Larry Summers is upset about the quality of America's airports:

Compare the quality of our great resorts with the quality of the airports you take off from to visit those great resorts.

It's a quote that Felix Salmon pounced on:

It’s clearly not easy, being Larry Summers. For all his millions, he still needs to travel from A to B, and keeps on finding himself stymied... As an economist, Summers should know that it makes perfect sense for great resorts to spend enormous amounts of energy on the kind of quality he’s talking about: that’s their comparative advantage, the very heart of what they’re selling. Meanwhile, Summers isn’t really even the customer of the airports he’s passing through: the airlines are the customers, and the passengers are the goods being transported. So the airport doesn’t have much in the way of economic incentives to ease Summers’s way.

I’m sure that Summers has encountered lots of shiny new airports in his travels around the world, in comparison to which US airports look decidedly crumbly. But a lot of that is simply a function of age... More to the point, a lot of the money spent on shiny new airports around the world is simply wasted, from an economic perspective. National governments, especially in developing countries, like to show off when it comes to the airports where luminaries like Summers arrive. But all that expense isn’t really necessary for the smooth functioning of the airport.

In response, Megan lodges a blogger's complaint:

Given the ubiquity of electronic devices, and the importance of airports to business travelers, we could probably enhance national productivity quite a bit if so many airports didn't force travelers to spend their wait times fighting each other for the one electrical socket located behind an out-of-order ATM machine.  The ridiculous security theater procedures which have queues stretching out towards the long-term parking lot could be streamlined.  And whatever engineer designs monstrosities like Heathrow's 40-minute walk-time from security line to gate should be tracked down and . . . um . . . reeducated, or something.


We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to