Economics/Class Relations

The American System Versus the Free Market

Recently I was given an essay assignment about whether we should restrict foreign imports of cars and other products. The final essay I wrote was quite dry, so I am going to use this article to address this problem in more depth, on a platform where I have a lot more room.

This question goes back to the very founding of the United States. Tariffs on foreign imports are one of the facets that make up the American System of Political Economy, which was first put forth by Alexander Hamilton, and has such adherers as Presidents Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Contrasted with this is the free market economy of the British Empire, as laid out by people such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo. There are many facets of the American System, but it can be summed up by a quote from Abraham Lincoln:

“My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance. I am in favor of a national bank. I am in favor of the internal improvement system, and a high protective tariff.”1

The national bank is a subject beyond the scope of this essay. I plan to do more research on the subject. I can tell you one thing: it is not the same as the Federal Reserve, which is also a subject of its own. The other two subjects are easier (in my opinion) to grasp, so I will limit my comments to them.

The most vehement opposers of the American System are not those on the liberal or left side of the aisle, but are conservatives who have adopted the British Empire’s system of free market for their own. The principles of free trade were first laid out by Adam Smith in his 1776 book The Wealth of Nations:


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