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One is One

In John Galt’s speech, which I did read every word of the first time I read Atlas Shrugged, he says “A is A. A thing is itself.” It is a statement of the law of identity. It is a core principle of Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, but is much older. According to Wikipedia it is first found in Theaetetus by Plato.

It also explains why a simple thing aggravated me so much in my travel this past weekend, especially boarding my plane to Atlanta in the Detroit airport. In each case, my boarding past put me in zone one. That should mean I am in the first or second zone. One is the first number to most people. Some mathematicians and computer scientists start counting at zero.

In every case, I was in no earlier than the third group board. In Detroit, I was in the fifth, and well over half the plane boarded before me. People needing extra time such as those in wheelchairs or parents with young children were the first group. First class came next on flights that had it. Active duty military and premier (or maybe it was platinum) fliers were next up. Then, there was the Sky member group. In Detroit, there were more Sky members than other passengers. The plane was half full before zone one boarded.

I would note, that while I did not pay for it this time, there is an “upgrade” if you check in late to be in zone one. A flier might purchase it thinking it would move them to the front of the line instead of to the middle.

Delta Airlines apparently does not believe “One is One.”

It is perhaps unfair to single out Delta. While they are probably the most egregious regarding providing early boarding as rewards or courtesies they are the only one where zone one is not zone one of the people getting on the plane. Everywhere else first class and premium pay boarding is zone one or zones one and two. That is the objectionable thing about Delta’s practice.

When words lose meaning, we cannot communicate. When we cannot communicate we have to mind read and attribute motives to others. The outcome is cynicism at best and hostility at worst.

Delta’s zones are a symptom of a more significant disease and one of the milder one. A much more perverse version in the US is the income tax code. Everyone I know thinks they are being screwed over by the tax system while most other people are getting a free ride. Of course, such a situation is impossible, but nearly every word used in income taxes from income to rate to refund is unmoored from any ordinary meaning.

I understand the need for specialized vocabulary and that words can have different meanings in different contexts. When I speak of melodrama concerning how a couple of people are behaving at Frolicon, I mean something very different than when I call one book a melodrama as opposed to a drama. In most cases which is which will be clear and if they are not I have a responsibility to clarify.

What I cannot do is say “one is not one” or “even if you paid no taxes, you get a refund” because that is stripping “one” and “refund” of meaning. The value of what is being done does not justify abusing words. Just call them what they are. Tell regular passengers they are in the third group to board at best. Admit a “refundable” tax credit is a form of welfare. Then justify the individual practices on their own grounds.

But always accept “One is One.”

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