Ganesh Sitaraman at Harvard Book Store


Why Flying Is Miserable:
And How to Fix It

in conversation with NICHOLAS LEMANN


November 16, 2023
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes GANESH SITARAMAN—law professor and the director of the Vanderbilt Policy Accelerator for Political Economy and Regulation—for a discussion of his new book Why Flying Is Miserable: And How to Fix It. He will be joined in conversation by NICHOLAS LEMANN—Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism and Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of Journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Update: Please note that Senator Elizabeth Warren, originally announced as tonight’s interlocutor, is unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.

About Why Flying is Miserable

Everyone has a horror story about air travel—cancellations, delays, lost baggage, tiny seats, poor service. In this day and age, there is no reason that flying should be this bad. In Why Flying Is Miserable, Ganesh Sitaraman, a law professor and policy expert, explains how this happened: It was a conscious choice made by Washington in the 1970s to roll back many forms of regulation that began during the New Deal, in the name of unimpeded capitalism and more competition. Today, the industry is an oligopoly, with only four too-big-to-fail airlines that have received billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts and still can’t offer reliable service.

Miserable air travel is the perfect symbol of the type of unregulated capitalism that America has unleashed. But there are ways to fix airlines—and, by extension, many other sectors of industry—because, after a half-century run, people are sick and tired of the turbulence that deregulation has brought to our economy.

Praise for Why Flying is Miserable

“With characteristic intelligence and eloquence, Ganesh Sitaraman has given us a compelling case for reforming a key element of our economic and cultural lives: the air industry. This is policy argument that can make a difference. Highly recommended!” —Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author and historian

“Whether it's the unreliable service, the massive bailouts or the combination of high prices and bad service, the airline industry has come to encapsulate all that has gone wrong in late-stage American capitalism. This book makes it clear we need to rethink how we manage the essential industries in our time and ultimately delivers an inspiring message: this is our country, and we can do better.” —Tim Wu, author of The Curse of Bigness, and former special assistant to President Biden for technology and competition policy

“With vivid examples and deft historical analysis, Sitaraman presents a surprisingly gripping account of the structural challenges behind the often-miserable modern experience of flying. His creative and compelling proposals for reclaiming public control over airlines provide an important vision for the future of aviation in this country.” —Shelley Welton, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Mask Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Ganesh Sitaraman
Ganesh Sitaraman

Ganesh Sitaraman

Ganesh Sitaraman is a law professor and the director of the Vanderbilt Policy Accelerator for Political Economy and Regulation. He is the author of several books, including The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution and The Great Democracy. Sitaraman is a member of the FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. He was previously a senior advisor to Senator Elizabeth Warren on her presidential campaign. He lives in Nashville, TN.

Nicholas Lemann
Nicholas Lemann

Nicholas Lemann

Nicholas Lemann is Dean Emeritus of Columbia Journalism School and currently a professor at the school. In addition, he is a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of several highly acclaimed books, including Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream; Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War; The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, and The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America. He is founder and director of Columbia Global Reports.


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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