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By Alain de Botton

From the bestselling writer of The paintings of Travel comes a wittily fascinating exploration of the unusual "non-place" that he believes is the resourceful heart of our civilization.

Given remarkable entry to at least one of the world's busiest airports as a "writer-in-residence," Alain de Botton discovered it to be a show off for plenty of of the key crosscurrents of the fashionable world--from our religion in know-how to our destruction of nature, from our international interconnectedness to our romanticizing of the unique. He met tourists from in all places and spoke with everybody from luggage handlers to pilots to the airport chaplain. Weaving jointly those conversations and his personal observations--of every little thing from the poetry of room provider menus to the eerie silence in the midst of the runway at midnight--de Botton has produced a rare meditation on a spot that almost all people by no means decelerate adequate to work out in actual fact. Lavishly illustrated in colour through popular photographer Richard Baker, A Week on the Airport finds the airport in all its turbulence and soullessness and--yes--even beauty.

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104 The compromise that was stumbled upon was to retain the existing capitalist economic structures, but to subject them to stringent parliamentary and ministerial control. As we have seen, this meant that the bulk of the railway system remained in private hands, while the state defined goals and supervised operations. This avoided the "natural" economic consequences of monopoly by buoying up inland navigation and imposing a far larger rail network than would have otherwise existed. Loubet, a future president of the republic, used this reasoning in 1883 to defend the convention between the state and the railways which was being discussed in Parliament.

In return for increased public control over their managerial prerogatives, the companies were given financial rewards in the shape of a guaranteed rate of return on their capital. The framers of the agreement believed that they had minimized the danger of deficits by creating the common fund. However, in the prosperous 1920s the profitable companies tended to invest their surpluses in network improvements rather than allow them to disappear into the common fund to subsidize the unprofitable state network.

4 Essentially, the convention presupposed that the grands reseaux would be able to recoup extra money by raising rates, that the 39 Transport and the Depression user would be able and willing to pay, and that the ministry would ratify the proposed increase. After 1929, none of these conditions were met. Rate increases were liable to tilt an already sluggish economy into full-scale recession by raising an essential element of production costs, as well as causing the public to abandon the railways for the road or the waterways.

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