OF UTILITY CONTROL
CONSIDERING that Munn v. Illinois was decided in 1876 and Smyth v. Ames in 1898, and that there have been many rate cases since, it is amazing what little has been actually decided by the Supreme Court with regard to utility valuation. While there has been an enormous amount of discussion of various valuation aspects by the Supreme Court and lower courts, few questions have been conclusively settled.
In this chapter the special inquiry will be made as to what have been the principal conceptions of the Supreme Court concerning utility regulation, especially with respect to valuation and limitations upon legislative bodies or commissions entrusted with the responsibility of fixing reasonable rates. Has the Court entertained throughout clear-cut constitutional conceptions to which it has held consistently, or has it proceeded in an empirical fashion, deciding each case as it has arisen in the light of substantial justice, without attempt at formulation of general principles? Have the basic conceptions shifted from time to time with change in economic conditions, public opinion, or the personnel of the Court? Is it possible to reach a clear conclusion as to any important conception and its application? Or is the entire matter of regulation, -- its scope, policies and methods, -- indeterminate, subject to adjustment with changing conditions, shifting public opinion and varying efforts of legislatures in the domain of public control?
There is, first of all, the question as to what is fundamentally the judicial function in utility regulation, especially rate control. There has never been any doubt that rate making is