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Fighting for water in Detroit. In many cities, the corporations are trying to privatize water. Assaults on public rights grow daily.
By Steven Miller

A decade ago, the government ended restrictions on advertising medicine on television. Since then we have been constantly deluged with stuff like "You need morfonax! Ask your doctor! Do not use if you have ever had a headache, bloody nose or use aspirin!".

Such advertising is illegal in Canada. US laws allow pharmaceutical corporations to recoup the full costs of advertising in the cost of the medicines. The people who they market to must pay for the marketing. This is considered a public health issue in Canada and raises issues of public safety. The rights of the public trump the rights of the corporations.

Celebrex -- an arthritis drug -- was marketed on TV. After 20,000 deaths from heart issues, it became public that the corporation knew all along that Celebrex was deadly. Lawsuits against Pfizer are now wending their way through the courts. Here the rights of the corporation trumped the rights of the public. Though Pfizer knowingly killed 5 times as many Americans as 911, nobody is calling this terrorism.

Cigarettes are known as the single most expensive threat to public health, costing billions a year for treatment. Yet the public bares this expense completely, since in the US each person is responsible for their own health care. Here the rights of the public are totally subordinate to corporate profits.

People regularly give up tissue samples all the time. You do a blood test to get insurance and regularly at the hospital. You leave your appendix at the hospital when it is removed. In fact, if you ask for it, they will refuse to operate. The reason is, since the Supreme Court's John Moore decision in 1991, people do not own their cells or body parts. Corporations do. They routinely use tissue samples to start tissue cultures which are mined for new and useful chemicals. Here the public has no rights at all.

The concepts of "The Public", the rights and powers of the people, the idea of the public good and how far it extends are shriveled, shrunken and dramatically restricted in America. Now we are seeing the greatest wave of privatization since the West was given away to the railroads. Assaults on the public are growing daily.

Historically, the US has only recognized the concept of "civil rights", and these are mostly seen as commercial rights. Little recognition of public power here. All industrialized countries, except the US, recognize certain economic rights. Free universal health care is an economic right. Your right to live to an old age without having to work is an economic right. France allows everyone a 5 week paid vacation at government expense. Enshrined in law, these are things Americans only dream about.

The UN Charter of Human Rights was the first legal statement that the rights of the public are inviolable and should always be the priority in any government. The Constitution of Venezuela holds that the goal of government is to guarantee the fullest development of human potential and its capacity. Unlike the US, where unconstitutionality is only applied to laws, in Venezuela, any social entity, from government bodies to corporations, can be prevented from violating the Constitution. Imagine how this would play out in the US!

Most of the world has a greatly expanded concept of the Public and its rights and powers compared to the US.

In fact, since the elimination of the paltry right for poor mothers to receive money to help their children (this was embodied in Welfare), the US has redefined the few public rights as "entitlements". Currently the American people only recognize two entitlements. They feel they are entitled to Social Security and to public education (K12).

Both Republicans and Democrats, not to mention their billion dollar corporate attack dogs, have declared that both of these entitlements should be privatized. This will transfer hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions, in public wealth directly into the stock market and the hands of corporations offering "services". These same services, that we get for free because they are public, will be something we pay for. Like every other case of privatization, the quality of the services will be subordinated to corporate profiteering and therefore will dramatically drop.

The question before this country is basically this: are there collective needs and are there universal values? We should debate this out, then guarantee whatever the Public wants.

Private corporations can never address these precisely because they put private interests above public ones. Why should the things we use together and in common be considered private property? Wealth means collective -- the forests and the waters, our health, the media, the technology that builds the world. Riches, on the other hand, refer to private riches.

Another way to look at this is to define what it is to be human and to demand that collective society guarantee these things as rights. Clearly humans need the essentials of food, shelter, clothing, education, health care and culture. Only true public power in the broadest sense, enshrined in law and guaranteed locally, can possibly guarantee that everyone has equal access to their human potential.

The Declaration of Independence was the first document to make the needs of the people the purpose of government. This has devolved to the current state where the needs of corporations are the purpose of government and the state uses its powers of force to make this happen through privatization.

The only counter to privatization is to expand the powers of the public in all directions: to take public control of energy, food, technology, health care, education, water and everything we use in common. They say privatize; we say publicize!

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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