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Up for Debate: Deregulation

American deregulation was born in 1977, when economist Alfred Kahn, head of the Civil Aeronautics Board, began rewriting the airline industry's rules. Deregulation was an entirely new event -- an earthquake in the relationship between government and industry, which had until then been cozy and predictable. Since then, a wave of deregulation has swept over many other key industries, including trucking and telecommunications, and has completely changed the stakes of management decisions, and transformed, for better or worse, the customer experience. Although change has played out differently in each industry, the core premise remains the same: Markets do a better job than administrative commissions in determining prices and conditions of service.


Stephen Breyer
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

Now a justice of the United States Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer was a law professor who specialized in regulatory issues when he was called to advise the United States Senate on administrative reform in 1974. He soon became deeply involved in airline deregulation.

Alfred Kahn
Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, 1977-1978

A Cornell University economist, Alfred Kahn was chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board in the Carter administration, and the central figure in pushing through airline deregulation.

Judith Hamill
Administrator, Chicago O'Hare Airport

A student of Stephen Breyer, Judith Hamill had also experienced airline deregulation firsthand: Her father lost his job when, no longer protected by regulation, the weaker airlines began to go bankrupt.

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