Marco Rubio details how his thinking on economics has changed over time

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. smiles during a luncheon program at the National Press Club in Washington on May 13. (AP/Molly Riley) Molly Riley

Marco Rubio details how his thinking on economics has changed over time

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WASHINGTON During Wednesday’s event in the Capitol hosted by American Compass and centered on its new policy handbook, Rebuilding American Capitalism, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) detailed how his own thinking on economics has changed over time.

Rubio grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, when politics was dominated by free market conservatives such as Ronald Reagan, who delivered the largest tax cut in American history, and George H.W. Bush, who famously said, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” Moreover, the Cold War, representing a global battle between communism and capitalism, was the central issue of the day. As such, the belief in capitalism was at once dogmatic but also not unjustified. It created tremendous growth during the 1980s and led the United States to victory against the former Soviet Union.


Once the Cold War ended, Rubio said it was simply assumed free market capitalism would become hegemonic and hitherto isolated countries would liberalize. The vision was that our new globalized reality would lead us to “the end of history” — one where great power competitions were a thing of the past. Moreover, Republicans in particular took it as axiomatic that the interests of the market and our national interests were in lockstep. If something boosted gross domestic product, it must be good for the country. Rubio calls this the “orthodoxy.”

Rubio explained that he was certainly on board with this train of thought. However, over time, he realized it was incomplete because we ignored two key things. First, we did not appreciate the fact that people still care about being part of distinct nations. Second, we mistakenly believed that the U.S. could do whatever it wanted and still remain in the dominant position it occupied at that time.

As it turned out, Rubio claimed, these beliefs had disastrous consequences. The U.S. pursued globalization at any cost, which he said sucked the soul out of our country. And, importantly, Rubio argued these economic ideas had important cultural ramifications. He pointed out that we increasingly told ourselves things such as family and religion were no longer important, and that hurt our country.

Looking around the U.S. and seeing the decline of marriage, religion, and community led him to reevaluate his economic ideas. After all, Rubio said, it is important to always be evolving.

So, according to Rubio, through what lens should we approach economics? He believes we are at an “inflection point” where we must consider what to do when the interest of the market is not in line with our national interest. He answers his own question by arguing we can no longer look at the market as an infallible system that will always take care of us all but rather as a tool to advance the national interest. The government certainly has a role to play here, Rubio says, because the only people who will put American interests first are American policymakers. Not businesses. Not global institutions. Just American policymakers.

Rubio’s transformation is certainly not unique among Republicans over the past decade. In fact, the event where he spoke about this was hosted by a group dedicated to moving the GOP toward a new approach to economics.

At the event, the sense was it is certain more GOP politicians would be following in these footsteps in the coming years. The only question was who.


Jack Elbaum is a summer 2023 Washington Examiner fellow.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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