Repeal the Jones Act on Twitter


This might be old news but did anyone know there is an account on Twitter called, “Repeal the Jones Act”?
The movement is getting strong in Puerto Rico apparently.



The problem is twofold. The overall message about the Jones Act crippling Puerto Rico’s economy is basically wrong but the Jones Act (more precisely the part about ships having to be built in the US) is indefensible at this point.

The first part is dispensed with here
Also it doesn’t even make sense since the shipping cost added by the jones act as a % cost of any given product can’t possibly be very large. Advocates are either unprincipled and want freebies or are crypto PR nationalists which is apparently too unpopular a position over there to say outright.

On the second part the US Merchant Marine has been coasting on military bloat for decades, we are effectively a cold war remnant subsidized industry at this point, and we are part of an unaffordable military industrial complex that’s gutting the entire country. The immediate problem is that the US has no industrial policy so military industries get supported but non-military ones get exported. So it’s understandable that people living in economically-depressed parts of the country are angry about a special caste of workers and industries that can’t be exported and which raise costs for them (at least China sends us cheap stuff). This state of affairs will continue until we have a socialist revolution or global heating destroys the country (2030 or so).


As with anything on Twitter, must be approached with care. Following the lead of our friends in St. Petersburg, any number of mischief makers have armies of bots to amplify whatever divisive conversation happens to pop up. They don’t care about the issue, they just want to pit people against each other in the target countries, primarily US and UK.




Saw this posted on Facebook a while back. Can’t remember where it was posted but it was making the rounds for a bit. Thought it was an interesting take on the subject so I copied it and saved it for future use:

"For historical reference, this is (some of) what Adam Smith, the father of the free market as we know it today, had to say about protectionism of a nation’s maritime industry (i.e. the Jones Act, in the case of the United States):

"To prohibit by a perpetual law the importation of foreign corn and cattle is in reality to enact that the population and industry of the country shall at no time exceed what the rude produce of its own soil can maintain.

There seem, however, to be two cases in which it will generally be advantageous to lay some burden upon foreign for the encouragement of domestic industry.

The first is, when some particular sort of industry is necessary for the defence of the country. The defence of Great Britain, for example, depends very much upon the number of its sailors and shipping. The Act of Navigation, therefore, very properly endeavours to give the sailors and shipping of Great Britain the monopoly of the trade of their own country in some cases by absolute prohibitions and in others by heavy burdens upon the shipping of foreign countries. The following are the principal dispositions of this Act.

First, all ships, of which the owners and three-fourths of the mariners are not British subjects, are prohibited, upon pain of forfeiting ship and cargo, from trading to the British settlements and plantations, or from being employed in the coasting trade of Great Britain.

Secondly, a great variety of the most bulky articles of importation can be brought into Great Britain only, either in such ships as are above described, or in ships of the country where those goods are purchased, and of which the owners, masters, and three-fourths of the mariners are of that particular country; and when imported even in ships of this latter kind, they are subject to double aliens’ duty. If imported in ships of any other country, the penalty is forfeiture of ship and goods. When this act was made, the Dutch were, what they still are, the great carriers of Europe, and by this regulation they were entirely excluded from being the carriers to Great Britain, or from importing to us the goods of any other European country.

Thirdly, a great variety of the most bulky articles of importation are prohibited from being imported, even in British ships, from any country but that in which they are produced, under pains of forfeiting ship and cargo. This regulation, too, was probably intended against the Dutch. Holland was then, as now, the great emporium for all European goods, and by this regulation British ships were hindered from loading in Holland the goods of any other European country.

Fourthly, salt fish of all kinds, whale-fins, whale-bone, oil, and blubber, not caught by and cured on board British vessels, when imported into Great Britain, are subjected to double aliens’ duty. The Dutch, as they are they the principal, were then the only fishers in Europe that attempted to supply foreign nations with fish. By this regulation, a very heavy burden was laid upon their supplying Great Britain.

When the Act of Navigation was made, though England and Holland were not actually at war, the most violent animosity subsisted between the two nations. It had begun during the government of the Long Parliament, which first framed this act, and it broke out soon after in the Dutch wars during that of the Protector and of Charles the Second. It is not impossible, therefore, that some of the regulations of this famous act may have proceeded from national animosity. They are as wise, however, as if they had all been dictated by the most deliberate wisdom. National animosity at that particular time aimed at the very same object which the most deliberate wisdom would have recommended, the diminution of the naval power of Holland, the only naval power which could endanger the security of England.

The Act of Navigation is not favourable to foreign commerce, or to the growth of that opulence which can arise from it. The interest of a nation in its commercial relations to foreign nations is, like that of a merchant with regard to the different people with whom he deals, to buy as cheap and to sell as dear as possible. But it will be most likely to buy cheap, when by the most perfect freedom of trade it encourages all nations to bring to it the goods which it has occasion to purchase; and, for the same reason, it will be most likely to sell dear, when its markets are thus filled with the greatest number of buyers. The Act of Navigation, it is true, lays no burden upon foreign ships that come to export the produce of British industry. Even the ancient aliens’ duty, which used to be paid upon all goods exported as well as imported, has, by several subsequent acts, been taken off from the greater part of the articles of exportation. But if foreigners, either by prohibitions or high duties, are hindered from coming to sell, they cannot always afford to come to buy; because coming without a cargo, they must lose the freight from their own country to Great Britain. By diminishing the number of sellers, therefore, we necessarily diminish that of buyers, and are thus likely not only to buy foreign goods dearer, but to sell our own cheaper, than if there was a more perfect freedom of trade. As defence, however, is of much more importance than opulence, the Act of Navigation is, perhaps, the wisest of all the commercial regulations of England."


Kind of proving my point here. He’s saying that the Act of Navigation (which is not the same as the Jones Act) is a bad policy economically but a good one militarily against a comparable sea power that is competing economically. The last two sentences make clear this is a necessary evil in this case.

  1. There is no comparable naval sea power to the US. Even the USSR at its peak was not in the same league in terms of surface ships. For example, they never built a single nuclear carrier.
  2. The US merchant marine, in terms of high seas shipping, has never been weaker since in fact Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations.
  3. If China is the closest analogue to the Netherlands in this example, the Jones Act has apparently not retarded their shipping, nor has their economic success been particularly reliant on Chinese-flagged and crewed ships.




Lets repeal PR’s status as a Commonwealth instead. Cut them loose.