2010 Reheated
Friday Ephemera

New Crisis Detected

George “laughing boy” Monbiot has spotted another crisis. As he does, regularly. This particular crisis is “scarcely mentioned” yet is “growing… at a rate that’s hard to comprehend.”

You’ll seldom hear a squeak about it in the press, in parliament, in government departments or even in the voluntary sector. Given its political sensitivity, perhaps that’s not surprising.

What could it be this time? Is air travel still as reprehensible as child molestation? Is Tony Blair still at large despite his “crimes against peace”? Or is it the deadly menace posed by newspaper advertising? No, can’t be. We’ve already been warned about that: “Advertising is a pox on the planet. It is… driving us towards destruction.” No, it’s something else, something even more alarming:

The issue is surplus housing – the remarkable growth of space that people don’t need.

Yes, there are spare rooms in some private houses - space that, according to Mr Monbiot, people just don’t need. And which, therefore, they shouldn’t be allowed to have.

Nearly half of England’s private homeowners are now knocking around in more space than they need. Why is this happening?

Possibly because British citizens still retain some degrees of freedom in their domestic affairs. And homeowners aren’t yet being coerced by the state to use their own property “wisely and fairly” as determined by Commissar Monbiot. Still, such hindrance to utopia can be overcome and our big hearted Guardianista has a solution in mind:

While most houses are privately owned, the total housing stock is a common resource. Either we ensure that it is used wisely and fairly, or we allow its distribution to become the starkest expression of inequality… We have allowed the market, and the market alone, to decide who gets what. 

Clearly, what we need is more state bureaucracy and coercive leverage, with databases, inspectors and prurient intrusion. Some reallocation is in order.

Those who have more space than they know what to do with face neither economic nor social pressure to downsize… Those who use more than their fair share should pay for the privilege, with a big tax penalty for under-occupation.

Ah, the privilege of being allowed to own what is yours. At this point I fear George may be typing with one hand.

If it prompts them either to take in a lodger or to move into a smaller home in a lower tax band, so much the better.

Yes, that guest room or glorified junk cupboard isn’t just your business, you know. It’s a “common resource.” And that selfish loft conversion is just more proof of your guilt. Embrace the greater good, damn you. Sadly, Mr Monbiot doesn’t share with us the details of his own living arrangements, such as whether or not he frivolously uses a room purely as an office or study - say, for the writing of Guardian articles. But perhaps his colleague Polly Toynbee will be spurred to throw open the doors to one of her two rather spacious estates. How about that nice villa in Italy? Or maybe Monbiot’s employer Alan Rusbridger could find a wiser, fairer use for the space currently occupied by his £30,000 grand piano


Sharp-eyed readers will have noted that the Guardian heading has now been altered to read: “The hidden truth about our housing crisis is that it is driven by under-occupation.” The original version was a little more explicit: “Those who insist on under-occupying their homes should be forced to pay for the privilege, or take in a charity lodger.”

In the enormous comment thread following his article, Mr Monbiot appears to be squirming over just how coercive such measures might be: “Nowhere do I suggest forcing people to take lodgers,” says George. “Instead I’m proposing creating tax incentives which would encourage it.” However, it remains unclear how Monbiot squares this claim with his stated belief that the issue “cannot be left to the market,” or his enthusiasm for “economic and social pressure” including a “big tax penalty” for those who’d rather not downsize or share their home with strangers. Or with his eagerness to make both government and the left “pick a fight with wealthy householders,” even those who aren’t in fact wealthy. (“It’s up to us to give them no choice, by turning under-occupation into an issue they can’t avoid.”) A “big tax penalty” for those who don’t voluntarily comply isn’t merely an “incentive” or “prompting” or “encouragement.” It’s coercion and punishment.

Like many of his colleagues, Mr Monbiot seems titillated by coercion. Though perhaps this urge can still result in some residual embarrassment.


Mr Eugenides

Perhaps we could house people in airships:



Mr E! Glad you’re still with us.


"Sadly, Mr Monbiot doesn’t share with us the details of his own living arrangements, such as whether or not he frivolously uses a room purely as an office or study - say, for the writing of Guardian articles."

It seems he has - from comments (the highest-rated of which are ripping him a new one) - at least one, possibly two spare rooms...


"Sadly, Mr Monbiot doesn't share with us the details of his own living arrangements, such as whether or not he frivolously uses a room purely as an office or study - say, for the writing of Guardian articles."

That's one room that could definitely be put to better use. For the greater good, Georgie...


Doesn't Georgie Porgy have better things to do than worry about what someone else is doing?

I guess not.

This is class warfare taken to the masses. How dare you have a spare room! He would have us all living in one room government apartments, with square footage allocated by government edict. Well, not all of us, meaning not him, just the rabble: the icky, icky rabble.

R. Sherman

"While most ___________ are privately owned, the total _________ stock is a common resource. Either we ensure that it is used wisely and fairly, or we allow its distribution to become the starkest expression of inequality…"

Fill in those blanks with whatever you want--candy bars, cars, footballs--and it makes the same amount of sense. My guess is that Mr. Monbiot and his ilk would have no problem with that.


Now he's back-pedalling and saying it should all be 'voluntary'. Apart from the 'big tax penalty' for people who don't volunteer.

Bob Reed

The original moonbat isn't concerned with Polly's spare home in Italy; the sophist would remind you it's Britain he's wringing his hands over...

He wants the UK to go full on communist first, then he can worry about turning the EU into a true workers paradise.

After all, Obama and the Democrats are doing the job for him in the US these days.


According to 192 dot com, Monbiot lived in 1997 with 3 other adults. So it's not so much him being hypocritical just a control freak who demands that everyone lives like he does- as an enternal student in a bedsit.


I meant 2007 not 1997.

There's another interesting fact there but it might be intrusive to mention it.


Dish the dirt, Ross. It's good to share.


"Monbiot" is just a fancy way of spelling "moonbat," isn't it?


I worked in the UK for a week about 10 years ago while I was simultaneously in the process of having a new house built back in the US. Since I was on the phone a bit (a bit too much for my comfort) talking with the builder, one of the UK employees was curious about the house. He asked how many car garage it would be and when I said 3, the look of shock on his face caught me off guard. He even mentioned it to a few other people, as in “This guy’s building a house with a three car garage!”. I was never sure if he was overly impressed or if he was kind of trying to shame me. I don't think his name was George, however...


Anna- it's not dirt as such, but he seems to have been living with one housemate for several years both in Oxfordshire and Wales, when I googled her name it turned out she is a former television boss who killed herself last year.


“Now he’s back-pedalling and saying it should all be ‘voluntary’. Apart from the ‘big tax penalty’ for people who don’t volunteer.”

Quite. I’m not sure how Mr Monbiot squares his claim of purely “voluntary” measures with his belief that “it cannot be left to the market.” Or with his enthusiasm for “economic and social pressure.” Or with his eagerness to make both government and the left “pick a fight with wealthy householders.” (“It’s up to us to give them no choice, by turning under-occupation into an issue they can’t avoid.”) Or with the original heading of his article (now altered): “Those who insist on under-occupying their homes should be forced to pay for the privilege, or take in a charity lodger.” Downsizing or taking in lodgers is hardly voluntary if it’s the result of deliberate economic coercion.

And you’ll notice Monbiot offers no consistent definition of what constitutes an “under-occupied” property. Is a dining room or conservatory now an affront to “fairness”? What about that box room with the unused gym equipment? According to one of the papers Monbiot mentions, a young childless couple in a two-bedroom flat would be guilty of having “surplus housing” and would therefore be in need of moral correction and a “big tax penalty.” So a young couple in a two-bedroom flat now count as “wealthy householders”?

And there’s the thing. Once you tease away the veneer of socialist altruism, what you find is yet another authoritarian fantasy. To which George is drawn with remarkable frequency.


Get the state out of my (spare) bedroom.


"George “laughing boy” Monbiot has spotted another crisis."

Laughing stock, surely?


"Monbiot" is just a fancy way of spelling "moonbat," isn't it?

Cranky, surely you know that Monbiot's name is one possible etymology for "moonbat." I learned that on LGF back in the day. You know: before the worms infected Charles's brain.

As for excess space, the U.K. ain't got nuthin' on China's abandoned eco-cities:




Wendell Cox is a pro-free market urban planning consultant. He points out that new homes average 75 square metres in the UK, compared to the standard 65 square metres of units built by the East German Communists. In the USA, new homes average 200 square metres.

George Monbiot is a crank.


"At this point I fear George may be typing with one hand."

Eew. Eew. Eew.


“Eew. Eew. Eew.”

It helps if you picture this while reading that sentence.


Abe Froman

My wife and I live in a three bedroom home with a dining room, living room, den, office double garage and a lovely yard. It's mine, I worked for it and I will shoot anyone who tries to take it from me.

We don't need all the rooms, but sometimes we just like being in a different one. It's my planet too. It's my life and I'll goddamn live it the way I want too.


A first-year economics student could explain to Monbiot that people invest in housing because they are allowed to enjoy the fruits of their investment as they see fit. Force people to share their housing -- through punitive taxes or other means -- and they have less incentive to invest in housing.

Thus Monbiot's proposal would reduce investment in housing, greatly worsening the housing shortage his idea is supposed to ameliorate.

I can't image that socialists are very good chess players. They can never seem to see more than one move ahead.


"Monbiot" is just a fancy way of spelling "moonbat," isn't it?

It's French for dickhead.

Bubba Brown

Welcome to the workers paradise! Sounds like the Dr Zhigavo movie where the Dr's family had "guests" move in, after the revolution. David Suzuki has multiple residences as does Al Gore can we move in, can I book 2 weeks at Daveys Salt Spring Island residence? Maybe his Deep Cove Condo.
Cheers Bubba


I was just thinking of that scene in Dr. Zhivago! Gosh, I remember when the way the communists forced people out of their homes and took them over was one of the things that every freedom-loving person in the West hated about the communists. Oh, wait...


What is quite fascinating is that when the proles really have had enough of eating cake our former masters will not be able to work out where it all went wrong.

The only thing going through their minds a second before they hear 'ready.....aim.....fire' is utter confusion......'but we did it for your own good'.....

Darleen Click

I can't image that socialists are very good chess players ...

If a socialist believes he's losing, he'll just change the rules and confiscate your pieces. Who said they were "yours" to begin with?


Just to labour the obvious - a common resource is just what housing is not. As nearly always, Monbiot seems unaware that deeper, more intelligent people have already given a lot of thought to the subjects on which he writes.

In economics a common good (say fish in the deep ocean) has a fairly precise definition: it is rival in consumption (the more you take, the less for others) and also non-excludable (it is not possible to prevent someone else from coming along and exploiting the resource). This type of good tends to get over-used and so there may be a rationale for some public intervention, although the one most commonly suggested - to create and enforce private property rights - is not one that a socialist like Monbiot is going to appreciate. Housing, though, has all the features of a pure private good that is most efficiently handled through the market: it is both rival in consumption (you and your loved ones will enjoy this 3 bedroom semi a lot less if you're sharing it with me and my lot) and excludable (me with a shotgun at the door).

As to Monbo's own housing, Wikipedia gives a few leads:

"George Monbiot grew up in Henley-on-Thames in South Oxfordshire, in a large country house that backed onto Peppard Common. [4] His father, Raymond Geoffrey Monbiot, is a businessman who headed the Conservative Party's trade and industry forum,[2] while his mother, Rosalie—the elder daughter of Roger Gresham Cooke[5]—is a Conservative councillor who led South Oxford district council for a decade. ... Monbiot lived in Oxford, UK for many years, but in 2007 moved with his wife, writer and campaigner Angharad Penrhyn Jones, and daughter Hanna to a low emissions house in the mid-Wales market town of Machyllneth. They split up shortly thereafter.[21]"

Furor Teutonicus

And, in spirit and intent, the difference between Moonbats "idea" (Treat it carefully, it will get lonley in there Moonbat) and mass imigration is WHAT exactly?


"They split up shortly thereafter."

Clearly, the idea of a 'low-emissions house' was a lot more pleasant than the reality...


A sympathetic Guardian reader tuts at the “incredible intolerance” shown by critics of Monbiot’s article. (Yes, Monbiot’s critics are intolerant, not the Great Man himself.) “Don’t forget we used to have a window tax,” says the reader, earnestly. “Anything is possible.”

Mr Eugenides

@Ross: A bit of Googling suggests you may be confusing two people. The TV boss you mention was Meinir Angharad Jones, who died last year. Mr Monbiot's ex-wife is Angharad Penrhyn Jones, who is (I hope) a different person entirely.

The former Mrs Monbiot was responsible for this splendid piece of handwringing three years ago in - where else? - the Guardian: "I threw my fears to the wind", a meditation on the morality (or otherwise) of bringing children into a world doomed to the fiery catastrophe of climate change, which I commend to you in its entirety:


The whole thing is chock full of Classic Sentences From The Guardian ("I have a visceral urge to protect [my daughter's] innocence. I don't want her to be brought up on tofu and fear."), but this may be a new high:

When Hanna was nine months old, she learned to crawl. Unfortunately, she could only go backwards. The expression on her face broke my heart as she moved farther and farther away from the toy she was trying to reach. It was like a metaphor for our fight to stabilise global temperatures.



Jonathan Levy

R. Sherman:

"While most __kidneys__ are privately owned, the total __kidney__ stock is a common resource. Either we ensure that it is used wisely and fairly, or we allow its distribution to become the starkest expression of inequality…"

This is fun!

George Warburton

The following is an extract from the Wikipedia entry for Monbiot:

"He came back to work in Britain after being pronounced clinically dead in Lodwar General Hospital in north-western Kenya, having contracted cerebral malaria."

This explains a lot.


Just FYI: If you want the full screencaps of both versions, see link in this comment:
or go to http://j.mp/gAWBKH



Allen Esterson

My favourite passage from the former Mrs Monbiot's article is this:

"I still haven't read Cormac McCarthy's The Road - an account of life after a complete collapse of the biosphere. George, grey in the face, urged me to do so."


While most girlfriends are privately owned, the total girlfriend stock is a common resource


Why do all the freaks end up in mid-Wales? Monbiot, Griffin...the place is simply crawling with elderly hippies, new-agers, ecologists and other nutters. Why there and not, say, the Peak District?


Quick word on the etymomlogy of 'Moonbat'. (and meme-convergeance of the blogosphere).

It's generally believed that the first coinage in blogs of the term 'Moonbat' was made by not by someone at LGF, but actually by Perry de Havilland over at http://www.samizdata.net/blog, giving the term in my mind a much greater level of legitimacy. Perry's original meaning wasn't apparently a corruption of Monbiot but was evocative of those who 'bark at the moon'.

It appears that the LGF'ers are the ones responsible for the recycling of 'Moonbat' into a cognomen for Barmy George.

This has been a Blogosphere Public Service Announcement. I thank you.


One thing I've started to note is the increasing common readership between blogs in Samizdata's circle, and Protein Wisdom. And I think that's a good thing. For any Proteinies that aren't browsing Samizdata, Brian Micklethwaite posted an entry that turned into a discussion of Intentionalism a few days ago.


It’s interesting to note that in a thread currently totalling over 900 comments, Monbiot has found time to respond – briefly - only to a question about his personal arrangements. (There seems to be some confusion regarding the exact number of lodgers in George’s own four-bedroom house, valued at around £300,000, and the four-bedroom house he owned before that.) However, the more serious objections to Monbiot’s proposal have so far gone unanswered. Critics raise a barrage of questions about planning restrictions, environmental blocks to new building, whether existing housing stock is unsuitable for multiple household occupation, immigration, family structure, issues of privacy and violation, etc. And Monbiot is silent.

One of the points ignored (despite its repetition) is Monbiot’s apparent ability to fathom a person’s needs more accurately than they can, and to single-handedly redefine property rights. Seemingly, he can fathom the precise amount of a person’s living space that they need (by some calculus that isn’t clear), with the “excess” being up for grabs by the collective. He seems quite sure that huge swathes of the population can simply be made to do without an asset they may well regard as rather precious and personal, and for which they’ve most likely worked and saved over any number of years. But George knows best, see? It’s a mixture of unrealism and authoritarian arrogance that defines so much of the Guardian’s commentary.


Like all Communists he thinks he should be in charge.


“Like all Communists he thinks he should be in charge.”

And like every communist I’ve encountered, his sadistic urges are hard to miss. Hence the enthusiasm for taxation as a punishment. Monbiot is calling for a punitive tax on people who don’t wish to downsize or fill their home with strangers. According to George, the home you bought shouldn’t actually be your own to use as you see fit.


Presumably, Monbiot wouldn't mind if i came to live with him. i owe big money all over town and i never wash. Also i like the idea of human sacrifice though i have not as yet found a suitable opportunity to put this into practice. i have nowhere to live after being thrown out of my last place, because of what i did to the pig.

In closing:

While most big dicks are privately owned, the total big dick stock is a common resource. Either we ensure that it is used wisely and fairly, or we allow its distribution to become the starkest expression of inequality.

sackcloth and ashes

I'd be happy to accommodate Mr Monbiot, although as I've recently taken up martial arts I need the opportunity to practice. I could use him as a human punchbag, just like Colonel Tan-Sun Moon in 'Die Another Day'.


Gales of riotous laughter. I suppose the British people are ignorant of the ills of the Cultural Revolution when that excess space was taken away from the ox ghost, snake spirit, capitalist running dogs. OTOH, I believe Monbiot is 100% aware and wishes, wants, and wills a reeducational revolution in Britain.

Don Rodrigo

Since Monbiot is not a harmless crank -- but rather a person of undeserved influence -- he should be hauled off to one of these under-occupied homes (preferrably an obscenely large one), and defenestrated from an attic window -- head first.


If the supply of housing is so scarce, you´d think someone would advocate restrictions to immigration before considering more draconian measures such as Monbiot proposes. If England is so overcrowded we need to be forced to rent spare rooms, do we want net immigration?

"While most xxx are privately owned, the total xxx stock is a common resource".
Scratch an environmentalist... and you´ll realize that they only pretend to respect private property,
and that they´re more concerned about controlling peoples´ lives than the environment.


"Those who use more than their fair share should pay for the privilege...

Georgie doesn't understand that thay have already done so, does he?

phantom menace

Does the Guardian publish really stupid articles just to boost their website traffic?


It would be interesting to know what percentage of the Guardian’s traffic is from people laughing at the inmates. Judging by the responses to Monbiot’s latest, I suspect it’s quite high.

In the comments Monbiot tries to blame the overwhelmingly negative reaction to his piece on the original subheading (now altered to something less explicit). But his actual article is perfectly in keeping with the original heading and is fixated with punishment and coercion. Despite his subsequent protestations about merely “proposing incentives,” he doesn’t in fact talk about incentives or positive benefits for those who comply with his egalitarian vision. He writes, with enthusiasm, about punitive measures to correct what he sees as selfishness. And punitive taxation – “a big tax penalty” – would have the effect of coercing a great many people – forcing them to downsize or take in lodgers.

That Monbiot chooses not to admit this tells us quite a lot about him.


I'd guess that many a standard model latte-leftist Guardian reader is also reacting poorly to Monbiot's piece because - when you look at it squarely - they too are well-off bourgeois house owners with lots of rooms to spare. Dammit George, get a grip - the rigors of socialism are for imposing on others, not on US!


Communists don't like people. People are resources and one can potentially have either a surplus or a deficit of them. People who complain or push back are defective resources and are to be dealt with accordingly. If one is in charge of a governmental body one has means for dealing with useless resources. They will use them, because as we all know exercising power is intoxicating.

For commenters who think that exposing a communist's hypocrisy will overturn the argument, just remember the pashas and other perquisites the Soviet leaders had. Remember...they don't like people, and don't particularly care what the people have to say, either. By disagreeing with a communist one merely shows oneself to be a selfish enemy of the state.

The sooner we understand we have enemies in the Monbiots of the world, the better.

Cousin Dave

While most toothbrushes are privately owned, the total toothbrush stock is a common resource.

Ted S., Catskills, NY

Maybe I should move into a smaller place and burn down my current residence. There goes the "excess" space. And I can pay for the new place with the insurance check. ;-)

John D

"Monbiot is calling for a punitive tax on people who don't wish to downsize or fill their home with strangers. According to George, the home you bought shouldn't actually be your own to use as you see fit."

What's the betting Monbiot still can't see why he's getting so much flak?


“What's the betting Monbiot still can’t see why he’s getting so much flak?”

Well, like many of his colleagues, Monbiot has a kind of moral imperviousness, as if simply being a Guardianista were the measure of human virtue. I doubt it occurs to him or his colleagues that what they want to bring about isn’t quite as righteous as they seem to think it is.

But let’s paraphrase, shall we?

“Kids left home? Husband dead? And still living in that four-bedroom house you bought together all those years ago? Shame on you! Our special bonus tax bill will help correct your behaviour. Now find somewhere smaller to live. Before things get ugly.”


um. Just an idle thought...but...if there is a tax penalty for too much space filled with too few people, will I get a bigger deduction or a check (like the EITC) if I stuff some people in? How will it be figured? # of total square feet divided by total # of people? OOOOOOH sign me up. I have an over large closet I can stuff 20 people into if they stand and are thin. I'll make bank!!


'Maybe I should move into a smaller place and burn down my current residence. There goes the "excess" space. And I can pay for the new place with the insurance check. ;-)'

Posted by: Ted S., Catskills, NY

Mr Catskills Sir, think what that would do to all the sequestrated CO2 in the wood, etc that combusts?.

I mean, honestly......



Cmon David,

Next you're going to claim that European governments are planning to confiscate private pensions.

WHAT THE??? http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/2011/01/europe-starts-confiscating-private-pension-funds
Belay my last!!!

Keep Firing!

Robert Edwards

He is a truly awful man. I attended the Spectator debate on climate change in 2009, hoping to witness Ian Plimer Fisk the odious Monbiot. I travelled up to London to attend, so you may imagine my disappointment when it was announced that Moonbat had bottled it. We were, in compensation, treated to an excellent presentation by Plimer (a genuinely amusing man) which did a fair job of Fisking the AGW movement anyway. Plimer e-mailed Monbiot the details and this was the great man's reply:

"Fascinating as these questions doubtless are, I am unqualified to answer them. Unlike Ian Plimer, I make no pretence of being a climate scientist. I am a journalist, who, among other tasks, reports and comments on the findings of climate science. My answer to questions 1-13 is: "you're asking the wrong person" ".


I'm very concerned about all the excess unused space in George Monbiot's head. If he's not going to use it he should turn it over to someone else who will.

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