Today’s morning thought is inspired by an interview of Russell Brand by Jeremy Paxman on the BCC Newsnight program.
I agree with Russel Brand. But. Brand and others on the left who have enough fame to be interviewed by the media need to be more effective in delivering their message.
THE LEFT NEEDS TO STOP BITCHING AND PROMOTE AN EXPLICIT PLATFORM.
Brand wants to reduce economic inequality in society. But interviewer Jeremy Paxman asks a good question… What *is* the solution?
Brand’s humorous response offers no solution. He mentions raising taxes and refers to some vague “alternative political systems” that “should not ignore the needs of the people”.
Russel, get a clue. People cannot guess what changes are needed and most of them are not going to go off and read some book that explains it to them. Here you are, on the air on BBC, the YouTube video has been viewed ten million times, and you offer no platform, no agenda, no specific ideas.
Paxman asks you what your solution would be like.
You respond by saying what it “won’t be like”.
You mention raising taxes and some vague idea about corporations being more responsible.
Ten million views wasted (except you are funny and entertaining so that’s good).
Let me be constructive and ask you to consider some concrete ideas that you and others on the left could promote, explicitly, when offered such opportunities.
To start, we need a platform based on FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. FDR proposed that in his State of the Union address on January 11, 1944!
Let’s get even more radical. I propose the following three changes to society:
(1) Everyone should own part of the company they work for and not just be wage slaves. By law the company should be owned in part by workers who work for the company.
(2) Ban rent on primary residences. Everyone should own their primary residence. The word “Lord” in “Land Lord” comes from feudalism. Let’s get to a point where we no longer have any Lords.
(3) Transform commercial rent to local government owned franchises. There would still be rent but it would be controlled by the local citizenry and benefit the local citizenry rather than a small class of commercial land owners.
Now that is a concrete platform. Please Russel, get some concrete proposals out there on the air. If not these, then something else, but something.
The above proposals are “socialist” you ask? You thought socialists are for government owning everything, right? No, not right. Socialists are for more people owning things, not fewer people owning things. In particular people should have significant ownership in their work place and homes.
You don’t get to an equitable society via charity and the welfare state (although those are necessary temporary measures). No, you get to an equitable society by acknowledging that the “free” market is a place where those with land and money are the ones who are free. Hence the need to shift land and money to more people.
It would not be easy to implement these concepts since implementing them means a transfer of ownership from a small minority to a large majority. That will take time, creativity, and true democracy. The concepts apply to commercial property as well as to homes. Why should a small business owner have to pay rent to a land lord who sucks money out of the economy? Although these ideas are easy to state they will be very hard to implement. But these ideas should at least be on the table.
Returning to the Jeremy Paxon interview of Russell Brand, I think Brand made one general point and two concrete points. The general one is that things are totally screwed up and need to change (there “will” be a revolution). That is obvious and has been stated by many over decades and centuries. The concrete points were the proposal to raise taxes and the observation that the Occupy movement made economic disparity a topic of public discussion. I would argue that is the only thing achieved so far by the Occupy Movement.
As for raising taxes, that does not solve the problem, which is distribution of ownership. One often hears about the screwed distribution of wealth. What does that mean? It means ownership. Ownership of land and of the work place.
We live in a “free market”, which is free to the extent you have power and you have power to the extent you have wealth. The market is free to those who have enough money and power to participate in it. Until more people have more power, i.e. ownership of society, the free market is a useless excuse for the status quo.
Of course we should use taxes (perhaps without need to raise them) to help people and not engage in military conquest. And we should keep the welfare state as a measure of last resort. But we still have a welfare state. How to change that? I encourage pundits such as Brand to bring in the concept of more distributed ownership into their talking points.
Another issue is the banks. Won’t we still all be paying the banks? Yes, so another thing we need to do is nationalize the banks, a topic for future discussion.
In these ways, by distributing ownership, wealth and power in society will belong to more people rather than fewer. It sounds simple and idealistic but it also rings true.
October 27, 2013