capitalist economic worldview and allowing things to return and resume in their natural conditions.

  17. Frank J. Smecker said on June 24th, 2009 at 6:50am #

    Oops, I meant to write: ‘Dig some wells…’, not “Did some wells…” Anyway, it’s really nice outside right now where I am, so I’m done with the computer for the day.

  18. Max Shields said on June 24th, 2009 at 7:28am #

    The facts are clear, it’s not just that M. Friedman advised Pinochet, who may not have always been an apt pupil, but that Chilean economists during that time went to U. of Chicago to learn the ways of the free traders and neoliberialism ala Friedman. That exchange was intentional not simply happenstance.

  19. Harry Canary said on June 24th, 2009 at 8:11am #

    Milton Friedmann taught at the University of Chicago school of economics. Interesting. Why did he not teach at a private school? Or more importantly why did he not work in some productive capacity for private industry?

    I am sick to death of academics. They are brought along in the most highly paded taxpayer subsidized cocoon of all. Milton was not exposed to any free market in his ideas or employment. I highly doubt he would have survived it. His followers, like Alan Greenspan and Babblin’ Ben Bernanke all in government supported and subsidized positions.

    Time for the pseudo libertarians, fake conservatives and other talkers who have lived half their life in government or public university posts give up their ill gotten gains. And they need to give their inheritances of mommies money and really make it on their own. Go out in the world at 18 with no support and see how far you can get. Until they have, they need to shut up.

    As for Goofy in the Mist, her “writing” half mispelled and atrocious grammar indicates lack of education except for listening to rushie drugboy’s propaganda.