The Corporate Takeover of Britain  George Monbiot

 George Monbiot in his new book: "Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain" traces the growing influence and power of private corporations in public life and the corresponding decline of democratic government and public accountability. Through the use of Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs), private-sector companies have been able to assume control over the building of hospitals, roads, prisons, university research, even the food we eat. PFI. s, in theory, benefit the community by making money available to start new public schemes whether it is building schools or re-developing inner-city areas. In practice, they have led to a private drain on public money, over-charging for services and a disregard for professed public need.

Monbiot lists a cites a series of examples to illustrate his claims. In the chapter Hospital Cases he describes plans to replace four Edinburgh hospitals with a new Royal Infirmary on the outskirts of the city. Through this scheme the buiding companies involved would rake in £990m for a project which if publicly financed would cost £180m. The corresponding impact on health care was the exact opposite one might expect, with 200 fewer beds and 890 fewer staff made available.

According to Monbiot this should come as no surprise because:

"Companies whose shares are traded on the Stock Exchange are legally obliged to maximize their value."

Later chapters address the global dimension of corporate domination. The World Trade Organisation is identified as the body which aims to ensure the writ of multi-national corporations (MNCs) is heard and heeded, irrespective of the health, environmental or employment impact of its policies.

Hope, though, is offered. The activist and NGO community has already managed to derail negotiations towards achieving the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (1997) which "...had it succeeded, (would) have granted corporations the right to sue any country whose laws restricted their ability to make money." The final chapter in the book offers a Troublemaker's Charter which it is argued can act for the public in place of those democratic goverments who have abdicated their responsibility