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Harvard. Regulation of Public Utilities and Transportation. Chamberlin, 1939-40


This is the third industrial organization/regulation semester course offered at Harvard in the immediate pre-WWII era. Syllabi and other material have previously been posted for E. S. Mason and P. Sweezy’s “The Corporation and its Regulation” and Mason’s “Industrial Organization and Control”. Edward H. Chamberlin’s teaching portfolio at Harvard included transportation economics from 1931. Here the focus is on regulation of natural monopolies such as public utilities and railroads.


Course Description, 1940-41

[Economics 63b 2hf. Public Utilities (including Transportation).] Half-course (second half-year). Tu., Th., (at the pleasure of the instructor) Sat., at 12. Professor Chamberlin.
Omitted in 1940-41; to be given in 1941-42.

The regulation of the public utility and transportation industries as a phase of the control over economic activity exercised by the modern state. Rates, service, earnings, efficiency, financial practices, holding companies and consolidations, coordination, national planning, government competition with private enterprise, and public ownership.

Source: Division of History, Government, and Economics Containing an Announcement for 1940-41, Official Register of Harvard University, Vol. XXXVII, No. 51 (August 15, 1940), p. 57.


Enrollment 1939-40

[Economics] 63b 2hf. Professor Chamberlin.—Public Utilities (including Transportation).

Total 90: 1 Graduate, 43 Seniors, 34 Juniors, 5 Sophomores, 7 Other.

Source: Report of the President of Harvard College, 1939-40, p. 99.


Economics 63b

Reading List

Principal books used:

D. P. Locklin, Economics of Transportation (revised ed.)
Mosher & Crawford, Public Utility Regulation
Wilfred Owen, Highway Economics
G. L. Wilson, [J. M.] Herring, [R. B.] Eutsler, Public Utility Regulation





Development of railroad transportation and regulation to 1920 Locklin, Chs. 1-5, 9, 10


Theory of railroad rates — competition and control Locklin, Chs. 7, 14


Particular rates, discrimination: railroads Locklin, Chs. 6, 8, 20


Particular rates, discrimination: utilities Mosher & Crawford, Introduction and Chs. 17-21


Legal and economic criteria for public utilities
Commissions, legislatures and courts
Mosher & Crawford, Ch. 1
Mosher & Crawford, Chs. 2-6
Locklin, Ch. 13


Railroad consolidation Locklin, Ch. 11
Jones, Principles of Railway Transportation, Ch. 17
Locklin, Ch. 19, pp. 315-21, 643-42


Railroad consolidation, financial regulation
(Hour examination, Thursday, March 21)
Locklin, Chs. 12, 25, 26


Public Utility Holding Company
National Power Policy
Wilson, et al. Ch. 11; pp. 310-319, Chs. 15, 16



Control of investment, general rate level, earnings Mosher & Crawford, Ch. 7
Locklin, Chs. 15-18


Control of investment (continued)
Highway transport
Mosher & Crawford, Chs. 8, 9, 16
Owen, whole essay


Highway, water and air transport; coordination Locklin, Chs. 33, 34, 31, 35, 36


Public ownership Locklin, Ch. 29
Mosher & Crawford, Chs. 32-34 and Conclusion


Source: Harvard University Archives. Department of Economics. Correspondence & Papers 1902-1950 (UAV.349.10). Box 23, Folder “Course outlines 1935-37-38-42”.


Reading Period Assignment

Economics 63b: Read one of the following:

  1. First Report of the Federal Coördinator of Transportation, pp. 1-37.
    Fourth Report of the Federal Coördinator of Transportation, pp. 1-60.
    Report—Immediate Relief for Railroads (April, 1938), 19-71 (75th Congress, 3rd Session, House Doc. No. 583).
    Report of Committee Appointed by the President—Recommendations upon the General Transportation Situation (Dec., 1938), pp. 3-64 (Committee on Public Relations of Eastern Railroads).
  2. S. Daggett, Principles of Inland Transportation (revised edition). Chs. 36-37 [3rd edition, 1941].
    Three articles by H. E. Dougall on French Railways in Journal of Political Economy, June, 1933; June, 1934; April, 1938.
    Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science. January, 1939, pp. 185-226.
  3. A. L. Gordon, The Public Corporation in Great Britain, Chs. 1, 3, 4, 6.
  4. Bauer and Gold, Public Utility Valuation for Purposes of Rate Control, pp. 155-362.

Source: Harvard University Archives. Syllabi, course outlines and reading lists in economics, 1895-2003 (HUC 8522.2.1). Box 2, Folder “1939-40 (1 of 2)”.




Write on FIVE questions, including numbers 1 and 6.*

  1. According to what principles do you believe the level of earnings of railroads and utilities should be regulated? Discuss the chief problems arising out of applying your principles to the situation as you find it in the United States.
  2. Contrast and evaluate the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 and the Tennessee Valley Authority as alternative methods of public utility regulation.
  3. What various solutions have been proposed for the strong and weak road problem? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  4. Discuss the possibilities and limitations of reducing the cost of railroad transportation (a) through consolidation or coordination without government ownership; (b) through government ownership.
  5. Do you believe this country should subsidize directly or indirectly any means of transportation? If so, what means, to what extent and why? If not, why not?
  6. Answer the question corresponding to your reading period choice:
    1. (Coördinator’s and other reports) which of the recommendations in the several reports assigned would you consider most relevant to the transportation problem as it appears in 1940? Indicate your own evaluation of them.
    2. (Foreign railways) Contrast the French rate-making scheme set up by the Convention of 1921 with the rate-making arrangement prevailing in the United States after 1920. How do you account for the differences?
    3. (Gordon) “More than any other existing institution in Great Britain, the Central Electricity Board has faced and met a task of economic rationalization on a national scale.” What were the factors which led to a demand for rationalization and how was this rationalization accomplished?
    4. (Bauer and Gold) Discuss any two or three of the chief issues raised by your reading in Bauer and Gold relative to valuation for rate making purposes.

*If you prefer, instead of answering specific questions, you may write a three hour essay describing what you consider to be the chief problems confronting the railroad and utility industries in the United States today and outlining (and defending) a program of legislation to meet them.

Final. 1940.


Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University, Final examinations, 1853-2001 (HUC 7000.28) Box 5. Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Papers Printed for Final Examinations: History, History of Religions,…Economics,…,Military Science, Naval Science. June, 1940.

Image Source: Edward H. Chamberlin from Harvard Class Album 1946.


Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier