The Privatization of Air

Today I’m speaking with Gerard Mestrallet, CEO of SUEZ, the leading multinational corporation in control of water, selling access to 117.4 million people worldwide.

Brian: Welcome, Gerard. I see you have a glass of water there. Is that SUEZ water?

Gerard: Only the best.

Brian: Of course. You’ve made some offers to Brazil and Indonesia concerning the purchase of their air. How have they responded?

Gerard: We’re just dealing with cities at the moment. Manaus and Jakarta, as well as several cities in Africa and others in Asia. They’ve been very receptive. The air pollution and environmental regulations are terrible in many parts of the world. We all look forward to a healthier planet.

Brian: How does this business work?

Gerard: It’s fairly simple. There are two aspects: the air and the consumers. With respect to the air, we’ve patented a filtering mechanism that cleans the air. It can even handle massive pollution. To the customers, we place a constrictor on them which is relaxed or tightened depending on any overdue bills they have and whether they are in our air space.

Brian: What do you mean? A constrictor? How do you know whether a consumer is in your air space?

Gerard: We require RFID chip implants in all citizens prior to us accepting a contract. We use video surveillance to prosecute anyone who does not have such a chip. The constrictor is implanted on the trachea and activates when customers enter air space with an overdue account.

Brian: Why don’t you just arrest them instead? Don’t they die for lack of oxygen?

Gerard: Prior to arrest they would be breathing our air which they haven’t paid for. No: the constrictor activates within two seconds of the breach of space, allowing the customer plenty of time to back away and go about his business before permanent health dangers can occur.

Brian: Isn’t all this technology expensive?

Gerard: Not anymore. Video surveillance is extremely cheap. RFID chips are supported by local governments who cover the cost. The constrictors are just starting to be mass-produced and are becoming reasonable. Only the air filters are expensive, but breathing clean air and the improvements to the environment are well worth it.

Gerard: We have many supporters. Global warming activists have really helped us gain a foothold, and environmental activists advocate for us on a regular basis. At SUEZ we are all about building a Sustainable World.

Brian: What about the people who can’t afford to pay for the air?

Gerard: Local governments are responsible for making sure there is a place for them to live and breathe. We serve our customers.

Brian: Thanks for stopping by. Is Al Gore a supporter?

Gerard: Yes. He’s bought a lot of SUEZ stock recently. Thanks for having me.


{In 2007 this is a satire. In the near future, maybe not}


6 Responses to “The Privatization of Air”

  1. mad dog Says:

    Thank you for exposing the totalitarian/cronyist tendencies of many of those within the environmentalist movements.

  2. briankoontz Says:

    The problem with environmentalism is “big enviro”, which is to say big business and multinationals are involved. Very few environmentalists of any stripe understand this and carefully make distinctions and draw lines between the various motivations of different environmental interests. One of the most important movements in modern environmentalism is public control of resources – anti-privatization. This maintains control over the movement and avoids the most pernicious effects of big enviro.

    It’s happened many times before and it may happen again with environmental solutions: the solution may be worse than the problem it fixes.

    This type of issue is so important right now – global issues like environmentalism require an understanding of and control of other global issues – like economic factors and social factors that aren’t usually considered by people with mantras like “save the whales”. All global issues affect all others.

  3. mad dog Says:

    “One of the most important movements in modern environmentalism is public control of resources – anti-privatization.”

    First, for me to understand what you are talking about, you will need to explain what is ‘public control of resources’. Do you mean that some local municipal or state government controls the resources?

  4. briankoontz Says:

    Yes – the privatization of water debate, for example, is about whether local governments or corporations should control and provide access to water.

    What’s being discovered more and more, as with the health care issue, is that private corporations charge enormous fees for access to what under governments is produced very cheaply. Take bottled water, for example, which is in many cases below the quality of tap water, which has strict federal quality laws and far more regulation than private water. Governments charge their citizens a small fraction of what private corporations charge their customers for this basic necessity. The same principle applies in pharmaceuticals, in health care, and everything else.

    A next step is to take a look at where the inefficiency resides in the private market that jacks up the cost. Profit is only a small part of it. Where’s the rest come from?

    The biggest culprit, by far, is advertising. Once a government service is established, they never need to do any advertising. Only when a government service is new and citizens don’t know about it do they do some – but even then the advertising is geared merely at building awareness, not the machinations produced by needing to compete.

    Its advertising itself that is destroying the corporations. What advertising does is manipulates people into buying something… it’s way beyond a rational expression of the details of the product, as any mere glance at the television tells you. There’s an escalating process involved whereby additional advertising dollars allows them to be more manipulative… then their competitor catches up, then they need more advertising dollars to stay ahead. It’s a Middleman in the process, and a pathetically deceitful one, that government doesn’t have. Hence, government can produce goods with far less overhead than the private market.

    That is to say, the efficiency of the private market is a myth. A myth that I predict will fall in the next 5-10 years. Neither government nor the private market is ideally efficient, but government is far better.

    An irony in this is that it’s the anti-privatization people who might save corporations. Corporate vision doesn’t see beyond the next quarter most of the time – they cannot save themselves. I remember trying to offer advice to Best Buy managers concerning their vision of expanding their services into customers’ homes based on a critique of their current method – that is a very frustrating process that I do not recommend. If you think governments are unresponsive to the people just try being employed by a corporation and try to get a response from it. The totalitarian state begins inside the boardroom.

    One of the solutions in reducing advertising and increasing the efficiency of corporations is monopolization. The problem in the past with monopolization is that it’s a bad combination with the private tyranny model of corporations – but how about the combination of monopolies with regulation and oversight?

    The key to private corporate value in my experience is that these people are highly specialized – they are often experts in producing some product or providing some service. Walmart for example is ridiculously skilled at inventory practices and at product vision and negotiation with producers. Why lose all of that skill and expertise by turning everything over to governments?

    What we need to do is build a new system that takes advantage of corporate strengths while severely reducing corporate weaknesses. It’s quite possible to build a system that will leave everyone with a smile, except maybe Madison Avenue.

  5. mad dog Says:

    I attempted to leave a comment here, but it never showed up after I hit ‘submit’. What is going on here?

  6. briankoontz Says:

    That’s happened twice to me as well. I haven’t determined any logic behind it… it’s nothing I’m doing. My guess is something on WordPress’s end.

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