Russell Brand, Revolution and the Abilene Paradox

Comedian and sudden revolutionary vanguardist Russell Brand has been telling folks in the UK not to vote. This brings two immediate things to mind.

First, what is the best word to describe the delightfully animated Mr. Brand? I like “googly,” but I’m going to go with “flopsical.”

Second, and perhaps more importantly, I wonder about Russell Brand’s approach. Revolutionary thinking has its place, but there may be cause for concern when revolutionary zeal is not tempered with the democratic impulse. Without democratic principles somewhere in the mix, a political plan cannot be other than one group of people deciding they know better than all the others. Can it? Some form of consensual decision-making must be included, otherwise the leaders of revolutionary change become an all-powerful vanguard that claims to evaluate opposing ideas, but all too soon determines it’s much easier to reject them in the interest of the cause.

I’m also not comfortable with people who call for revolution without a plan for how it will unfold. Burning cars on the street may feel satisfying for a night or two, and it attracts attention, but it’s a difficult concept to build a future upon.

Russell Brand doesn’t need to have a complete political philosophy worked out in order to legitimately call for drastic change, but he ought to have something in mind. Without some sort of guiding principle, the most well-meaning people can make suboptimal decisions even in the best situations and even when they individually all want something different. It’s called the Abilene paradox. It’s the reason that half the time when you and your friends are deciding where to eat out you end up at the same old boring place instead of trying that new place everyone has heard is awesome.

We can’t leave our future to an unguided revolution. We don’t need every detail planned out, but we need some vision for the process of change.  I would love to hear Russell Brand’s ideas for what should happen once the revolution gets rolling.


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