Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a pioneer of privatizing public services, once said, “There is no such thing as society.” Sorry, Margaret, there is, and it’s waking up.
According to a new report by the Transnational Institute, cities across Europe are increasingly deciding to reclaim public goods like water, energy, and health care from corporations and private investors. For example, fourteen cities in the Catalonia region of Spain have brought their water under public control in the past two years alone.
In the U.K., after decades of Thatcherism, the call for efficient, democratic, and affordable public services is becoming quite popular. Nearly 60 percent of the British population supports bringing the country’s railway system back under public control. Last month, Jeremy Corbyn led his party to parliamentary upset while demanding just that: railway renationalization.
Here in the U.S., despite the Trump administration’s deep ties to Wall Street and corporate America, there are signs the tide is turning.
As always, the movement is starting at the bottom.
There’s Milford, Connecticut, a small city pushing to purchase its water system after learning that the corporation that owns it plans to raise rates by nearly 30 percent.
There’s New York, which just brought back state workers to provide IT help desk services after concerns about rising costs in a contract with IBM.
There’s Atlantic City, New Jersey, which earlier this month passed an ordinance to ensure residents get to vote on any action by the state to sell or lease the city’s water system.
There’s Baltimore, Maryland, where teachers just recruited hundreds of new public school students after weeks of knocking on doors. And Miami, Florida, where parents and teachers rallied over the weekend to demand more funding for public education and regulation of charter schools.
When the public stands with teachers, librarians, and other public workers to protect what we own together, we show that there is such a thing as “society.”
And when we win, people with power start to listen. On Monday, the Democratic Party revealed a platform that calls for creating millions of good-paying, full-time jobs by directly investing in the country’s infrastructure. Trump wants to do the opposite: sell off our roads, bridges, and airports to Wall Street and global corporations.
We’ve got a long way to go, but let’s keep it moving. A win for the public anywhere is a win for the public everywhere.