Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
Russell Brand has recently been the guest editor of the New Statesman, and used a Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman to call for a revolution. My major surprise was not the interview or Brand’s views themselves, but the lavish praise from clever colleagues over Brand’s intelligence and passion. Many songs from Brand’s clarion are simply false.
Brand declares: “I say profit is a filthy word, because wherever there is profit, there is also deficit.” Profits are made when the sales of a good or services rendered exceed the costs of providing those goods or services. Profit results from income being greater than expenditure – it is the creation of wealth. Consequently, losses are the destruction of wealth. If Brand’s assertion were true, economic growth would be impossible.
Brand says there are “things you shouldn’t do”, that a political system “shouldn’t destroy the planet, shouldn’t create massive economic disparity, shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people.” Without elections or democratic engagement, a “centralised administrative system” called the “Admin Bods” would be unable to understand “the needs of the people”, let alone fulfil them.
Whilst Brand and other quasi-revolutionaries complain about the “massive economic disparity” between the haves and the have-yachts, nearly 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in 20 years. The First UN Millennium Development Goal has been achieved early. Global measures of inequality, such as the population-weighted Global Gini Index, hit a peak in 2000, but are now subsiding.
Professor Antony Davies of George Mason University notes that: “Countries that are more economically free also have more equitable income distributions.” This is because, in economically freer countries, the ability to create wealth is less entangled with political power than in countries with many economic restrictions. Indeed, Brand’s system would invest terrifying power in this centralised administration to levy heavy taxes and enact “massive redistribution of wealth”.
Economic growth can have positive effects on the environment, too. Emma Duncan of The Economist has promoted the view that wealthier nations, better governed, can afford conversation, such as cleaning rivers, preventing harmful emissions and protecting forests. Technological advancement means the rapacious demand for simple fuel like wood is stunted. Population growth slows in wealthier nations. People, comfortable in living, can turn to environmental concerns. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes the best outcome to ameliorate climate change – the A1 scenario – is for rapid economic growth and the free trade of nascent and developing low-carbon technologies.
Lastly, revolutions where one of the key goals is wealth egalitarianism have a poor historical record. The French Revolution got somewhat choppy – 17,000 were executed and 300,000 imprisoned in the Reign of Terror for ‘counter-revolutionary activities’. Under the USSR, 4 million Ukrainians starved in the Holodomor. Even nominally democratic revolutions such as in Venezuela are plagued by severe human rights abuses.
Brand is now being idolised for his views, but unjust sentiments are not the basis for a governing system. It shows that someone can have a big vocabulary but nothing worthwhile to say.