Rebooting the American System

May 04, 2020

For nearly two centuries, the United States pursued a robust national economic agenda that supported the nation’s extraordinary progress, prosperity, and security. It built canals and railroads and highways. It fostered industries that would make revolvers, airplanes, and semiconductors. It buttressed the American Dream. The agenda went by many names, but one of its earliest champions and one of America’s greatest statesmen called it, simply, the American System.

This essay series explores the American System through the lenses of tradition, theory, and practice—how the United States once pursued its economic policy, why fundamentalist free-market logic fails as a guide, and where policymakers might act to shape the nation’s economy once more. Senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton situate these ideas in our present context: a once-in-a-century pandemic and a generation-defining contest with China.