A lot of people hate the bottled-water fad, for a lot of reasons
- Environmental: The most frequent complain against bottled water is its high environmental cost.
- Financial: One of Mayor Newsom's reasons for banning bottled water is simply to save the city a lot of money.
- Embarrassment: It just makes us feel stupid, as a species, if even Andy Rooney can see how easily we'll fall for the lure of paying for what is inferior to the free product.
And that’s my main complaint against privatized (a.k.a. bottled) water.
Think that won’t happen? Think again. We have plenty of examples of what transpires to society when a previously public resource becomes privatized. Always the bottom 20% get the shaft. It happened with public transportation when privatized transportation (a.k.a. the automobile) caught on (brilliantly documented in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"); the issue is now less about who has to move to the back of the bus than it is about finding a bus route that’s still in service. It happened again with the telephone: with so many affluent people now using privatized roaming phones (a.k.a. cell phones) the number of public phones (those that the poor rely on) has plummeted. In some areas we’re starting to see the same thing with privatizing security services versus the municipal police.
Let us learn from experience of other countries experimenting with privatization and see where that leads. Take Belgistan, for instance. Early in the previous century the Belgistanians were going through the same industrial revolution as were other European countries. The resulting air pollution problems plagued Belgistan, as it did other countries. But Belgistan took a different approach to solving the air pollution problem. Where other countries took steps to regulate clean air for all, Belgistan privatized clean air. The bulk of Belgistanians purified their indoor air, and when out in public wore oxygen tanks. The wealthiest of the Belgistanians purchased tanks of air imported from far-off exotic lands such as Tonga, Finland, and NYC. Middle-class Belgistanians bought more-generic brands of air, in bulk, from CostCo. The poorest 20% could not afford bottled air and just had to make do. As a result, these poor were often sick (the wealthier citizens wondered why the lazy underclass lacked the moral will to take care of themselves and their children), often missed work, or simply died without the good sense to call in to their employer first. Without a living, breathing underclass no one was left to mow lawns, wash pots in the restaurants, clean house, or do any of the other tasks that the superior 4/5ths of society are no longer able to perform (those skills having been lost through atrophy). The eventual collapse of the Belgistanian government, while not the sole reason behind Europe’s instabilities of the time, is certainly recognized by most historians as one of the precipitating causes of the continental slide into World War I.
There are numerous other historical examples of what happens to a society when public resources become privatized. For further research into this topic, I suggest the excellent documentary, Urinetown, about what happened when public urinals became privatized. Also, for the exception that proves the rule, look at the record of Stanstanistan, which recently reversed the privatization of sex (a.k.a. prostitution), made sex workers freely available to all citizens of every socioeconomic class, and is now a veritable utopia (I’d provide a link and more details on this story, but it has come to my attention that my recent blogs have been tagged as "possibly offensive" by some RSS readers, and so I leave it to you, dear reader, to conduct your own research into the flowering revitalization of Stanstanistan).
So what will our world be like when everything is privatized? The poor underclass will get wrenchingly sick on tap water (due to privatization of drinking water). They’ll be unable to catch a bus to the hospital (privatization having led to public transportation disappearing). They’ll be unable to call an ambulance (privatization having led to public pay-phones disappearing). If they do find a phone they’ll be unable to dial 911 (privatization of education leading to them being unable to count that high). If they do make it to the hospital, they’ll be unable to pay (privatized medicine). Their dead bodies will litter our sidewalks (privatization leading to all the poor people being dead, leaving no one to operate the leaf-blowers that clean our sidewalks). Do we really want that? Search your soul, America, do you really want messy sidewalks?
And it all begins with bottled water. I consider the public availability of potable drinking water (first accomplished on a large scale by the Romans) to be the single greatest advancement in the history of civilization (barely ahead of the invention of beer, and only slightly beating out the creation of the nonstop farting kitty). This greatest of all civic achievements is being undermined by bottled water, and San Francisco is coming to the rescue.
- You are a hero, San Francisco
You built that city on Rock & Roll
Now you save its soul on H2O
End of part 1. Next week: Government of Poopoopistan finds itself in deep doo doo after banning public toilets.