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University of Colorado hosts tribute for Alfred Kahn

"To say that Fred Kahn is the archetype and inspiration for the deregulatory policies that have transformed a series of network industries over the last 30 years is no exaggeration," says a Web page inviting scholars and others to a Sept. 5 conference in Kahn's honor at the University of Colorado Law School.

The conference, "Deregulation Revisited: A Tribute to Fred Kahn," marks 30 years since the enactment of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which was spearheaded by Kahn, the Robert Julius Thorne Professor of Political Economy Emeritus at Cornell, when he was chair (1977-78) of the now-defunct Civil Aeronautics Board.

"In so doing, he not only helped to transform the regulation of airlines in this country, but made clear that enlightened leadership can make an enormous difference in public policymaking," says the conference summary at

The conference is intended for policymakers, former policymakers, academics and industry leaders to reflect not only on the deregulatory initiatives of the last 30 years, but also on Kahn's teachings and contributions to that effort, and to ponder the lessons learned from deregulatory efforts in airlines, telecommunications and energy.

Kahn, who joined the Cornell faculty in 1947, served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1969-74) and then took a three-year leave from the university in 1974 to chair the New York Public Service Commission, which was responsible for the regulation of the electric, gas, telephone and water companies. Widely regarded as one of the world's leading scholars of public utility regulation -- initially because of his two-volume Economics of Regulation (1970-71, republished in 1988) -- his appointment to the New York commission gave him the opportunity to apply the economic principles, notably of peak or congestion pricing, expounded in his first volume.

He then served as chair of the now-defunct Civil Aeronautics Board, and in 1978 was tapped by U.S. President Jimmy Carter to serve as the president's adviser on inflation. These appointments thrust him into a leading role in the deregulation of such potentially competitive industries as air and surface transportation, foretold in his second volume, while continuing to press for congestion pricing of such infrastructure services as access to airports and air traffic control.

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