Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cochabamba, Michigan

Access to water is an increasingly important area of contention between property rights and human rights. As best exemplified by the standoff between Bechtel and the people of Cochabamba, Bolivia, it is increasingly difficult for people to get access to water -- the substance that makes up most of our actual bodies -- without contributing to the concentration of wealth.

Now Al Jazeera America reports that the United Nations is now considering access to water in Detroit a serious human-rights concern. Thousands of residents have had water cut off because of unpaid bills. Some have defended these measures as necessary steps taken against "deadbeats," but this seems to miss a fundamental question. If water is a basic need, should it not also be a basic right? Those who fail to pay taxes can, after all, still breathe the air and even walk on sidewalks and drive on streets. The problem is that water has not been made universally available in the same way, so that a matter of bill collection can quickly become a matter of life or death.

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