November 20, 2008

I'm going to ask the three executives here to raise their hand if they flew here commercial. Let the record show, no hands went up. Second, I'm going to ask you to raise your hand if you are planning to sell your jet in place now and fly back commercial. Let the record show, no hands went up.
- Representative Brad Sherman, D-California

The private jet culture is now firmly entrenched in place. The public claim is that it is an essential safety feature -- but apparently one only needed by the ultra-rich and ultra-powerful, and not even the majority of those. Regular people can take their chances with all the standard security risks of a sharply divided society. The law notwithstanding, their lives are clearly not as valuable as those of the people who decide how to run their plants into the ground.

But let us be clear on this. Even if day-to-day life were utterly secure (in an environment of utter freedom!) and society were so stable that personal safety were no concern whatsoever, there would still be found an excuse for such perks as the corporate jet.

For a very long time now, personal convenience has been one of the true measures of individual value as measured on an economic scale, so deeply entrenched that even our children know it. In theory, this reflects the relative value of personal time and efficient use thereof. In practice ... well, most of us have experienced for ourselves the annoyance that we are not there yet, even when "there" is not an especially profitable use of our time and requires us to become servants to our own vehicles. Thus, value in this context measures the degree to which other people are willing to rearrange their lives to suit ours.

Establishing this value hierarchy can be as simple a question as the subtle status game played by secretaries making calls to determine whose boss makes a personal appearance on the telephone line first, and thus whose time is less valuable. (Think about this one, the next time you receive a computerised telephone call on behalf of anyone or anything.) On the road, we see it continually in the flaunting of the speeding and right-of-way laws and the continuing cellphone debates. In transportation matters, the peak of the pyramid is the private jet.

Just for the record, this is what a culture of entitlement looks like, and not this.

Too bad so many other people are going to have to pay for that insight as well -- and it won't end only with those who happen to work for the Big Three.

Couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it.
- Representative Gary Ackerman, D-New York

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