Quote of the day: Privatization, the new serfdom


James Meek, writing in the London Review of Books on the grim results of the privatization of Britain’s once state-owned electricity system:

More than twenty years after the great electricity experiment was launched, it can be seen that although it was an act of privatisation – of taxation, principally – it was most significantly an act of alienation, lowering an impenetrable barrier of complexity, commercial secrecy and sheer geographical distance between the controlling interests of electricity companies and the customers they serve. It’s easy to switch suppliers. But behind that barrier citizens and small businesses have no way of knowing that they aren’t being fleeced as egregiously by the cheapest provider as they are by the most expensive. The consumer-peasants of Britain bring their tithes to the locked gates of the great electrical estates and wonder who lives in the big house now, and whether they are at home, or in one of their other estates around the world.

Read the rest.

One of the beneficiaries Meek mentions is a name familiar on the UC Berkeley campus, Li Ka-Shing, the richest man in Asia, who bought himself the naming rights to the university’s new public health building. Li had no connection with Berkeley, but he loves to buy monuments. The building he bankrolled replaced another named for a UC Berkeley graduate, the man under whose tenure as Chief Justice the U.S. Supreme Court did more to establish civil rights for Americans than any other court in American history, the late Earl Warren Jr.

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One response to “Quote of the day: Privatization, the new serfdom

  1. Bruce E. Woych

    Richard: Brilliant selection, but you may have slipped on the most telling quote of the day…this one is a massive insight that should be broadcast across the Nation and the world…check it out:
    ….my selected passage quote: from Bruce E. Woych

    “In 1943, in an analysis of Hitler’s programme in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the word ‘privatisation’ entered the academic literature for the first time. The author, Sidney Merlin, wrote that the Nazi Party ‘facilitates the accumulation of private fortunes and industrial empires by its foremost members and collaborators through “privatisation” and other measures, thereby intensifying centralisation of economic affairs and government in an increasingly narrow group that may for all practical purposes be termed the national socialist elite’.The gung-ho free marketeers who rode to power with Thatcher in 1979 don’t seem to have been aware of the Nazi prelude, although they would have known of later privatisations in Pinochet’s Chile.”

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n17/james-meek/how-we-happened-to-sell-off-our-electricity

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