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cloudship

Capitalism vs The Volcano

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Today, airspace over much of Europe is still closed due to the eruption of a volcano in Iceland. This has been going on for several days, and has stranded many, many passengers - not only in Europe, but also travelers abroad waiting to get back home.

The news is full of stories of people paying absurd amounts of money to get somewhere - anywhere. Car rentals in Europe are going for as much as 1500 euro - that's over $2000 US! - just because car rental companies can get away with it. Hotels have been jacking up their prices both in Europe as well as in other countries where large numbers of travelers are stuck without flights. Trains and ferries are overwhelmed. There is some hope that some restrictions might be lifted today or tomorrow, but the Us has reported that some of it's jet aircraft have experienced some problems due to the volcanic ash. Even if that happens, the backup will takes days to overcome.

There is obviously some huge financial costs to all of this. That alone may very well signal that some of Europe's airlines are going to need some kind of government assistance. But my question is - what is the impact going to b e to the economy in general? Europe is not anywhere nearly as dedicated to capitalism as the US is. Will all these problems - all the costs to the public, in particular, going to have a impact on future government? Will this cause a pronounced swing back to socialism and state-owned business? Certainly travelers are going to fell victimized, and the fact that these services not only had trimmed their services so much that they had no way to cope with an emergency, but that they also took advantage of that situation to make more money for themselves.

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Many people probably know that Iceland was going through a severe economic/financial crisis before the volcano erupted. Iceland's financial collapse made the Great Recession of the USA look like times of prosperity. For months, people were actually starting to leave their country. Then the volcano struck.

Iceland is a valued member of NATO, it's been a loyal member of the Western alliance, and is one of the world's oldest free democracies. All these recent catastrophes couldn't have happened to a nicer country. This is truly Iceland's darkest hour.

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I think that this particular scenario (the volcano) could get the airlines some short-term loans of some sort, mainly because Europe, like everyone else right now, can't afford to lose anymore jobs. It's not anything the airlines can control either, so they can't be faulted really. As for the car companies charging ridiculous prices for rentals, I'm really surprised that European countries don't have price gouging laws, which is something I'm happy to say we have here in the US. Europe is well-known to have tighter control of industry than the US, but this is certainly a major weak point. Massive increases in rates is something that would never happen here and those that tried would be dealt with in short order by the government.

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Today I read that the airlines have lost about $1 billion since flights were halted over much of Europe and that they are looking for a bailout from the EU due to incompetence in managing the whole situation. I really feel for the people stuck in airports around the world who can't get home. I read where some folks in a South Korean airport blocked the ticket counter as a form of protest. They are forced to bathe in the public bathrooms, have to sleep in cots in the terminals, only getting one food voucher a day to McDonald's, etc. It's a really dire situation. Fortunately, some flights are now being allowed.

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I have read this evening that the volcano has spewed more ash into the atmosphere which will affect the U.K. and Europe. About the only way onto the continent is to fly into Spain or Greece. The rest of the continent is effectively shut off. Price gouging is despicable in these situations and I'm surprised that the EU or individual countries don't have laws dealing with this.

I was also reading of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of passengers from Africa and Asia who are caught at airports where they were connecting but have no visas to enter the respective countries. They are essentially 'trapped' at the airports.

Europe's economic recovery so far is tepid at best, this will NOT help it at all.

Read about the current status on air travel in Europe in the MSNBC article.

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