Meet the Enemy: Grandma

A new term has been added to the litany catchphrases describing enemies of the people. To the words wreckers, profiteers and capitalist roaders has been added "bedroom blockers",  now used to refer to persons over 60 years of age who are live in homes in Britain with more bedrooms than they need.

The Intergenerational Foundation (IF), an organization "established to promote fairness between generations", notes that these homes with spare bedrooms are now being selfishly used by older people when they are needed by the young. In a report the IF has proposed a tax increase to squeeze these seniors out of their homes to "free up space" for the younger generation.

The report stated that there are 25million bedrooms empty in homes across the country, many of which are owned by single old people. ...

'It is perfectly understandable that retired people cling to their home long after it has outlived its usefulness as a place to bring up a family in,' said the Hoarding on Housing report's co-author, Matthew Griffiths.

'But there are profound social consequences of their actions which are now causing real problems in a country where new house-building is almost non-existent.' ...

It called for reforms such as exemption from stamp duty for the over-60s when they move to a smaller property, and overhauling the council tax system.

It also suggested measures to 'encourage' people to sell such as the withdrawal of some 'universal' benefits fro those living in houses worth more than £500,000 and the abolition of council tax concessions for single occupation.

Buried beneath the language of 'reform', 'fairness', 'clinging', and the 'profound social consequences' of the lack of housing is one salient idea: where can we find money. Its proponents are looking for a new source of taxes to provide for things the real economy can no longer produce.  And since the IF is based "in a country where new house-building is almost non-existent" the best place to find resources is under grandma's bed, or quite literally, in grandma's house. If only government could take it or make it available then society's problems are solved.

Anyhow, grandma had it coming. The Intergenerational Foundation argues that grandma's prosperity was based on theft because she was given stuff she did not ultimately deserve  So it is only right for society to take some of it back. "The younger generation have reason to be angry: for decades to come they will be burdened by the spending spree of previous generations – national debt, unfunded government pensions liabilities, debts from student fees, paying for the windfall profits in housing."

In calling for a government solution to rectify "intergenerational injustice", the IF is oblivious to the fact that government solutions created the problem in the first place, largely through Ponzi-like schemes called welfare.  Moreover they seem surprisingly undisturbed by the idea that a society can no longer produce new affordable housing for its young and are oblivious to the fact that by imposing their policies they would discourage the younger generation from investing in the kind of large houses they now covet for their use.

Perhaps it is closer to the truth to argue that the cry for  "intergenerational justice" is just the scream of a dying welfare state.  It is the sound of chairs being rearranged on the deck of the Titanic. As they themselves note,  there is a specter haunting Europe:

indeed all over Europe young people have taken to the streets to protest at their lot in one way or another. The recent demonstrations in Israel – the largest protests in the nation’s history, mainly directed at the housing crisis – are only the latest in a growing list.

They should have gone on to say that it is the specter of communism, or rather the lack of money caused by those 163-year old ideas. And yet those notions are evergreen, ever "new", ever "progressive". Though IF is not a very important organization, its proposals mimic the underlying assumptions of a very important class of people. The "Occupy" protesters, who are in Wall Street, are a stalking horse for those who want know whether something created in large part by government favoritism can now safely be made the target for a program of wealth redistribution. After all, the god-state giveth; therefore the god-state can taketh away.

The power to redistribute wealth in general -- on the basis of "fairness" -- has been advanced as necessary to fix the current economic crisis. But it is ultimately sterile and self referential.  Mark Steyn notes that the only solution to the crisis of the welfare state that it itself can put forward is more of the same.

the “Occupy” movement has no real solutions, except more government, more spending, more regulation, more bureaucracy, more unsustainable lethargic pseudo-university with no return on investment, more more more of what got us into this hole. Indeed, for all their youthful mien, the protestors are as mired in America’s post-war moment as their grandparents.

But it is not spending from new real wealth, since its policies have put a brake on that.  It is only spending from either borrowing or from taking what others "unfairly" have.  It is this sterility, this lack of productivity, which is at the core of the Welfare State's decline. As Mark Steyn put it, "a society can live on the accumulated capital of a glorious inheritance only for so long."  On the day the credit card maxes out, then the welfare state's grandchildren eventually come after their grandparent's house. That was all in the arithmetic, present from the very start. And Steyn concludes, "in that sense this bloodless, insipid revolution is just a somewhat smellier front for the sclerotic status quo."

Toward the end of his literary life, JRR Tolkien tended to the notion that evil ideas were fundamentally sterile, deficient in the power of independent creation. "Melkor was impotent to produce any living thing, but skilled in the corruption of things ... it is probable that these Orks had a mixed origin ... corruptions of Elves (and probably later also of Men)."

In the modern world this sterility is a direct consequence of attempting to freeze things in a state of perfection; having things "just so".  The National Review notes that Mitt Romney has "sought advice on global warming and carbon emissions from the president’s current science czar — an advocate of de-developing America and population control." Holdren wrote along with Paul and Anne H. Ehrlich in their 1973 book Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions "A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States"

It is easy to see how you get to grandma's house from there. But if things are sterile, at least we can have fun. In Noel Coward's I Went to Marvelous Party, "a first-person description of five parties attended by the singer on the French Riviera", there is no future at all, not even a present time for the revelers. There is only a "frantic, addleheaded search for amusement" played out against the backdrop of an intruding dark. If anyone has any presence of mind it should be the last thing the Welfare State plays before the lights all go out.

I went to a marvelous party,

I must say the fun was intense,

We all had to do

What the people we knew

Would be doing a hundred years hence.

Dear Cecil arrived wearing armour,

Some shells and a black feather boa,

Poor Millicent wore a surrealist comb

Made of bits of mosaic from St. Peter's in Rome,

But the weight was so great that she had to go home,

I couldn't have liked it more.

I went to a marvellous party.

We played the most wonderful game,

Maureen disappeared

And came back in a beard

And we all had to guess at her name!

We talked about growing old gracefully

And Elsie who's seventy-four

Said, “A, it's a question of being sincere,

And B, if you're supple you've noting to fear.”

Then she swung upside down from a glass chandelier,

I couldn't have liked it more.

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