Alfred Kahn, a towering figure in regulatory reform (and one of the nicest people on the planet), died on Monday at the age of 93. Though best known for his pivotal role in deregulating the airlines – as the chair of the Civil Aeronautics Board he led the charge to open the industry to route and price competition – Fred was also enormously influential in modernizing the regulation of public utilities and telecommunications.
Much of what he advocated now seems like common sense. But it’s important to remember that reform was always opposed by powerful entrenched interests. And part of Fred’s genius was to use his charm, wit and liberal credentials to sell free markets to Democrats nostalgic for the New Deal era. Indeed, what distinguished Fred from so many other smart, dedicated regulatory reformers was what Philip Weiser called “political entrepreneurship – his skill at denying political cover to the interest groups benefiting from regulation at the expense of the public.
We’ll miss him.