Alfred E. Kahn: Regulator and Language Maven
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Alfred Kahn’s enduring legacy will be his influence on how economists think about the regulation of natural monopoly. But although the substance of his ideas mattered far more than their style, his influence would not have been nearly as great had it not been for his almost slavish devotion to clear language. His career supports the proposition that most of the heavy lifting in economics relies on just a few basic principles that can be stated in plain English. In this essay, I describe how Kahn’s mastery of those principles made him such an effective regulator, but I also note that events since the 1978 deregulation of the airline industry suggest that he and others at the Civil Aeronautics Board failed to appreciate the extent of unexploited economies of scale in the industry.
KeywordsAlfred Kahn Airline regulation Marginal cost pricing Economies of scale Natural monopoly
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