The latest article in our new economics series looks at what happened when a German utilities contract expired, and one man thought his neighbours could take over
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Martin Rühl never imagined this fight would define the rest of his life. Not for a moment did he reckon it would become so epic in length, in scale, in consequences. He just thought his speck of a town should run its own electricity supply.
A modest proposal, but in the Germany of 2003 it was highly unusual. Gerhard Schröder was still chancellor and, although a social democrat, was pushing through more privatisations of public assets than any other leader in German history. This was in a Europe that had learned from Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to stop worrying and start loving the private sector. Now here, swimming against history’s current, was one orderly, slightly anxious engineer.