After Irma, America Should Scrap the Jones Act

Cui bono?

Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Another big hurricane, another temporary waiver of the Jones Act — the 1920 law mandating that goods and passengers shipped between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flagged ships, constructed primarily in the U.S., owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by them or by U.S. legal permanent residents.

Circumstances did indeed demand a new stay on this dumb law — but it would be better to get rid of it altogether, as Senator John McCain and others have argued.

The Jones Act was meant to ensure that the U.S. has a reliable merchant marine during times of national emergency. It has devolved into a classic protectionist racket that benefits a handful of shipbuilders and a dwindling number of U.S. mariners. It causes higher shipping costs that percolate throughout the economy, especially penalizing the people of Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

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