by Eric Englund
I was in college, from 1980 to 1984, I did not have a credit
card or an automobile. So why didn’t I have a car? Well, a
simple deal was struck between my parents and me: "Earn
good grades, live within a reasonable budget, and we’ll do
everything we can to pay for your college education. If your
grades are poor or if you buy a car, then the deal is off."
This is the same deal my father received from his father and
I was okay with it. Pullman, WA was easy to traverse on foot
and the exercise was good for me anyway. As for not having
a credit card, I never bothered to apply for one since I was
always able to live within my budget; besides I found debt
to be a bit frightening. So what does this have to do with
airports and bus stations? I promise; I’ll get there.
many college students living away from home, I grew homesick
– especially during my freshman year. Spokane, my hometown,
was 80 miles away and I didn’t have a car to make that 90-minute
drive. This is when I became quite familiar with bus stations.
A round-trip bus ticket (between Pullman and Spokane) cost
under $15. Greyhound busses were always dependable and the
drivers were highly competent. A minor drawback, to taking
the bus, pertained to the fact that it took a little over
two hours to make the trip; as Greyhound took an alternative
route to pick up passengers living in small towns within Washington’s
grown up in a middle-class neighborhood, our friends and neighbors
typically were solid, hard-working folks sharing similar tastes
and values. We knew about people who lived "on the other
side of the tracks" but rarely associated with them.
To say the least, my parents didn’t want me, or my two siblings,
to pick up "bad habits" from other children living
in rougher families. This is why it is important to be judgmental.
trips, via Greyhound bus, certainly allowed me to become familiar
with a rougher strata of society. Bus stations, most certainly,
were populated with the type of people my parents wanted me
to avoid. Although I’d never make the cover of GQ Magazine,
it was absolutely clear that I was traveling amongst individuals
who held themselves to low standards. Back then, the archetypal
bus passenger looked unhealthy, dressed poorly, used crude
language, and had poor manners. Nonetheless, a weekend trip
to Spokane was always worth it in order to get home-cooked
meals and to spend time with friends and family.
sophomore year, the number of bus trips dropped dramatically
as the coursework became more difficult and my younger brother
had enrolled at Washington State University; so staying in
Pullman, on weekends, was a no-brainer.
after graduating, in June of 1984, I was fortunate enough
to find a job as a surety bond underwriter – which has been
my profession ever since. By August of 1985, I had moved to
Boise, ID and became a field underwriter. Part of my job entailed
traveling. Accordingly, I found myself flying to such places
as Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Seattle. For a young kid
straight out of college, business travel was quite the fun
adventure. Meeting with clients and agents turned out to be
the most enjoyable part of my job; and it sure was nice to
have a generous expense account allowing me to stay at excellent
hotels and to dine at fine restaurants.
respect to flying for business purposes, as a 23-year-old
businessman, I must admit that I felt privileged. What a difference
there was between the bus stations I had frequented and the
airports with which I had become familiar. To be sure, the
most striking difference pertained to the caliber of people
I encountered. Well-dressed business professionals were plentiful.
Families, with children, displayed great excitement as they
embarked upon a family vacation. (In retrospect, it is my
educated guess that, in most cases, parents had saved the
money to pay for the entire family vacation. Hence, every
aspect of the trip, including flying, was treated with respect
and a sense of delight). Flight attendants, ticket agents,
gate agents, and others were typically engaging, courteous,
and well trained. Back then, these professionals did not see
passengers as adversaries. Passengers were rightly seen as
customers and the objective was to deliver a highly positive
flying experience. Granted, this didn’t always happen, but
the intent certainly was there.
I can’t pinpoint the exact date I noticed this – perhaps ten
to twelve years ago – it became glaringly apparent that airports
had become glorified bus stations and that airplanes were
merely the "Greyhound busses of the sky." Let me
be perfectly clear: I do not like flying anymore.
the dreadfully stupid security measures, enforced by the useless
Transportation Security Administration, that turns me off
to flying – yet the TSA is definitely a huge source of irritation.
What turns me off is the majority of my fellow passengers.
To see "parents" passively watch their children
run around while screaming, crying, and generally being obnoxious
is nothing short of hellish. Of course, the incessant cell
phone conversations have proven to me that the masses have
very little to say and sure love to talk about it. Additionally,
it never ceases to amaze me how, today, so many people are
willing to discuss intimate details, via cell phone, while
dozens of people are within earshot. For many, it seems as
if life has become one big "reality" television
show – with central casting located in each community’s airport.
For me, the topper is enduring hours of sitting next to a
pierced up, tattooed, video-game-playing passenger dressed
in black clothing (as if this "unique" look hasn’t
been done a few million times). It is no wonder that being
a flight attendant is no longer viewed as a glamorous profession;
for they have become little more than babysitters on flying
airports have provided me with abundant evidence that the
U.S. is in a state of accelerating social decay. At the epicenter
of this decay, in my opinion, is democracy itself. To buttress
this assertion, I refer to Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s magnificent
The God That Failed. In this book, Dr. Hoppe
describes what happens to a populace living under nanny statism.
He describes how the decivilizing nature of social democracy
led to permanently rising taxes, debts, and public employment.
It has led to the destruction of the gold standard, unparalleled
paper-money inflation, and increased protectionism and migration
controls. Even the most fundamental private law provisions
have been perverted by an unabating flood of legislation
and regulation. Simultaneously, as regards civil society,
the institutions of marriage and family have been increasingly
weakened, the number of children has declined, and the rates
of divorce, illegitimacy, single parenthood, singledom,
and abortion have increased…In comparison to the nineteenth
century, the cognitive prowess of the political and intellectual
elites and the quality of public education have declined.
And the rates of crime, structural unemployment, welfare
dependency, parasitism, negligence, recklessness, incivility,
pyschopathy, and hedonism have increased.
of visiting America’s prisons, I can’t think of a better place,
than our airports, to witness the heavy hand of government
and its resulting incivility. Who really enjoys going to the
is relatively expensive, thus it is access to credit that
allows Uncle Sam’s poster children, for decivilization, to
"pay" for airline tickets. Of course, that vile
institution, the Federal Reserve, has seen to it that credit
be readily available for one and all. In the Fed’s own words:
"Community affairs programs at the Board and the twelve
Federal Reserve Banks promote community development and fair
and impartial access to credit." James Grant stated it
more bluntly in his masterful book The
Trouble with Prosperity:
1991, credit-card purveyors mailed 975 million solicitations;
in 1995, they mailed almost three billion, the great bulk
of them attempts to persuade credit-card borrowers to switch
brands. Not only were commercial banks and credit-card-issuing
finance companies competing, but so, too, was a new kind
of finance company dedicated to serving speculative-grade
people. The new, so-called subprime, lender aimed to charge
an interest rate high enough to earn a profit even after
a certain and (as it was hoped) predictable credit loss.
standards dropped, thanks to the Fed, millions of subprime
credit card users found airline travel within reach. Consequently,
we have the birth of the subprime airline passenger. The timing
as to when subprime credit card lending took off closely correlates
with my experience as to when flying became downright unpleasant.
When incivility meets easy credit, a volatile cocktail emerges…and
it is "in your face" every time you fly the unfriendly
storm is brewing. As a surety bond underwriter, I have seen
it coming. Americans are heavily in debt. America’s mortgage-debt
meltdown is dominating the financial headlines. Be assured
that the next shoe to fall is credit card debt – and it is
the credit bubble implodes, Americans will lose access to
credit. In turn, the number of airline-passenger miles will
plummet – especially, and thankfully, affecting the aforementioned
subprime airline passengers. Consequently, there will be a
painful shakeout amongst the airlines; with poorly financed
carriers, such as American
Airlines, falling into bankruptcy. Yet, from a selfish
point of view, the silver lining will be an emergence (I hope)
of a more genteel flying experience similar to what I had
become accustomed to over 20 years ago.
if we could just get rid of the TSA; and for that, we will
need a Ron Paul presidency.