[Marxism] The insanity that is capitalism
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Fri Mar 27 18:02:14 MDT 2009
Eli Stephens wrote:
> ...In order to achieve that 15%
> cutback, each of those 13 different providers will have to decide
> separately how to do so, either by passing ordinances in the case of
> the municipal providers, or by charging higher rates for excessive
> usage in the case of the private companies.
I disagree with your criticisms of this approach, Eli.
The South African version of this argument, which emerged on Tuesday
from the Supreme Court of Appeals in a lawsuit pitting a socialist
community group against a capitalist company running Africa's largest
municipal works, in Johannesburg, is quite similar.
The left position is for a national standard of a free minimum 50 liters
of water per person per day (the High Court agreed last April but the
Supreme Ct knocked it back for Soweto to 42 for strange reasons we can
go into later). The left position is for a high price paid for excessive
usage by rich people, not only to redistribute funds but also to
generate conservation (and hence build fewer dams like the Lesotho
Highlands Water Project which supplies Joburg). The capitalists - like
Suez, which ran Joburg Water from 2001-06 - want to maximise profits
which often means higher prices for poor people and lower prices for the
rich (this is quite typical!), so as to maximise water consumption and
'get the prices right' according to short-run costs.
The state of class struggle in a given city is often reflected in
whether after the nationally-mandated free first block of water (usually
25 liters/person/day averaged for a family of 6) the next block goes up
very high, or rises gradually.
That arcane fight over convexity in the tariff curve is one of the main
reasons SA has more urban social protests than anyplace in the world per
person, in my view. The new movie Flow captures it pretty well, if these
details bore you.
The point is, each site of struggle comes up with a different answer to
the question of how water is used. That national minimum is helpful and
it would be terrific if the national state mandated local states to
price water so rich hedonistic users get nailed for excess use, and then
also we'd have national to local cross subsidies.
But I don't think we should be TOO fixated on the institutional form of
its delivery. Actually there's an argument called 'subsidiarity' that
helps us to say, a municipality should be the site at which some of
these decisions would be made because its the most logical site of
delivery, so long as the basic principles I mentioned above are
respected (via national laws).
By the way, our socialist movements in the townships basically demand
the free water for poor people and higher priced water for rich people
because these are proto-socialist ways of arranging life.
There's a contrast with the much smaller - but still influential - group
of autonomist and anarchist comrades, who don't ever see a socialist
state emerging and who instead want to mainly protect the right of
ordinary people to steal water from whichever state they're going to be
up against, hence the 'bypass' or 'destroy the meter enjoy the water'
slogans remain the central strategy in these comrades' repertoire.
If anyone wants, I've written quite a bit about the struggle-economics
of water here, and elsewhere and I can send more offlist.
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