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Alfred E. Kahn, 1917-2010

Aug 2012
Working Paper
11-021
By  Paul Joskow, Roger Noll
This article, an introduction to a compedium dedicated to the life of Alfred E. Kahn, reviews his academic research and policy interests and how they evolved, his activities as a regulator and advisor to governments and companies, and the interactions between his real-world experiences and his academic work. Although Kahn is best known for his research on the economics of regulation and his application of microeconomic principles in his role as a regulator and advisor, his academic research portfolio is much more diverse. He also wrote papers on patent policy, economic development, antitrust policy and other topics. Even before becoming a regulator he was actively involved in applying economic principles to regulatory problems as an advisor and consultant. In all of his work Kahn recognized that markets were imperfect, but that policies aimed at improving market performance often made things worse rather than better. His experience as a regulator and consultant strengthened his recognition that the costs of imperfect regulation had to be carefully balanced against the costs of imperfect markets. One had to search for the best that could be done in an imperfect world. Kahn was particularly fascinated by the challenges of of designing and implementing policies to govern the transition of industries from regulated monopolies or oligopolies to industries that would ultimately rely primarily on competitive markets to govern their behavior and performance. Fred Kahn was an extraordinary man and he will be missed greatly by his many friends and colleagues representing a wide range of political orientations and approaches to economic and public policy analysis.