THE BLOG

Should Russell Brand Give Away His Money to Fix Inequality?

28/04/2015 10:27 BST | Updated 27/06/2015 10:59 BST

A question often asked of wealthy people who campaign against income inequality is simply "if you care so much about inequality, why don't you give your money away?"

The argument at a glance seems to make sense: if you want things to be equal, why not even it up yourself. It is also so casually raised that you would think giving your money away would be as simple as bringing The Crystal Dome out of retirement and putting five people in at a time in to collect as much money as possible.

Which, at the very least, would make good TV.

One person who asked the question was Damian Reilly on this very website, where he bemoaned the inability of anyone to ask the very question of Russell Brand. As though the whole of mainstream media was purposely avoiding the question in case it tore Russell Brand's revolution apart at the seams like a pair of ill-fitting jeans.

The trouble with giving all of your money away in the fashion suggested by Damian is that it wouldn't achieve anything. Sure, a lot of good could come from Russell giving his money away, but the inequality would still be there... only Russell Brand would no longer be in the 1% and he'd no longer have the means, nor the voice, to bring about any change.

Believe me, poor people arguing against inequality are rarely able to attain any press coverage whatsoever. In fact, the only way to receive press coverage if you are poor is to claim an unbelievably high level of benefits or get a boob job on the NHS... and neither of these are conductive ways to further this particular argument (although I considered asking for a boob job when I last visited my GP, simply for novelty purposes. I'm sure it would have been turned down, but I'm willing to speak to any of the major tabloids about it.)

A lot of the arguments made by Damian come from his criticisms of the movie The Emperor's New Clothes. I have to only assume that he watched most of the movie with his fingers in his ears and his view obscured by a troupe of comically oversized men. It's the only possible way he could make the suggestion, even in jest, that Russell Brand's "post-capitalist utopia" would contain multi-millionaire comedians and light entertainers.

Of course, it may have been me who missed Russell's stipulation that his suggested 90% income tax rate for the richest 1% excludes him and any rich celebrities he enjoys the company of.

On the other hand, Damian may have just not watched it.

Personally I don't think it is of relevance whether the man making the argument is broadcasting from the lap of luxury, or from a dingy 1 bedroomed flat. I don't think it is of relevance whether he is worth £15 Million or £15. I also don't think it is of relevance whether he enjoys being rich, I assume he does... it's probably better than having to recall everything you learnt in GCSE maths in order to work out whether or not you can afford to go out with your friends on Friday night (especially when I learnt very little in GCSE maths.)

The question is, should the majority of people suffer in order for a few to enjoy being incredibly rich. Unfortunately, when you look at the question without attacking the man it is difficult to produce an argument which doesn't sound, well... heartless.

Would anyone really want to argue the the disabled should take the brunt of government cuts while bankers still receive their bonuses. Or that the poorest people should be hit with the "Bedroom Tax" (or "under-occupancy subsidy") while the richest receive an income tax cut. Or that employees should take the risk of accepting a zero hours contract (or, as Iain Duncan Smith would prefer to call them, "flexible hours contracts"... I prefer the Twitter suggestion of "Fun Sized Jobs") while companies legally avoid tax by basing their business overseas.

One man handing over a load of cash to the poor, as nice of a gesture as it would be, won't fix any of those problems.

Change can come about by supporting people who are trying to make it happen. For example, Focus E15 who are campaigning to stop people being evicted from their homes for no good reason. And people like Charlotte Hughes, who is standing for the Green Party in Ashton Hurst, she has demonstrated against benefit sanctions outside of the Job Centre in Ashton-Under-Lyme every week for for over seven months, offering advice and support for the people who have suffered at the hands of these sanctions. And, of course, Russell Brand who has turned up to bring media attention - and his support - to a number of different causes. As well as using the money from his "revolution-themed merchandise" to open the Trew Era Cafe, in Hoxton - which is a non-profit enterprise and helps drug-users undergoing abstinence based recovery return to work.

It is easy to point a finger at someone trying to bring attention to the issues and suggest that they sort it out by giving away their money, but when you look a little deeper into that argument it looks rather hollow... I mean, how could it not?