Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating the 107th Congress

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Despite all the hype about globalization and the supposeduniversal triumph of free-market policies, governments around theworld, including that of the United States, continue to intervenein the flow of goods, services, people, and capital acrossinternational borders. That widespread intervention takes two basicforms: barriers that discourage trade and subsidies that encouragedomestic production and exports.

Well-worn labels such as "internationalist" and "isolationist"do not fully capture the choices lawmakers face when decidinginternational commercial policy. The choice is not betweenengagement and isolation but between the free market and all formsof government intervention, including both barriers and subsidiesto trade.

On the basis of their voting records, members of the 107thCongress can be classified in four categories: free traders, whooppose both trade barriers and subsidies; internationalists, whooppose barriers and support subsidies; isolationists, who supportbarriers and oppose subsidies; and interventionists, who supportbarriers and subsidies.

An analysis of voting on 30 key issues in the 107th Congressfinds that few members of Congress voted consistently for freetrade. Only 15 House members opposed barriers and subsidies in morethan two-thirds of the votes they cast. The most consistent freetraders in the House were Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Charles Bass(R-N.H.), Richard Armey (R-Tex.), Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Phil Crane(R-Ill.), Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), and John Sununu (R-N.H.). Of theother members, 70 voted as internationalists, 9 as isolationists,and 36 as interventionists. The rest had mixed voting records.

In the Senate, 22 members voted as free traders. Those withperfect free trader voting records were Sam Brownback (R-Kans.),Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Phil Gramm (R-Tex.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.),John McCain (R-Ariz.), Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Rick Santorum(R-Pa.), and Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.). Of the other senators, 12voted as internationalists, 2 as isolationists, and 22 asinterventionists. The rest had mixed voting records.

Daniel Griswold

Daniel Griswold is associate director of the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies.