Friday, 3 April 2020
A haircut for the airlines industries?
It's a sign of the times when I put Malthus into Google just to refresh memory the first dozen entries were about a contemporary singer or entertainer. However, adding Thomas R produced the following summary of his theory:
Populations [have] a tendency to grow until the lower class suffered hardship, want and greater susceptibility to famine and disease, a view that is sometimes referred to as a Malthusian catastrophe.
Doubtless some of the more hard-hearted population pessimists will take satisfaction in the likelihood that the present pandemic will diminish the world population mainly in the lower part of the triangle of wealth distribution.
Be that as it may, I think Malthusian doctrine has considerable relevance to the airlines industries.
Most airlines are begging their governments for financial rescue packages, and it is right that governments should respond - on the condition should be that, post crisis, the airline industry should be considerably smaller.
Whether that is achieved by letting some airlines go out of business, or requiring all airlines to take a haircut is a matter for negotiations.
For some time it has been obvious, becasue of the industry's contribution to the the climate crisis, that this outcome is desirable anyway. Not only do we need a much smaller industry, but there is no case for the expansion of Heathrow, Leeds-Bradford, or any other airport.
The overwhelming bulk of aircraft travel, certainly from the UK and other developed countries, is for tourism, leisure and pleasure.
With modern distance communication facilities there is very little need for business travel. A few people need to travel for work and some to maintain family connections. But, now we know what we know, there is no justification for the present vast industry to be maintained at its present size just to facilitate the fancies of we wealthy for sunshine, exotic experiences or sex.
The second reason that has now emerged is that when the causes of spread of the coronavirus are analysed it is pretty certain that international air travel will be found to have been a major contributor (perhaps along with cruises - that industry will probably need to take a haircut as well)
So in this context Malthus has turned out to be right. Nature is telling us something, and we should listen.