Water Privatization and the Diamond Monopoly


I came across this article critiquing the Nestle CEO on his views on water privatization:

In a candid interview for the documentary We Feed the World, Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck makes the astonishing claim that water isn’t a human right. He attacks the idea that nature is good, and says it is a great achievement that humans are now able to resist nature’s dominance. He attacks organic agriculture and says genetic modification is better.

A comment on a wordpress reblog of the article lead me to an article by the CEO himself invoking the “tragedy of the commons” that quotes quite a few examples from India:

On the other hand, however, some at that time might have found the interpretation of a human right to water rather undifferentiated and radical. This rather extreme interpretation considered any withdrawal a human right and water as a free good. This interpretation is much less widespread today, but if accepted by more people, it could potentially have had serious consequences. The people defending this very extensive view were quite vocal, at times even aggressive. Whoever wanted to set a focus and add some more clarity here – and I was among those – was attacked.

That in turn reminded me of an article from 1982 regarding the way the diamond trade evolved to make diamonds a status symbol. The objectives were probably quite different, but notice any similarities with the water privatization solution?

The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever — “forever” in the sense that they should never be resold.

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