Published December 8, 2021
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has spoken eloquently in recent years about the need to reorient the United States’ market economy to better support workers and families. His speech on Wednesday crystallizes that belief and persuasively shows how our lust for cheap goods is endangering our national security.
Rubio delivered his remarks at the inaugural Henry Clay Lecture at Hillsdale College’s D.C. campus for the conservative reform group American Compass. The group, headed by Oren Cass, has emerged in recent years as a leading entity — along with the think tank I am affiliated with, the Ethics and Public Policy Center — calling on conservatives to rethink their devotion to free market fundamentalism.
The lecture, of course, is named after the 19th-century statesman who tirelessly pushed for what he called the “American System” in opposition to the laissez faire approach of the ruling Jacksonian Democrats. Clay’s vision of an American industrial power, protected by tariffs and fueled in part by government support for railroads, canals and higher education, became U.S. policy after his death under the aegis of his acolyte Abraham Lincoln and his Republican Party. This vision set up the industrial nation that would eventually go on to win World War II, resulting in a system of global free trade with the United States as the dominant power.
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Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.