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Alfred E. Kahn Dies At 93, Prime Mover Of Airline Deregulation


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Alfred E. Kahn, a Cornell University economist best known as the chief architect and promoter of deregulating the nation’s airlines, despite opposition from industry executives and unions alike, died Monday at his home in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 93.


But Mr. Kahn proved virtually helpless when, as the Consumer Price Index jumped in 1978 to 8 percent, President Jimmy Carter persuaded him to become inflation “czar” and to serve as chairman of the ill-fated Council on Wage and Price Stability, a job described by a sympathetic friend as serving as fire chief to a pyromaniac.

Before long in his new post, the voluble Mr. Kahn, shunning “recession” as a euphemism, warned of a “very serious depression” if inflation were not tamed, prompting a private rebuke by the president’s chief domestic policy adviser, Stuart E. Eizenstat.

So instead, Mr. Kahn began referring in public to a possible economic downturn as a “banana,” only to be chided by the president of the United Fruit Company and induced to shift once again to a different euphemism, “kumquat.”

Mr. Kahn, operating without staff of his own and with inflation accelerating to above 10 percent, became so frustrated in late 1979 that he asked to be relieved of the job. “I can’t figure out why the president doesn’t fire me,” he joked grimly at the time. “Actually, I do know,” he added. “Nobody would be foolish enough to take this job.”

An economist with a sense of humour, how we could do with a few more like this people might actually get interested in this subject, instead we get dullards.

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