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.
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.