WEBCAST: A CONVERSATION WITH PROFESSOR ALFRED E. KAHN
A MESSAGE FROM BRIAN F. HAVEL, DIRECTOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL AVIATION LAW INSTITUTE AT DE PAUL UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW
This message is based on Professor Havel's introductory and closing remarks at the interview of Professor Kahn
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This program is the second event in the Institute's
"Conversations with Aviation Leaders" oral history project on the
airline industry and was recorded at the Cornell University Media Center
in Ithaca, New York. We hope eventually to cover all phases of the
industry's history after the 1960s, which is where a prior Columbia
University project ended some years ago, but we are continuing the first
phase of the program with a focus on the events, law, and public policy
issues surrounding the emergence of U.S. airline deregulation in the
We are delighted to have two distinguished guests as interlocutor
and interviewee respectively. Our interlocutor, as she was during our
first interview with Professor Michael Levine, is Dr. Dorothy Robyn,
Principal of The Brattle Group Consultancy in Washington DC.
Our interviewee, Professor Alfred E. Kahn, is widely regarded as
the father of U.S. airline deregulation. He is currently the Robert
Julius Thorne Professor of Political Economy, Emeritus, at Cornell
University. Back in the late 1970s, he was Chairman of the Civil
Aeronautics Board as deregulation dawned, and the story of how he
steered this classic instrumentality of regulation toward a path to its
own oblivion is a central focus of this interview.
Professor Kahn received his bachelor's degree, summa cum laude,
and his master's degree from New York University, and earned his
doctorate in economics from Yale University. Following service in the
US Army, he served as Chairman of the Department of Economics at Ripon
College in Wisconsin, and then moved to the Department of Economics at
Cornell, where he also served as Dean of the College of Arts and
Professor Kahn's range of public service is staggering, and
indeed one rarely if ever hears any more of the kind of individual that
he is and was, a private man who many, many times stepped into the
public service for periods of time to serve on boards, agencies, and
commissions that promoted some aspect of the public welfare in a market
economy. From the President's Council of Economic Advisors to the
National Commission for Review of Antitrust Laws and Procedures, from
the Governor of New York's Fact-Finding Panel on Long Island Lighting
Company's Nuclear Power Plant at Shoreham, Long Island to the New York
State Council on Fiscal and Economic Priorities, from the National
Governing Board of Common Cause to the Chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel to
Study Pricing in the California Electricity Market, Fred Kahn has been
busy critiquing and shaping how government can and ought to regulate the
He is the recipient of six honorary degrees and numerous awards,
including Yale University's Wilbur Cross Medal for Outstanding
Achievement, the J. Rhoads Foster Award for achievements in economic
regulation, and, in the field we focused on in this conversation, the L.
Welch Pogue Medal for Lifetime Contributions to Aviation, which he
received in 1997.
Professor Kahn has published widely in the field of economic
regulation and deregulation, including works with mischievous titles
such as Whom the Good Would Destroy, or How Not to Regulate, and such seminal studies as The Law and Economics of Antitrust Policy and The Economics of Regulation.
He has contributed his share of aphorisms to the airline industry
which, along with telecommunications, has been one of his driving
passions as an economist. When Airline Business, the industry's version
of Fortune magazine, culled its great aviation quotations, it had
several Kahnisms, including the preternaturally optimistic:
"People Express is clearly the archetypal deregulation success
story and the most spectacular of my babies. It is the case that makes
me the proudest."
And the transcendent:
"I really don't know one plane from the other. To me they are just marginal costs with wings."
Alfred Kahn is a legend in the airline industry and for the next
few hours, he will be speaking with us about how he played an historic
role in changing that industry forever.