The Jones Act: A Burden America Can No Longer Bear

For nearly 100 years, a federal law known as the Jones Act has restricted water transportation of cargo between U.S. ports to ships that are U.S.-owned, U.S.-crewed, U.S.-registered, and U.S.-built. Justified on national security grounds as a means to bolster the U.S. maritime industry, the unsurprising result of this law has been to impose significant costs on the U.S. economy while providing few of the promised benefits. In this paper, Cato scholars Colin Grabow, Inu Manak, and Daniel J. Ikenson examine how such an archaic, burdensome law has been able to withstand scrutiny and persist for almost a century, and present a series of options for reforming this archaic law and reducing its costly burdens.