Never Underestimate the Power of Protectionist Laws

Posted: Sep 21, 2022 9:00 AM

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With much of the island still without electricity as a result of Hurricane Fiona pummeling Puerto Rico on Sunday, one might think that the Biden administration would be leading an effort to repeal a 1920 federal law that continues to cost the island’s inhabitants dearly for every gallon of petroleum imported into the island, which in turn pushes the cost of most consumer goods far beyond those on the U.S. mainland. The administration, along with a majority of the Congress, however, stubbornly refuses to seriously consider weakening, much less repealing, the Jones Act (also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) as a way to help the island’s 3.2 million inhabitants cope with inflation, high unemployment, and lack of basic necessities..The Jones Act is best described as the poster child for overtly protectionist legislation that long ago outlived any usefulness it might have provided when signed into law. It was designed to protect the domestic maritime industry against competition from other countries; a goal it has accomplished for more than a century. The law does this by mandating that shipment by water of any goods or cargo between any two U.S. ports must be conducted only by vessels built in the United States and that are at leas …

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