Cato Institute Project on Jones Act Reform

The Cato Institute seeks to raise awareness about the Jones Act and lay the groundwork for the repeal or reform of this outdated law.

Since 1920 the Jones Act has mandated that the sea transport of cargo between U.S. ports must be performed by vessels that are U.S.-built, U.S.-owned, U.S. flagged, and U.S.-crewed. Justified on national security grounds, the law was meant to ensure a strong maritime sector to bolster U.S. capabilities in times of war or national emergency. These envisioned benefits, however, have proved illusory while the Jones Act has imposed a very real and ongoing economic burden. Despite this, the law survives thanks to well-connected supporters and ignorance of the Jones Act and its costs by the general public.

The Cato Institute aims to shake up this status quo by shining a spotlight on the Jones Act’s myriad negative impacts and exposing its alleged benefits as entirely hollow. By systematically laying bare the truth about this nearly 100 year old failed law, the Cato Institute Project on Jones Act Reform is meant to raise public awareness and lay the groundwork for its repeal or reform.


Featured Work


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.







Multimedia

More on the Jones Act

Commentary

Jones Act Expensive, Benefits Questionable

By Colin Grabow and Michael Hansen. Star Advertiser. May 21, 2019.

The Jones Act Is Protecting U.S. Shipyards to Death

By Colin Grabow. Philadelphia Inquirer. April 25, 2019.

A Better Way to Unclog NYC Streets: Repeal the Jones Act

By Daniel J. Ikenson and Colin Grabow. New York Post. April 7, 2019.

Cato @ Liberty

Cato Studies

The Jones Act: A Burden America Can No Longer Bear

By Colin Grabow, Inu Manak, and Daniel J. Ikenson. Policy Analysis No. 845. June 28, 2018.

Cato Reviews & Journals

Anchors Awry: The Jones Act Debate

George Landrith and Robert Quartel. Policy Report. January/February 2019.

Does the Jones Act Endanger American Seamen?

Thomas Grennes. Regulation. Fall 2017.

America’s Welfare Queen Fleet: The Need for Maritime Policy Reform

Robert Quartel. Regulation. Summer 1991.

Events

Keeping Up with the Jones Act

Featuring Daniel J. Ikenson, Colin Grabow, and Jeff Vanderslice. June 4, 2019. Capitol Hill Briefing.

Unnatural Disaster: Assessing the Jones Act’s Impact on Puerto Rico

Featuring Vicente Feliciano, John Dunham, Luis Rivera Marín, & Anne Krueger. April 30, 2019. Policy Forum.

The Jones Act: Charting a New Course after a Century of Failure

Featuring Daniel Griswold, Colin Grabow, Manuel Reyes, Bryan Riley, James W. Coleman, Jennifer Danner Riccardi, Ted Loch-Temzelides, Daniel J. Ikenson, Steve Ellis, Nick Loris, Robert Quartel, Christopher A. Preble, Keliʻi Akina, Thomas Grennes, Howard Gutman, Michael Hansen, Inu Manak, George Landrith, & Brett Fortnam. December 6, 2018. Conference.