The New Statesman has always gone for, shall we say, eye catching guest editors (e.g.s being Alistair Campbell, Richard Dawkins and Ai Weiwei) but apparently Manuel–baiting cartoon character Russell Brand has been using the platform to issue a slightly incoherent call for revolution.
Maybe it’s a mistake to take this as anything more than a cynical magazine capitalising on an overly self-important celebrity’s desire to show off to the world. However, I’d like to make that mistake for a while, as I certainly think there are plenty of young people who would agree with the sentiments expressed in the interview. I even think Brand is, for once, being sincere.
However, I believe Brand’s call for revolution is fundamentally flawed: He doesn’t go nearly far enough.
In essence, what Brand (and many of his fellow travellers) are saying is that the current political system is rotten, captured by special interests who control the apparatus of government through craven and corrupt politicians. The solution is to tear the system down and start again, with… a new government. Sure, the post-revolutionary authorities (or “admin-bods” as Brand affectionately refers to them) will exert higher taxes on the rich and redistribute them to the working man, but in’t that, at some level, what the current lot were meant to do? The new administrators will be subject to the same pressures and incentives as today’s politicians. In the end, the pigs will walk on two legs.
The problem with revolutions is that you always end up back where you started. There are serious problems in the world that we need to work together to solve: climate change, war, inequality, suffering. Is more meddling by the state really going to help us do that? To quote from an interview in Brand’s issue of the New Statesman:
Do you think you pay your fair amount of tax as a rich person?
No. I think we should return to the Sixties when we paid 80 per cent tax so government can piss it up the wall on the war machine and bailing out the banks and funding ludicrous “initiatives” to help “stimulate” the economy. The economy that successive governments oversaw the destruction of. I think I pay just about enough, thanks . . . and you?
Not Ted Cruz, Noel Gallagher.
We need our revolutionaries to offer something different, not more of the same. We may not live in a libertarian fantasy world, where all we need is lower taxes and more markets, but it is crucial to remain wary of Hayek’s fatal conceit that we know more, and can control more, than is actually the case.
Hayek himself advocated “a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty… and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible”. That sounds like my kind of revolution.