Cato: Barr ‘not libertarian’ on trade

Brought to IPR’s attention by our own Trent Hill, Cato’s @ Liberty blog posted a story detailing Bob Barr’s record on trade back on May 14. “Is Bob Barr a libertarian?” the article asks. “Certainly not on trade.”

This does not appear to be a case of a libertarian’s opposition to “free trade” agreements being confused with opposition to free trade. Here is how Barr voted:

  • Numerous times to uphold the trade embargo and travel ban against Cuba.
  • Against normal trade relations with China and Vietnam. Denial of NTR would have resulted in drastically higher tariffs on imports from those countries.
  • In favor of mandatory “country of origin” labeling on imported food, a federal mandate aimed at discouraging consumers from buying imported food.
  • Against lower tariffs on imports from Andean countries, including Colombia.
  • Against capping farm subsidy payments to the largest farm operations.
  • Against lower tariffs on goods imported from Caribbean and Sub-Saharan African countries.
  • In favor of quotas on steel imports.

As the article author Daniel Griswold points out:

Free trade is not just a quirky side issue for libertarians. It is a basic pillar of free-market economics. None other than Adam Smith devoted an entire book of his monumental work The Wealth of Nations to arguing for the freedom of people to trade across international borders. Milton Friedman was an uncompromising advocate of free trade. The same Frederic Bastiat who wrote the libertarian classic The Law also made a career of ridiculing the kind of protectionist measures that so consistently won Bob Barr’s support during his time in Congress.

Griswold had a suggestion for Denver delegates that apparently fell on deaf ears:

When he stands before the Libertarian Party convention next week, Bob Barr needs to tell delegates either that he was wrong all along about free trade or that Adam Smith was wrong.

Bob Barr was not asked about free trade during any public forum in Denver, and his campaign Web site’s issues page is silent on the issue.

15 thoughts on “Cato: Barr ‘not libertarian’ on trade

  1. G.E. Post author

    If people find value in country of origin labels, then they will demand them. They will not buy items without them, or they will be willing to pay a higher price for items with them. What nationalists really want is a law FORCING labels, because the market isn’t demanding them (i.e. people don’t want them). This is not “free” in any way.

  2. darolew

    I find this concerning…one of the reasons I figure Barr is better than Baldwin is he’s not a protectionist, or so I thought. He needs to clarify this…

  3. George Donnelly

    G.E.: Well said.

    darolew: on the continuum from free trade to protectionism, Barr is fairly close to the free trade side, will Baldwin is way way over on the protectionist side.

  4. Steve Perkins

    If your biggest beefs are disclosure of origins, and chilly relations toward communist nations and African dictatorships, then you’re making perfect the enemy of good. Cato could have ran a story about how Barr lines up with them 90-95%… but of course phrasing the story as “he’s against us 5-10%” will draw more hits.

  5. texpat

    So the pot calls the kettle black. Cato is “not libertarian” on politics. Too much compromise and schmoozing with congresscritters.

  6. Trent Hill

    So, both Baldwin and Barr are protectionists–which pretty much eliminates the biggest beef between libertarians who cant support Baldwin but despise Barr.

  7. Ross Levin

    I just don’t see how a little bit of regulation to help the consumer protect themselves is hurting anyone… (wait for the explosion)

  8. Trent Hill

    “# Numerous times to uphold the trade embargo and travel ban against Cuba.
    # Against normal trade relations with China and Vietnam. Denial of NTR would have resulted in drastically higher tariffs on imports from those countries.
    # Against lower tariffs on imports from Andean countries, including Colombia.
    # Against capping farm subsidy payments to the largest farm operations.
    # Against lower tariffs on goods imported from Caribbean and Sub-Saharan African countries.
    # In favor of quotas on steel imports.”

    Forget the food labels. Barr is an out-and-out protectionist.

  9. G.E. Post author

    texpat – You are right. It was the Stato Institute that mounted the smear campaign against Ron Paul. But guess what, if the pot IS black, the color of the kettle has no bearing on that reality.

  10. Pingback: Bob Barr to hold June 10 press conference on Iran

  11. G.E. Post author

    CATO hardly represents a “pure” libertarian line and never has represented a “pure” Libertarian line.

    I agree. But as stated above, “if the pot IS black, the color of the kettle has no bearing on that reality.”

    I’d hardly call opposition to free trade a minor issue over which attention is rightly considered “hair splitting.”

  12. John P Slevin

    G.E.,
    As a congressman, Barr voted wrong on many issues; he was, after all, a Republican.

    At convention, Barr addressed at least some of the charges then circulating, on issues including DOMA and the Drug War. He indicated that he was resolved to do better.

    I suspect if asked Barr will respond to any doubts about his support of free trade.

    CATO’s opinion on anything does not interest me. Some of their board members continue their long practice of giving huge sums of money to incumbent R’s and D’s in order to buy influence with the same. I don’t believe anything put out by CATO just because it was put out by CATO. I require independent verification.

    Since Barr was nominated, I’ll continue to give him the benefit of the doubt. If you continue to doubt, I’ll keep on a listenin.

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