FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

No Right to Free Water, Except for Nestlé

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.

More articles by:

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. 

Weekend Edition
July 10, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Lynnette Grey Bull
Trump’s Postcard to America From the Shrine of Hypocrisy
Anthony DiMaggio
Free Speech Fantasies: the Harper’s Letter and the Myth of American Liberalism
David Yearsley
Morricone: Maestro of Music and Image
Jeffrey St. Clair
“I Could Live With That”: How the CIA Made Afghanistan Safe for the Opium Trade
Rob Urie
Democracy and the Illusion of Choice
Paul Street
Imperial Blind Spots and a Question for Obama
Vijay Prashad
The U.S. and UK are a Wrecking Ball Crew Against the Pillars of Internationalism
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post and Its Cold War Drums
Richard C. Gross
Trump: Reopen Schools (or Else)
Chris Krupp
Public Lands Under Widespread Attack During Pandemic 
Alda Facio
What Coronavirus Teaches Us About Inequality, Discrimination and the Importance of Caring
Eve Ottenberg
Bounty Tales
Andrew Levine
Silver Linings Ahead?
John Kendall Hawkins
FrankenBob: The Self-Made Dylan
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Deutsche Bank Fined $150 Million for Enabling Jeffrey Epstein; Where’s the Fine Against JPMorgan Chase?
David Rosen
Inequality and the End of the American Dream
Louis Proyect
Harper’s and the Great Cancel Culture Panic
Thom Hartmann
How Billionaires Get Away With Their Big Con
REZA FIYOUZAT
Your 19th COVID Breakdown
Danny Sjursen
Undercover Patriots: Trump, Tulsa, and the Rise of Military Dissent
Charles McKelvey
The Limitations of the New Antiracist Movement
Binoy Kampmark
Netanyahu’s Annexation Drive
Joseph G. Ramsey
An Empire in Points
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
COVID-19 Denialism is Rooted in the Settler Colonial Mindset
Ramzy Baroud
On Israel’s Bizarre Definitions: The West Bank is Already Annexed
Judith Deutsch
Handling Emergency: A Tale of Two Males
Michael Welton
Getting Back to Socialist Principles: Honneth’s Recipe
Dean Baker
Combating the Political Power of the Rich: Wealth Taxes and Seattle Election Vouchers
Jonah Raskin
Edward Sanders: Poetic Pacifist Up Next
Manuel García, Jr.
Carbon Dioxide Uptake by Vegetation After Emissions Shutoff “Now”
Heidi Peltier
The Camo Economy: How Military Contracting Hides Human Costs and Increases Inequality
Ron Jacobs
Strike!, Fifty Years and Counting
Ellen Taylor
The Dark Side of Science: Shooting Barred Owls as Scapegoats for the Ravages of Big Timber
Sarah Anderson
Shrink Wall Street to Guarantee Good Jobs
Graham Peebles
Prison: Therapeutic Centers Or Academies of Crime?
Zhivko Illeieff
Can We Escape Our Addiction to Social Media?
Clark T. Scott
The Democrat’s Normal Keeps Their (Supposed) Enemies Closer and Closer
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
In 2020 Elections: Will Real-Life “Fighting Dems” Prove Irresistible?
David Swanson
Mommy, Where Do Peace Activists Come From?
Christopher Brauchli
Trump the Orator
Gary Leupp
Columbus and the Beginning of the American Way of Life: A Message to Indoctrinate Our Children
John Stanton
Donald J. Trump, Stone Cold Racist
Nicky Reid
The Stonewall Blues (Still Dreaming of a Queer Nation)
Stephen Cooper
A Kingston Reasoning with Legendary Guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith (The Interview: Part 2)
Hugh Iglarsh
COVID-19’s Coming to Town
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail