The business-class sadist

10th June, 2006

Dear Economist,

Your FT colleague Tyler Brule extols the virtues of business class-only airlines. But isn’t everything relative? Will I feel special if first class is standard class?

Dr Rupert Marshall, Gothenburg

Dear Dr Marshall,

It is true that many people seem to have a utility function whose value is tied to the utility of others.

I like watching people laugh, am delighted when my wife is happy, and feel stressed if I see my colleagues under pressure.

Your happiness, too, seems to depend on the happiness of others, but in a curious way. You do not enjoy acres of space, vintage champagne or attentive service. You merely get a kick out of watching taller or heavier passengers trying to squeeze into tiny spaces and seeing the queues for the lavatory.

Given your sadistic streak, I am not sure what to advise. It might be much healthier if you were to compare yourself, not to fellow passengers in pain, but to your own circumstances when you were younger, or the situation your great-grandfather faced when he was a young man…

Continued on

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