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Fighting for Water

Ralph welcomes lawyer and advocate, Ugo Mattei, who tells us how he started a movement that successfully stopped Italy from privatizing its water supply. Plus, listener questions!

Professor Ugo Mattei is Distinguished Professor of International and Comparative Law at University of California, Hastings and at the University of Turin, Italy. He is a widely published scholar in economic and political aspects of law and his work has been translated into many languages. He masterminded, as lawyer and an activist, the Italian campaign against the privatization of water, which was successfully completed in June 2011 with a national referendum endorsing Professor Mattei’s plan to recognize water as a common. He is the co-author with Laura Nader of Plunder: When the Rule of Law is Illegal, and also authored The Turning Point in Private Law.

“People understand how important it is not to leave water in corporate hands. Giving water to corporations is putting ourselves literally and physically at the mercy of those monsters.”

Ugo Mattei, lawyer and activist who masterminded the Italian campaign against the privatization of water

“People today after ten years of neo-liberalism and social media are not able to understand physical struggles. The social media are against social movements. It’s complete rhetoric and narrative that social media are crucial for the success of these kinds of battles.”

Ugo Mattei, lawyer and activist who masterminded the Italian campaign against the privatization of water

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EP 290 TRANSCRIPT (Right click to download)


  1. Bruce K. says:

    Needless to say I agree with J. Goldberg on the question of anonymous comments.

    There are two issues here. One is the internal ID that only the website might see, such as a Google or Facebook. I don’t want my identity to be something that a website can have, lose, or sell off to someone else without my consent to do things no one knows what with, or match with other data in ways that few know or understand, nor understand the possible consequences of. The second is the external ID, where my name would be out on the Internet searchable by anyone, or any algorithm that might infer things beyond my control or things that are wrong because my name would be on Ralph’s or other’s websites.

    It is easy to read a comment and as a webmaster or forum moderator to remove comments that are problematic in one way or another.

    Balancing the protection anonymity gives one against the chilling effect that Ralph seems to perceive as beneficial, is middled thinking on Ralph’s part I find mystifying. Look at Rudy Guillianni … he has to put his name and face up in the media every day and it doesn’t seem to affect the truthfulness or arrogance of what he has to say.

    People have to learn how to think for themselves. Not blindly follow some name or claimed authority. One day we wake up and find even our most cherished heroes have clay feet, and people who are brilliant in one time or in one field do not have a lock on the truth.

    In terms of the media. when it was planned, plotted, decided to allow media conglomeration and corporatization where all the media gets gobbled up under a few masters, and those masters are either corporations with their own agenda or people with their own personal interests, it was a catastrophic blow to this country. … a death blow, because it makes democracy more impossible with every year.

    To say that regulation of the media is against freedom of speech, considering the Fairness Doctrine, that can only be and only works with an anti-democratic, even a fascist agenda of how to run the country. The media controls what ideas people here, and it makes no difference if I have free speech to mutter to myself in front of the TV, if my point of view is unacceptable to the “media” to air.

    If Rupert Murdock has a news network, and he is claiming that putting alternative views on his network is anti-free-speech – that is absurd. He can still say whatever he wants. Since when is the Freedom of Speech about the freedom to muffle or outshout or shut-out other’s opinions, yet that is what is happening, happened.

    These ways of looking at the media has held for 20 years now, and it is the most important ingredient of tyranny and fascism ( sorry to be overly dramatic ), but our media needs to be more like Amazon – a distributor and a criticism/review aggregator. Journalism is an important responsibility, and we need to hear all points of view, and criticize and categorize then as well.

  2. Rudra Pratap Singh Solanki says:

    Prof. Mattei has always been an inspiration to us a lawyer, visionary and as a social activist. His clarity of thoughts and passion towards commons always put him in different category not only as a lawyer but also as a true cosmopolitan. Water, a quintessential element of life should never be in the hands of private players who solely believe in profit maximization and increasing efficiency.
    It always good to hear Mattei even after so many years.

  3. David Faubion says:

    In your discussion about water, there was little or no mention of the state and country role in water protection and delivery. You did refer to the importance of cities (municipalities) as you talked about local control. The State and some counties in California for example have a bad record in water protection, which includes the ecology that packages water.