“Land Monopoly” and Twentieth-Century American Utility Policy


  • Christopher England Georgetown University


Progressivism, Utilities, Single Tax, Monopoly


This article explores the influence of classical liberalism’s critique of land monopoly on American progressivism. It shows that urban machines, many influenced by Henry George, drew on the liberal canon to argue that railroads, telegraphs, and water power were natural monopolies because they relied upon access to finite and unique plots of land. It demonstrates that these ideas helped shift progressivism toward policies intended to socialize rights-of-way. Ultimately, it concludes that progressivism’s lopsided focus on utilities and land reflect the priorities of classical liberalism and represent continuity in the liberal tradition.

Author Biography

Christopher England, Georgetown University

Christopher England chris.england456@gmail.com received his PhD in U.S. History from Georgetown University. He has taught at both Georgetown University and UW-Madison. He has received funding from the Roosevelt Institute, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the History of Economics Society, and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. He has also been a curator at the Wisconsin Historical Society and an editor at the American Journal of Economics and Sociology.