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Monday, April 25, 2005

Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?...

For all you Freetraders and Freetradettes out there, CATO's Center for Trade Policy Studies has recently released its ratings of the 108th Congress wherein our heroes pin down Senators and Reps on the issues that get most Americans hot and bothered: trade barriers and subsidies. I can feel the palpatations from here, o' fevered-browed ones.

Actually, I find this extraordinarily interesting, not just because me and Adam Smith go way back, but because, unlike most congressional ratings, it's hard to tell where your "Conservatives" and "Liberals" are going to land. Freetrade.Org breaks down legislators into four camps in a familiar and convenient matrix that looks something like this:

The votes themselves are drawn from tariffs, quotas, trade sanctions, etc., and are not the type of rah-rah bills that get a lot of big (or small) news coverage. In fact, the only people who care about trade sanctions on Burma are social misfits who would love to have a Burmese python as a pet and, presumably, the people of Burma, who, as it turns out, don't have much voting power in U.S. elections and therefore tend to get slapped with sanctions by congressmen who somehow have come to equate economic blackmail as the road to freedom. But I digress.

Even more fun than talking free trade is gossiping about who is in bed with whom on these issues. For example, recently retired Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), a rock-ribbed, dustbowl conservative, was the most consistent free trade advocate in the Senate over the last decade. Joining him was Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) who is anything but conservative. Of course, they are both Republicans, so maybe we've found the one issue that the party actually agrees on!

Then again, maybe not. While the House and Senate each had 11 Free Traders, all GOP members, of the 107 internationalists in the House, 44 were Democrats. And there were twice as many internationalist Democrats (10) in the Senate than Republicans (5). On the other end of the spectrum, the interventionalists, Republicans like Charles Taylor (R-NC) and Don Young (R-AK) marched lockstep with Knownothings such as Dick Gephardt (D-MO) and Eliot Engle (D-NY). Huh.

Do free trade issues really matter come election time? Probably not. They may increase business fundraising a small amount, but few if any voters have hot-button urges for tariffs like they did in the old days -- with the possible exception of NAFTA, which has now been the law of the land for over the decade (during which the AFL-CIO's prediction of lost jobs has ironically come true).

Anyway, check out the ratings. If anything, you'll have a conversation starter at your next Von Mises Fan Club meeting.
Centinel 4:06 PM #


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