Sunday, July 29, 2007

Airlines and class struggle

After a spell of travel, I have come to believe that the division of airplane seating into (at least) two classes, "economy" and "business", may be the best possible illustration of the inefficiency of inequality.

A few giant seats---roughly 20+ per plane---take up so much space that the remaining 100+ passengers are forced into conditions best compared to a drawing of medieval prisons that I had in a picture book about knights as a child. While two people serve an intermittent, sputtering stream of "business" travelers at the check-in counter, only three people serve an "economy" line stretching back 100-200-300-more frustrated customers.

"Business" is the reserve of "captains of industry" (a phrase borrowed from a European friend of mine). The rest of us, factors of production, belong to the "economy" as a whole.

No doubt, the choice of luxury seating---and thereby a binary airplane, a world of middle class-less travel---makes sense profit-wise, just like sky boxes at sports stadiums.

But what of the rising hopelessness of the ordinary passengers, the angry "ghost" passing through airports like the spirit of Communism described by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto? Shouldn't the companies placate us with some concessions, try to buy us off like Henry Ford did?

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