FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

No Right to Free Water, Except for Nestlé

by

Former Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck is famous for denying that access to drinking water is a human right. But based on the company’s actions, its management seems to believe that Nestlé Corporation has a human right to free water.

All over the world, including in some of the most destitute and water-poor countries on earth, Nestle has destroyed the drinking water that local populations depend on in order to feed its bottling operations. In Michigan, where the people of Flint still drink poisoned water, Nestle has pumped billions of gallons of groundwater since it opened its first bottling plant in 2002 — draining aquifers virtually free of charge. In drought-ridden California, where the government has imposed rationing for ordinary non-corporate citizens, it takes 80 million gallons of water a year from Sacramento, as well as tens of millions from the San Bernardino National Forest.

This human right to free water for corporate persons extends to the right to pollute the drinking water of actual humans, with impunity, as part of for-profit industrial processes like hydraulic fracking. Previously, shameless fracking apologists like Reason’s Ron Bailey celebrated the politically rewritten executive summary of an EPA report that falsely minimized the danger of water pollution (despite a considerably different concrete information in the main body of the report). And according to a new EPA report in December,

fracking has contributed to drinking water contamination… in all stages of the process: water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing; spills during the management of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals; injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources; discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water resources; and disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits, resulting in contamination of groundwater resources.

So while some may deny an individual human right to water (and never mind that aquifers and large bodies of fresh water are a natural resource commons belonging to people in the areas that rely on them), the right of corporations like Nestle to free water and other natural resources is a different matter altogether. This is in perfect keeping with what Adam Smith called the “vile maxim of the masters of mankind”: “All for us, and none for anybody else.”

Right-libertarians will sometimes condemn specific instances of such behavior as “crony capitalism.” But like all neoliberal analysis, it frames the issue as individual rather than structural. “Crony capitalism” is a problem of decisions by individual bad actors or corrupt firms or bodies (like the Export-Import Bank, every right-libertarian’s favorite example of “crony capitalism”) rather than the nature of the system.

But the problem is very much structural. Privileged access to resources isn’t just a matter of deviant individual firms working out special arrangements with the state. The overwhelming majority of current corporate property rights in fossil fuel deposits, minerals and lumber, as well as a major part of arable land, can be traced back directly to capitalist enclosure and robbery with the help of the state, or state engrossment and enclosure followed by privileged access by corporate interests.

Far from being an issue of individual “cronyist” behavior by particular corporate bad actors, capital’s collective access to artificially cheap, looted resources is a major structural feature of capitalism as an overall system. So are all the other forms of cost socialization, restraints on competition, and artificial property rights which most corporate profits depend on. If you eliminated all these structural features, root and branch, there would be nothing recognizable left.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail