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Alfred E. Kahn
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Economist
    (October 17, 1917-December 27, 2010)
    Born in Paterson, New Jersey
    Chaired the economics department at Cornell University
    Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB; 1977-78)
    Served as President Carter's 'inflation czar' (1978-80)
    Known as the 'Father of Airline Deregulation'
    When he was appointed to head the CAB, he knew almost nothing about the airline business and called planes 'marginal costs with wings.'
    Deregulation resulted in numerous bankruptcies and mergers among airlines.
    He was not very effective as inflation czar, considering that inflation was in double digits when he left the post.
    He was rebuked by Carter's chief domestic policy adviser after he decided 'recession' was too euphemistic and warned of a 'serious depression' if inflation was not controlled.
    In response, he began referring in public to a potential economic downturn as a 'banana.'
    He graduated high school at age 15 and graduated first in his class from New York University at age 18.
    Deregulation paved the way for discount airlines like Southwestern.
    It was estimated that reduced air fares produced consumer savings of $5-10 billion a year.
    Economist Dorothy Robyn said of his success in selling Congress and the public on deregulation, 'He has an amazing ability to talk to the average person about very complicated subjects and make it all very clear.'
    A foe of bureaucratic language, he sent CAB staffers a memo asking them to write 'as though you were talking to or communicating with real people.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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