Samuel Insull was a protégé of Thomas Edison who built the Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison Company into a dominant regional electricai supplier. Insull pioneered a new system of pricing known as Time of Use Rates and was an early adopter of alternating current (AC) technology, which allowed electricity to travel greater distances and service a wider range of potential customers. Insull expanded his consumer base, lowered prices, and successfully monopolized the electrical utility market in Chicago. His holding company controlled electric utilities, transit companies, and railroads throughout the Midwest. Insull’s empire ultimately collapsed in an investment fraud scandal after the 1929 stock market crash.
Why did Insull argue in this 1910 speech that “natural monopoly” and government regulation were linked in the electrical power sector? Was Insull’s embrace of regulation altruistic, or self-serving?
Insull, Samuel. “The Obligations of Monopoly Must be Accepted.” In Central Station Electric Service, edited by William E. Keilly, 118-22. Chicago: Private Printing, 1915.
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