Alfred Kahn, market designer extraordinaire

Alfred Kahn died on Monday, 27 December 2010, in his Ithaca home at the age of 93. Fred lived a wonderful life and contributed enormously to society and all those who knew him. As a market design he was a pioneer. It takes a special person to be named chairman of an organization, the Civil¬†Aeronautics Board in his case, and eliminate it. Fred recognized that the CAB served only to insulate airlines from competition. Fred’s action led the way to a deregulation movement that introduced competition into many industries, reducing prices and spurring innovation.

So often in market design, bringing good ideas to practice is not limited by a shortage of good ideas, but by the barriers to change that are erected by those who benefit from the status quo. Fred was remarkably effective in improving the world through humor. He had a gift to make people laugh and this won over so many that the remaining obstacles to change could be overcome.

I will miss Fred dearly, but always remember the important lessons he taught me, and the fun I had learning them.

New York Times obituary; Cornell University obituary.

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