Friday, May 27, 2011

Alfred Kahn, Deregulator and Expositor

 Alfred E. Kahn died on December 27, 2010. Kahn was best-known in the economics profession for his academic and practical work on deregulation; in particular, as the final Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, he deregulated his own agency out of existence at the time of airline deregulation.  The website of National Economic Research Associates, Inc., has biography with links to obituaries. It also has a copy of an underground classic—a short “Memorandum” that Kahn wrote to the CAB staff in 1977 on the importance of clear writing

Kahn began: “One of my peculiarities, which I must beg you to indulge if I am to retain my sanity (possibly at the expense of yours!) is an abhorrence of the artificial and hyper-legal language that is sometimes known as bureaucratese or gobbledygook. The disease is almost universal, and the fight against it endless. But it is a fight worth making, and I ask your help in this struggle.” Also available is the text of a longer 1998 talk he gave on “My War Against Bureaucratese.”