Placing a price on the skies

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Time for another voyage into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.

Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you waaaay out -- much farther than you might want to go. And that's the question: How far should corporate control of our lives extend?

Already, a handful of huge corporate entities control the basic decisions over our jobs and standards of living, using this power to hold down the middle-class aspirations of millions of us. These same powers control the content and flow of mass communications, culture, entertainment and sports, as well as of education. They control the political process, and through it they are the powers that move government. They've also become the supreme force over everything from pollution to our nation's foreign policy.

Now, corporations are getting their clutches on the very basic of life: the earth's water supply. In The Nation magazine, writer Kirkpatrick Sale reports that on March 21, 1998, a United Nations conference in Paris formally and officially decreed that water "should be paid for as a commodity rather than be treated as an essential staple to be provided free of cost."

It's a complete shift from the concept that the world's water is a public resource to the concept that it's just another corporate commodity to be bought and sold, like pork bellies and stocks. It's also a completely un-democratic shift, since we the people were not consulted or even informed. Yet such world leaders as the French prime minister have hailed the change, saying that "for far too long" governments have held to the outmoded notion "that water could only be free, because it fell from the heavens."

It's a new corporate gold-rush ... only it's our lakes, rivers, oceans -- even the rain itself -- that's being claimed as a private asset to be branded with corporate logos. If they do it to water, it won't be long before they claim our air, too.

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