Chicago's Best Ideas with Richard Epstein, "A History of Public Utility Regulation in the Supreme Court"
Rate regulation today is often conceived of as an exotic topic of interest only to a select group of pointy-headed specialists. But the truth is quite the opposite. The history of rate regulation raises some of the most fundamental challenges to the organization of a free society. This lecture will trace the evolution of the doctrine from its common law origins in Sir Matthew Hale's seventeenth century treatise, De Portis Maris (Of the Gates of the Sea) through its incorporation into American Constitutional Law to the major synthesis of rate regulation in the 1944 decision in Hope Natural Gas v. Federal Power Commission. On the one side lies the need to constrain monopoly profits; on the other lies the need to prevent confiscation of the the invested capital of the regulated industry. The effort to achieve those twin goals gives rises to procedural and substantive challenges that in one guise or another are with us today.