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Russell Brand and his revolution

15 November 2013


From the Revd Paul Nicolson

Sir, - The Church Times seems to have shunned reporting Russell Brand's recent outburst, which resembled the curate's egg.

Mr Brand is right, however, to imply that the current political battle is between those who regard solidarity as the guiding social and economic principle and those who promote the betterment and sur­vival of the fittest in the unregulated free market. He writes in the New Statesman: "By spiritual I mean the acknowledgement that our con­nection to one another and the planet must be prioritised."

He wants a revolution, and urges people not to vote; but if the solidarity camp do not want the further corruption of social justice in 2015, then we have to make sure that those in power will model the market economy to serve everyone. Not voting is not an option for us.

Parliament has made catastrophic mistakes over the past 30 years, allowing the free marketeers to dismantle a social and economic system that promoted, supported, and expressed solidarity; but very few politicians are the "frauds and liars" that Mr Brand calls them. In "The lumbering monotheistic faiths have given us millennia of grief for a handful of prayers and some sparky rituals," he expresses some of my own frustration about the Churches; but express frustration is what he does throughout - with current politics; and much of his frustra­tion is justified.

He is wrong about the 2011 riots: "These young people have been accidentally marketed to their whole lives without the economic means to to participate in the carnival." It was no accident; J. K. Galbraith saw it coming inThe Culture of Content­mentin 1992: "The controlling role of taxation continues. The only effective design for diminishing the income in­­equality inherent in capitalism is the progressive income tax. Nothing in the age of content­ment has con­tributed so strongly to income inequality as the reduction of taxes on the rich; nothing, as has been said, so contributes to social tran­quillity as some screams of anguish from the very affluent. That taxes should now be used to reduce the inequality is, however, clearly outside the realm of comfortable thought. Here the collision between wise social action and the culture of contentment is most apparent."

Galbraith suggested that the contented voters worried about current conditions and their own immediate welfare, but failed to consider future consequences of current policies. This short-sightedness was likely to lead to one or more social problems.

Prevailing political wisdom encourages the value of homes to increase as a vote-catching policy that increases the wealth and con­tentment of the home-owner and vendor, but does nothing for the renter. Political parties believe they will not be elected if they decrease the value of homes or introduce higher progres­­sive taxation.

What is needed from the Churches is many strong Oscar Romero-like voices against the policies and structural injustice that create debts, hunger, cold, and unaffordable homes for the poorest citizens, who call for the rejection in the ballot box of the current Government in 2015. "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!" (Luke 19.40).

Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road
London N17 0BF

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