Jetpack Envy

An Insatiable Sorrow

Madeleine Bunting (for, yes, it is she) once again shares her pain and bares her sweet, illiberal soul

Soon the state will have to turn to rationing to halt hyper-frantic consumerism.

Goodness. Not mere shopping, or even busy shopping, and certainly not the more prosaic, and rather more common, buying the things one needs. No, apparently “we” have unwittingly succumbed to hyper-frantic consumerism™. And so, bless me, the state will have to take a firm hand and save us from ourselves. Even conscientious Madeleine, surely a model to us all, will have to be brought to heel.

Is it enough to have halved family meat consumption, have foregone flights for several sun-starved years and arranged a life in which habits of cycling to work and walking to school are routine? No, it's just scratching at the surface… The lives of our children will have to be dramatically different from everything we are currently bringing them up to expect.

Madeleine is, of course, unduly fond of the word “we” and all too willing to speak for others, even those whose views, and needs, may differ markedly from her own.

All this consumption is not necessary to our happiness… A low-consumption economy wouldn’t mean misery. But what’s disturbing is how we continue to shop when it doesn’t make us happier… The more insecure you are, the more materialistic; the more materialistic, the more insecure.

Again, one has to marvel at how dear Madeleine rarely misses an opportunity to tell us how we feel about things she doesn’t like. However, her vision of a “low-consumption economy” may not bring joy to everyone, entailing as it does “a dramatic drop in household consumption.” This unquestionably righteous end will, it seems, be achieved not by “the good intentions of individuals”, but as a result of

the government orchestrating a massive propaganda exercise combined with a rationing system and a luxury tax.

At this point one might note that Ms Bunting’s opposition to propaganda and an overbearing state in, say, matters of counter-terrorism coexists quite happily with a call for an overbearing state, overbearing to a much greater and wider extent, in spheres our columnist finds personally congenial. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bunting’s blueprint for a stricter, happier, greener tomorrow is rather short on practical detail, and shorter still on its implications. Would a “luxury tax” compensate, even remotely, for the dramatically lowered tax base resulting from severely curtailed consumerism and the spread of hair shirt ethics? What of the redistributive efforts and public services that so animate Ms Bunting and her colleagues? What, exactly, would this rationing and luxury tax cover, and how might it work?

Would the state monitor all of my purchases, and yours, and rate each one on a scale of necessity, frugality and moral uprightness? Would the thermostats of public buildings be doctored to ensure suitably modest levels of heating? And what about private spaces – your home, for instance? How, and by whom, would a person’s improper energy consumption be compiled, judged and penalised? Will there be a national, perhaps trans-national, database (in which we’ll have great confidence), monitoring each individual’s compliance with designated quotas? And will such things, as Maddy suggests, make “us” feel more secure and so much happier?


Norm ponders Maddy’s permagloom and suggests we go shopping, while the Devil is a little more… blunt in his analysis.

Update 2:

Praise Gaia, a solution is at hand.   

Related. And



I think Omid has it about right...




Heh. Brilliant. It has, I think, a Zen-like truth to it. And it’s not entirely trivial to ask whether you’d rather be stuck at a dinner table with Omid Djalili or the sorrowful Ms Bunting.


Might we not contribute to 'hyper-frantic consumerism™' by, say, not buying the Guardian?

Or how about buying just one copy, and sharing it with everyone we know?

I'm sure Ms Bunting won't object to being paid a lot less.


Indeed. Though some may pay to read the Guardian because Bunting is an extraordinary creature and deserving of further study. She manages to be earnest yet unserious and is comically anhedonic. I tend to think of her as a barometer of almost everything that’s wrong with the contemporary left.


Interesting. I've always used Steven Rose, myself.


That works, too. As does pop psychologist and fellow Guardian regular, Oliver James.


James is another anhedonic lefty who takes it upon himself to tell “us” how “we” feel about capitalism, individualism, etc. Oddly enough, how “we” feel is, according to James, remarkably similar to how he feels. James has repeatedly claimed, somewhat tendentiously, that wealth and its associated freedoms are very bad for “us” and that capitalism causes “disorders” like inequality.

That said, I’m quite prepared to accept that capitalism is very bad for Oliver James, who appears deeply conflicted about his own wealth and status and seems unable to resolve the emotional and material contradictions of being a well-heeled middle-class lefty.


Up here in Canada (Ottawa, Ontario to be specific) the regulation of your private energy use has already begun:


Of course it is voluntary...for now.


> I'm sure Ms Bunting won't object to being paid a lot less.

The grauniad makes a large loss. It's subsidised out of the profits from selling Auto-Trader.


So you go reading The Guardian and find ..... Oh MY what a surprise!

It's Moonbat Madeleine Bunting expounding on the justification for state interference in consumer activity!
OK ... she's nuts! And the Guardian is her home turf ..... and for others like her.
Why didn't you just tell us where the article was from and save us from linking to the nut house??

Education Guy

It must make her employer very happy to hear that she is telling readers not to buy any of the things advertised for in the paper. On the other hand, perhaps those consumer goods and services are not among those things the poor dear would list as "hyper-frantic consumerism".


Perhaps our beloved Socialist will have to forgo her jewellery.


nobody important

Hyper-frantic consumerism expialidoscious,
If you suffer from this ill, you really are atrocious.
And if you spend and spend and spend, you'll soon get halitosous
[Help me out here you poetically inclined! I grasping!]

-sung to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidoscious"


But remember, it's all to help those downtrodden souls at the bottom of the economic ladder (who couldn't possibly ever get higher without the enlighten leadership of those like Ms. Bunting). The government will mandate lower consumerism, and then, if you don't have enough income to live in a brand-new super efficient home, or to upgrade your existing home with new insulation, windows and appliances, then the government will fine you. For your own good!

This bureaucratic excuse for logic is already in place here in Massachusetts. State mandated health insurance was put in place, because so many poor people were uninsured. Now, if you don't have health insurance as of November 15th, the state will levy a fine on you when you fill out your state income tax form in April!


It's quite simple. Marx thought wealth was an absolute good but that Socialism would be more efficient at producing it. Now that we have absolute proof that the latter is false, the obvious step for any modern Socialist is to reverse the former premise: hence wealth is bad.


Yikes, lock your door and turn off your lights. Bunting's desire for penitence is so overwhelming that her own is entirely insufficient to her -- it's not even a start. She calls for a government agency that would force others to commit to her own feeling that the culture which gave her so very much time to so dimly reflect on her own feelings is an perfect analogue of her feelings.

In a previous column she pined, dimly, for the purity of other places, like Africa, where the people are more noble and pure, apparently, and happier, and less "disconnected". I suggest that the solution to her feelings is less global, and therefore more achievable, than she fears: Simply drop her off in, say, the Sudan, with a sun hat and a bottle of water and a Kit-Kat. She surely would, at some point, come to a life-changing realization that shopping is waaay down any list of the world's problems. By finding herself....there, it would solve the *shopping problem* for Bunting and, of course, by extension, for the rest of the world too.

A lot of people, not just Bunting, have come to the conclusion that their life has come to no good. The degree to which these people are a risk to others depends almost entirely on the extent to which they understand the difference between their feelings and the world at large. Bunting sees little or no difference, and she's trying to convince others that the collective case for her feelings needs to be enforced if there is to be any hope that the planet -- i.e. her feelings -- will be rescued.

"Most of us dimly recognize that huge lifestyle changes are necessary."

Clearly. But as for the specific nature of the changes she needs to make, and how best to go about them, that's her personal business. The Sudan junket was just an intendedly helpful suggestion. Godspeed, Ms. B.


The funny thing is, my discretionary consumption is probably smaller than that the of the above-mentioned attempted purveyors of the royal "we" (in the vernacular, I'm a stingy bstard), and yet, apparently unlike them, I'm one of the happiest people you will ever meet. (When I say discretionary, I mean that it's -21°C outside here right now, so I get a bit of a papal dispensation on my consumption of heating.)

Personally, I think that there probably are a lot of people who are attempting to achieve happiness through misplaced consumption of expensive material toys. Furthermore, I think that over the next few hundred years our species will largely outgrow this sort of error, which I think is principally due to the newness of our civilizational wealth that we have achieved over the last few hundred years.

Nevertheless, I do not see it as reasonable for me to force others to behave my way, even if I could, because unlike the various disposable Buntings that come and go around politically fashionable events, I'm wise enough to know that I'm not that smart. Moreover, I think that if I did attempt such force, then it would be morally correct for others to invoke their right of self-defense against me.

Frederic Bastiat said: "If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?"

Miss Bunting should carefully consider whether or not the fineness of her clay would be an effective counter to the invocations of self-defense that would arise against her were she and her fellow travellers successful in their attempt to put her lack of wisdom into practice. I would hate to see her fall into the hands that Nick did in Romania.

Squid Vicious

I know that it has become tiresome to repeat yet again that the left has adopted environmentalism as its religion, but when I read works like Ms. Bunting's I never fail to be stunned by how far they have taken this concept. In the worldview of Ms. Bunting and her likeminded cohorts, global warming will bring about a day of reckoning just as sure and severe as anything ever imagined in the New Testament. And how do we forestall that day? Why, through pious austerity and denial of our sinful consumerist nature.

You want meat? You want jet travel? Well there won't be any meat or jet travel IN HELL, YOU SINNERS!*

On a related note, I find it interesting that the "progressives" so frequently look to the universities for guidance, in the form of the latest diktat from the academic left. Given that modern universities can trace their lineage directly back to church-run institutions of the middle ages, founded to spread infallible religious doctrine, it's no wonder that leftism has taken on such a religious quality.

*A big sloppy e-rimjob to anyone who can identify that brief literary reference.


I’m guessing everyone here has already figured out that “Madeleine Bunting” is in fact an anagram of “bungle in dementia.”


Bloody green puritans.

nobody important

Thanks anyway Squid, but this is one time that I'm thankful I'm not well read and a bit of a Philistine.


Speaking of anagrams of Madeleine Bunting, there's this one:

"I 'get' Bin laden menu."

So "Let nun-media begin." After all, "Men? A genuine debt."

A blue, emending nit.

KB Player

She's great at bringing out the inner contrarian. I'm a green myself but after reading her I want to max out my credit card on a Porsche with the latest in sat navs and hang it with furry dice made out of material guaranteed non organic.

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