The Cato Institute is launching a new billboard campaign in the heavily trafficked New York City region this month to educate motorists on the impact of the Jones Act on their daily commute. The boards direct readers to BlameJonesAct.com, which explains that the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, better known as the Jones Act, helps clog America’s highways with 18-wheelers by making it prohibitively expensive for companies to ship goods via container ships, which would be a cheaper and more efficient option were it not for the act.
Senator Mike Lee has introduced a bill to repeal the Jones Act. In place since 1920, the Jones Act mandates that goods transported by water between two points in the United States be done by vessels that are U.S.-flagged, U.S.-crewed, U.S.-owned, and U.S.-built. 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. Cato scholars have written extensively on the need to rid ourselves of this antiquated law and chart a new course based on innovation and competition rather than discredited protectionism.