Monday, March 16, 2009

Free Market Water is a Crime

This article about the death of a Chilean community from polluted water and drought is another example of the morally bankrupt idea that water should be bought and sold on the free market. This idea, implemented in Chile under the Chicago school economists under Pinochet, has led to communities losing their water and wealthy corporations, particularly mining companies, getting water. Free market water threatens to cause huge problems in the U.S. West in coming years, as the likelihood of increasing drought and the incredibly complex system of water rights in this country will lead to massive litigation, headaches, and thirst for communities throughout the region. This idea reached its apotheosis in the late 1990s when the Bolivian government, under pressure from the IMF, granted Bechtel the water rights to the city of Cochabamba. Bechtel then raised rates to first world levels, leading to gigantic protests that helped send Evo Morales to power.

Now, one might question whether people should live in the Atacama Desert in the first place. But that's for another day. What matters here is that in a world where clean water is increasingly scarce, free market true believers have set up systems that allow people to thirst so that multinational corporations and corrupt governments can rake in the cash.

Of course, the Codelco, the world's largest copper mining corporation and the polluter of the town's water, denies any responsibility. Very believable.