We use cookies for site personalization, analytics and advertising. You can opt out of third party cookies. More info in our privacy policy.   Got it

Public ownership rises again

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.


Sharp analysis and in-depth global coverage delivered to your door, mobile or in-box.

Plus, access the entire archive of over 500 issues with our digital edition.

Subscribe »

Included in this issue

Public Ownership

The case for public ownership

After decades of neglect, the mood is turning. Dinyar Godrej on the fightback against privatization.


Unhappy birthday NHS?

Britain's medical provision is being hollowed out by privatization, says Youssef El-Gingihy.

Philip Miriori stands over the gaping wound that is Panguna Mine.

This land is my land

Ian Neubauer reports from Bougainville, where rebels chased away a mining company 30 years ago. Now the company is planning its...

Mixed Media: Books

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

Mixed Media: Music

Visit Malphino by Malphino; Universalists by Yonatan Gat.

Reasons to be cheerful

Reasons to be cheerful

Life after the Nauru detention centre

Life after the Nauru detention centre

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

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.

Introducing...  Cyril Ramaphosa

Introducing... Cyril Ramaphosa

Whatever his shortcomings, Ramaphosa is probably the last chance for the older generation of ANC leadership to make good on...

Sanctuary boroughs in London

Sanctuary boroughs in London

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

Chinese pollution on Gambian coast

Chinese pollution on Gambian coast

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

Post-election violence in Honduras

Post-election violence in Honduras

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

Past issues

Subscribe   Ethical Shop