The response of reformers was to imagine a radical alternative: public oversight and control of these utilities, if not outright municipalization. This “sewer socialism,” at the state and municipal levels, led to the first electric, water, and transportation utilities. Over time, the idea of the public utility became the forerunner of the modern administrative and regulatory state, as state officials pioneered public-utility regulation over other necessities, including milk, ice, and banking. Practically as soon as public utilities and other public services emerged, they became the heart of the struggle for racial equity. After the Civil War, Congress briefly seized the opportunity to advance a variety of foundational civil-rights provisions. A hostile Supreme Court invalidated these efforts, helping usher in a century of Jim Crow segregation—until the civil-rights movement vindicated the aspiration for desegregation and equal access to public goods.
- About Health