“Land Monopoly” and Twentieth-Century American Utility Policy
Keywords: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.