Alfred Kahn, frequently credited as the father of airline deregulation, passed away.
While Kahn was certainly an important voice for deregulation, and made important positive contributions to the economy and played a key role in the legislation sponsored by Senator Kennedy which deregulated the airline industry while serving as the Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, he was continuing down a path that had already been set in motion by his predecessor at the CAB, John Robson.
Under Robson the CAB ‘experimented with price competition’ the radical notion that airlines would be permitted to lower their prices without formal proceedings in Washington, DC. And the world didn’t end, though most airlines opposed deregulation because the government had essentially guaranteed airline profitability by refusing to permit competition, either in prices or even in services. Robson passed away in 2002.
But Kahn did more than help deregulate the airlines. A consummate economist, throughout his career in public service he pushed ideas like peak pricing for energy use, ideas which make sense but are rarely popular.
It’s a rare moment in history, and takes rare individuals, for good economics to triumph over bad politics. And for his role in such a moment Kahn deserves to be remembered.