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Populism, Federalism and the American System

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Populism, Federalism and the American System


Populism, Federalism and the American System

Regional identities, once central to the movement have been pushed to the back seat by other cultural war identities.

(James M. Buchanan/Cato)

This series begins by asking what new ideas we can discover by looking at Henry Clay’s old idea of the American System, arguing for more robust state action to rebuild our industrial base, restore national infrastructure, and protect workers and consumers. Historically, and even today, much attention has been paid to national development when viewed in the context international competition.

But by focusing on the American System, it is possible to obscure its impact on regional development. Clay’s critics in the South and Midwest complained, for instance, that the American System was a boon to the northeast at the expense of their regional development. As a reaction to the American System’s excesses in the late 19th century, the rise of Southern and Midwestern Populists is understandable.

The new American System treats the plights of struggling regions with more seriousness…



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