Recent hurricanes have reawakened critics of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, better known as the Jones Act, which reserves waterborne commerce within the U.S. for domestic carriers. No doubt about it, the law is a deviation from classic economic principles. Many laws are. But look at the national security benefits! Without the Jones Act, the Navy would need to spend billions of dollars on new sealift vessels; it would be hard-pressed to crew the sealift ships it already owns; domestic production of large oceangoing commercial vessels would cease; foreigners would take over a vital piece of economic infrastructure; and safety standards on domestic routes would erode markedly. There are so many security benefits to the Jones Act that, on balance, it looks like a bargain for the nation. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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