It ain’t for sale!

If you’re reading this, you can drop my money off at 1395 Belmont Street. You heard me. I want a quarter, people: my work isn’t free! You’ve all been treating me like a paper-pushing-intern for too long. Whatever happened to “no such thing as a free lunch.” This is Iowa?! Better yet, this is ‘Merica! Don’t you know that everything is for sale?

That’s right, everybody. Get out your wallets, all-sale has broken loose up in here! We’re selling everything: prison cells, foster kids, public aquifers, and last week we even narrowly missed the opportunity to sell the Internet (beyond utility use). I know what you’re thinking, “No way, man …” Way, dude, way.

I’m sure you all recall the time I wrote an 800-word rant column about privatizing prisons, turning them into corporate business. With that in mind, who remembers why that was a bad idea? That’s right, because the purpose of business is to make money. And in order to do that, businesses have to reach more customers (i.e., incarcerate more people). They don’t have control over whether people break the law though, do they? Except they do, for several reasons. The first being the lack of incentive to rehabilitate prisoners to reduce recidivism. Shocking, money is being put before people. Quick, somebody phone Pope Francis and get a quote on that.

Or, let us consider the foster care system that is being partially privatized. The public system was having a hard time finding qualified people who desired to be foster parents, so some genius thought it would be a good idea to hire contractors to do that. Why is that bad, you ask? Well, because the contractors make money based on how many foster home placements they make, so what happens is that kids are being placed with foster parents who aren’t actually suitable or stable parents. Don’t take my word for it, read the news y’all. Just recently, the death of a 2-year-old girl in Texas has been attributed to the outsourcing of the girl’s safety to one of these contractors who placed her with unfit foster parents. Imagine that your kid is taken from you because you’re an unfit parent and then dies in the system that was set up to protect her.

Or, imagine one day that the only water available in the world had to be purchased from a single private company, or heck, even several private companies. That’s what’s happening in the U.S. as Nestle has started to buy up public aquifers. The company has been privatizing public water in preparation for what will be a growing demand of aquifer water. As climate change is creating desserts and droughts across the world, Nestle is preparing to package and sell what are the world’s “water emergency funds,” so to speak. So, let’s say that you contract one of those horrible super bugs (that are partially a result of the privatization of medical care and drug companies), and you’re out of work for a few weeks. Sorry, bro, no water for you. You’ve gotta pay up! Of course, we have to pay for water now as a public good, but the price doesn’t spike exponentially in the event of crisis, because making a big profit isn’t the end goal. Because it’s a public resource. Because, you know, it’s water. I feel like Joni Mitchell’s “they took all the trees and put ‘em in a tree museum, and charged the people a dollar-and-a-half to see them” lyrics are as prophetic as Orwell’s 1984. You know, the “Big Yellow Taxi” tune that the Counting Crows covered when we were 12?

Or, how crazy did things get last week when corporations tried to take over the Internet? Yeah, Verizon and friends were trying to take over Internet speeds charging websites money for faster speeds and essentially destroying independent news and Internet entrepreneurship as we know it. Talk about an adrenaline rush. That would have been scary.

The point is, we’re trying to sell everything these days. We act like a “free market” is some holy level playing field, when it isn’t. As fascinating as it is to try to use a free-market system to track, predict, and manipulate human behavior, it is simply kind of a sick thing to. We can’t forget about human needs, basic rights, emotions, and long-term consequences. You can’t privatize foster care, because it is essentially jeopardizing human life, and you can’t sell any of the above mentioned things for the same reason. Since did people become commodities to buy and sell? I have a dream that one day they won’t be either directly or indirectly, and that we’ll all be human enough to realize that not everything is for sale.  (Though donations can still be dropped off at my house).

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