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Absolute and relative

To understand the world, we need to be able and willing to adopt both an absolute and a relative perspective

Did you see that video, a few weeks ago? It was widely shared on social media, and has been viewed nearly 1.5 million times (with other copies many more times) since it was posted. This was not entirely surprising: the surreal sight of an airline passenger repeatedly punching the seat in front of him does indeed have great viral potential.

Is it greed?

That the airlines have a hand in this is beyond doubt. As Men’s Health reported following an earlier ‘reclining seat wars’ incident, “The average seat pitch-which is the legroom between seats-was 35 [89 cm] inches during the 1970s. But today, it’s just 31 inches. Somewhere over the last four decades, we lost four inches.” This was in 2015, and in the meantime, more shrinkage has taken place (according to SeatGuru, the pitch on the flight in question is 30 inches).

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But it’s a lot cheaper! (image via twitter)

Tricky inflation

Inflation is one of the economics concepts that is widely known outside the professional sphere. We ordinary citizens experience it as rising prices: stuff gets more expensive over time. For example, the list price of a Toyota Corolla in 1980 was $4,348. The latest 2020 model costs $19,600. The difference corresponds with an annual price inflation of about 3.8%. But wait (the economists say), we’re not comparing like with like. A 2020 Toyota Corolla is equipped with more gadgets than even a 1980 Rolls-Royce contained — a backup camera that shows you how to park, a USB port, pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, eight airbags — I could go on. More importantly, not just these, but many more features were absent in its 40-year old sibling, from air conditioning to LED lights and remote locking, and of course a much superior engine, transmission, brakes and so on.

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Which is cheaper? That depends (images: RLGNZLZ CCBY and Toyota)

Written by

Accidental behavioural economist in search of wisdom. Uses insights from (behavioural) economics in organization development. On Twitter as @koenfucius

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