The larger governmental units of the United States, as has been indicated, have been slow in developing public industries. The opposite tendency has been shown in the municipalities, especially in the smaller ones. The waterworks very early began to be taken over by the cities, and the policy has grown until at present comparatively few individuals are supplying water for cities. A few large cities have taken over the task of supplying gas and electricity, yet unqualified success has not crowned the efforts. Cases have arisen where failure was so marked that the plants have been turned back to private management. In the smaller cities, however, extension of ownership has been much more rapid. Not only is the supply of nearly all the water furnished from public plants, but the cities have frequently undertaken to supply a number of other utilities. In some cases the success has been certain; in others, doubtful, while failure has sometimes resulted. Instances in which smaller cities have given such industries over to individuals are infrequent, which would lead to the belief that the experiment has been fairly satisfactory.

Reasons for Municipal Industries. - The reasons for the rapid municipalization of industries are not far to seek. Competition naturally gave way to monopoly, followed by an exploited public. Antagonistic public sentiment was quickly aroused, in the development of which the public press played an important part. A number of magazines devoted to municipal problems rapidly came to the front, which supplemented the agitation already carried on by numerous newspapers. State legislatures influenced the development by facilitating the acquisition of the industries by the cities. Debt limitations frequently have been lifted so that bonds could be issued for construction or purchase.

The above factors have not only caused a rapid extension of municipal ownership, but have had a salutary effect upon the individuals who continue to operate public utilities, in that more consideration is given to the wishes of the public. Where this results in a satisfactory agreement between the operator and the public, the desire for public ownership may be indefinitely postponed. The inauguration of regulation by public boards, in so far as this succeeds in securing just relations between the public and the individuals or corporations supplying its utilities, will postpone and weaken the desire for municipal ownership.

However successful public management has been, it does not indicate that a rapid extension may be expected. The agitation has, perhaps, done much to accomplish its purpose through the changes in the service given by individuals, and the past successes of public ownership suggest a plausible alternative if the desired results cannot be obtained through private management.