Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The German Michael Moore

Al Jazeera claims to have got this story from Reuters, but I have not yet been able to find it at the Reuters site. Here is their lead:

Florian Opitz, a German filmmaker whose latest work takes a critical look at the impact of privatisation on people's lives, says the selling off of state holdings has become an "unchallenged ideology".

The Big Sellout, to open in German cinemas on Thursday, explores the effects of privatisation on rail, healthcare and other public services.

One of Opitz' chief sources for this project is Joseph Stiglitz, who continues to be the best informed voice of common sense when one has to confront the fanaticism of globalization evangelists, such as Thomas Friedman. Opitz gives Stigliz a chance to aim at a new target, and it appears that he does so with his usual accuracy, precision, and plain speaking.

Optiz' rhetorical strategy appears to be to provide illustrative anecdotes for each of the points that Stiglitz makes. Al Jazeera provided several of the anecdotes; but, until I see the film for myself, I shall not rely on their selection. However, here is one that, while it may not be representative, is certainly harrowing:

In another segment of the four-part story, a poor mother in the Philippines struggles to raise money for the dialysis her son needs.

In the end, hospital staff tells her she should just accept that she cannot afford her son's treatment and let him die.

In the past I have cited Ebenezer Scrooge (at least during his reduce-the-surplus-population days) as becoming the patron saint for policymakers in the United States, if not in the industrialized world as a whole. Such judgment is likely to have its greatest consequences in health care, and one cannot help but wonder how many health care executives in the United States will look at this segment from Opitz' film and start calculating how to "sell" this Philippine strategy for their own operations. Once again, we are being served Jonestown Kool-Aid; and, in spite of Opitz' efforts, we once again seem to be drinking it willingly, exactly as Hayek predicted we would sixty years ago!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

For those of you interested on the effects of privatization on ordinary individual, especially when MNCs privatize essential infrastructure such as water, electricty, railways and health care, you should check out the new documentary "The Big Sell-Out."

This documentary challenges current economic orthodoxy in contending that the dogmatic claims of the international business establishment for neo-liberal development policies are not supported by modern economic science. More importantly, it dramatically demonstrates how the implementation of these policies is having disastrous consequences for millions of ordinary people around the globe.

While national and international economic discourse is fixated on increasing efficiency and economic growth, The Big Sellout reminds us that there are faces behind the statistics. It raises serious questions about the neo-liberal credo that government best serves the public interest by becoming a servant to corporate interests. But brave individuals, like those showcased in this important new film, are standing up and demanding an alternative to the prevailing neo-liberal model, a model that the film shows to be as hollow as it is unsustainable.

In particular to Latin America, the films documents how citizens in Cochabamba, Bolivia have organized enormous protests in 2000, following the decision by the Bolivian government to sell the public water company to a private corporation, which would have made water cost-prohibitive to much of the population. The Big Sellout shows how ordinary people are fighting the neo-liberal commodification of basic public goods.

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this film, it is available from CA Newsreel at