Public ownership rises again

A note from the editor

Dinyar Godrej

The common interest

Imagine if the air that we breathe were privatized. Companies would allocate it for payment and profit, and, one would hope, throw in a bit of quality control.

A completely crazy idea, of course, but it puts into perspective just how much of what we consider public goods or the commons has already been carved up. In many parts of the world, even water – the next of life’s essentials – is already in private hands. No-one grows or makes it, yet corporations are allowed to control it.

For over four decades the mantra of ‘private good, public bad’ repeated by global financial institutions and proponents of small (read ‘corporate’) government has fed the fiction that the private sector is better, more efficient at almost anything. The notion barely registers that private profits made from public goods and services deplete the commons even further.

Despite flop after expensive flop requiring public bailout and tales of corporate corruption that match anything levelled at state bureaucracies, the drive to privatize is still in full vroom. Except, now counter currents are also flowing. Often at the city and citizen level, there is an upsurge of public ownership, showing that it can be done and done better in the common interest. This edition’s Big Story celebrates this highly significant shift, while not glossing over the difficulties posed by the hostile climate in which it is occurring.

In our other features, we travel to the island of Bougainville for a classic tale of the resource curse. After a history of strife related to mining, followed by a hard-fought victory for eco-rebels, the possible exploitation of the island’s fabulous mineral wealth is stirring up old tensions.

Dinyar Godrej for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

The big story

Fighting for their livelihoods: Puerto Rican teachers come out against the government’s drive to privatize public education.Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images

Fighting for their livelihoods: Puerto Rican teachers come out against the government’s drive to privatize public education.

Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images

The case for public ownership

After decades of denuding privatization policies, the green shoots of a public takeback are finally appearing. Dinyar Godrej on the promise and the threat.

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Come election time and politicians’ promises fly thick as clouds of swifts. Imagine if a candidate aiming for high office were to promise at the hustings – after the usual guff about government not interfering with ordinary people’s lives, of course – that their party also intended to keep its distance from providing public services and would strip those that remained to the bone. Political suicide, one might think.

Yet after decades of an ideological war on the public sphere, when tir...




Features

Illustration: Stine Deja

Unhappy 70th birthday NHS?

The British National Health Service is seen across the world as a beacon of medical provision. But, hollowed out by privatization by stealth, it needs a radical prescription to restore it, explains Youssef El-Gingihy.

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Waiting in vain: passengers at Clapham Junction, south London. According to a 2017 Legatum Institute poll 76 per cent of British passengers want the railways in public ownership.Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

The efficiency myth

Heard the tale about the private sector always doing things better? Nick Dowson wonders why it still has believers.

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The full graphic as it appeared in the magazine.

The people strike back

With the failures of privatization all too evident when it comes to public resources and services, there is a global upsurge of interest in running things differently.

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Displaying a traditional water jug, these women join a rally against corporate control of the water supply in Jakarta on International Water Day.Photo: Dasril Roszandi/NurPhoto via Getty

An end to Jakarta's water woes?

A court victory has rewarded civil society efforts to end water privatization in the Indonesian capital but many questions remain unanswered. Febriana Firdaus reports.

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The almighty investor

Trying to take back failing privatized public services exposes governments to the risk of being sued for gargantuan amounts by foreign corporations. Lavinia Steinfort reports.

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The people united: Ada Colau arrives at a municipal elections rally. She was voted in as Mayor in 2015.Photo: David Ramos / Getty Images

Reclaiming the city

Progressive city governments in the Barcelona area have showed the world how turning back privatization is achievable at a local level. But there remain obstacles to be overcome, says Luke Stobart.

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Philip Miriori stands over the gaping wound that is Panguna Mine – the largest open-cut copper mine when in operation.All photos by Ian Neubauer

This land is my land

Nearly 30 years after eco-rebels sent mining company BCL fleeing from Bougainville for wholesale environmental carnage, it is planning its return to the mineral-rich island. But, as conflicts of interest and intrigues develop, locals are less than pleased. Ian Neubauer reports.

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‘One of the most hated words in Pakistan is “liberal”’

Pervez Hoodbhoy is one of South Asia’s leading nuclear physicists and an eminent Pakistani academic and intellectual. He talks to Andy Heintz about growing religious extremism and the troubled legacy of international actors in the region.

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Opinion

Photo: Tom Hilton (CC 2.0)

Pass me my tinfoil hat

Steve Parry considers the allure of conspiracy theories and flirts with going over to the dark side.

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Photo: Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

Shutting down guns and greed

Mark Engler considers popular resistance to mass shootings and increasing healthcare costs in the US.

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Agenda

Opposition to President Hernández spills onto the streets in January 2018. Photo: Gustavo Amador/EFE/Alamy Live News

Election results defied

The Hondurans who took to the streets following the election were met by a hailstorm of teargas and sometimes live gunfire, writes Richard Swift.

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Pollution struggle

Pollution struggle

Residents from a coastal village in the Gambia are suing a Chinese-owned fishmeal plant accused of pollution, writes Nosmot Gbadamosi.

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Sanctuary boroughs

Sanctuary boroughs

A community group is campaigning to turn the London borough of Haringey into a safer place for migrants. Charlotte England reports.

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Photo: GovernmentZA/Flickr

Introducing... Cyril Ramaphosa

Whatever his shortcomings, Ramaphosa is probably the last chance for the older generation of ANC leadership to make good on long-promised equality and justice, Richard Swift writes.

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Boycott Turkish holidays, say Kurds

Boycott Turkish holidays, say Kurds

The Kurdish freedom movement has called for a boycott of Turkish goods and services. Sarah Wood reports.

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Photo: Natalia Riley

The politics of grazing

Report from West Cameroon by Natalia Riley.

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Life after Nauru

Life after Nauru

When Rashid first arrived in Cambodia, he warned other Nauru detainees not to come.

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Stop the dam craze

Stop the dam craze

Report from The Balkans by Alessio Perrone.

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Frida revisionism

Frida revisionism

Report from The Americas by Alessio Perrone.

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Photo: opencage.info / Wikimedia under a CC licence

Reasons to be cheerful

Turtles swim free; Rebel bank; Atlas of utopias.

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Regulars

Letters

Praise, blame and all points in between? Your feedback published in the May 2018 magazine.

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Illustration: Sarah John

Storms and fury

Violent weather presages human violence. Dan Baron Cohen writes from a community and country on high alert.

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Open Window - Child Marriage

Hossien Rezaye from Afghanistan with 'Child Marriage'.

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Clockwise from top left: The historic market in the northern town of Tripoli; all smiles at a political rally in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square; rubbish dumped on the road in north Beirut – the country’s garbage-collection system has collapsed; and a family of Syrian refugees in a UN camp near Zahle, in the Bekaa Valley.   All photos from Alamy and (in the order above) by Mark Pearson, Geoff Dunlop, Char Abumansoor and François Razon.

Country Profile: Lebanon

Civil war, ISIS invasions, mountains of rubbish. Never a dull day in Lebanon. The country’s constant turmoil is exhausting, says Reem Haddad, reporting from Beirut.

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Southern Exposure: Mostafa Bassim

Highlighting the work of artists and photographers from the Majority World.

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Photo: Richard Holder

Calypso Rose

With a career spanning six decades, Tobago’s Calypso Rose has written more than 800 songs focusing on gender discrimination and social injustice. The 78-year-old, who has survived cancer and two heart attacks, spoke to Sian Griffiths.

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Film, Book & Music Reviews

Mixed Media: Film

Mixed Media: Film

The Beast, directed and written by Michael PearceThe Wound (Inxeba), directed and co-written by John Trengove.

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Mixed Media: Music

Mixed Media: Music

Visit Malphino by Malphino; Universalists by Yonatan Gat.

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Mixed Media: Books

Mixed Media: Books

Two Sisters by Åsne Seierstad; A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo; Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf, translated by Mara Faye Lethem.

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Mixed Media: Graphic novels

Mixed Media: Graphic novels

My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame; What does consent really mean? by Pete Wallis and Thalia Wallis, illustrated by Joseph Wilkins.

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