New policy report slices through common defenses of the Jones Act

The following news release was issued by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii on July 28, 2021.

The Grassroot Institute has produced a handy guide addressing five key arguments that Jones Act defenders just won’t let die

HONOLULU, July 28, 2021 >> The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has produced a new report, “Five myths about the Jones Act, that explains why key arguments in favor of the Jones Act just aren’t so.

Written by institute research associates Josh Mason and Jonathan Helton, and illustrated by editorial cartoonist David Swann, the new report focuses on five of the many myths touted by defenders of the Jones Act, which restricts shipping between U.S. ports and costs Hawaii about $1.2 billion a year.

To hear defenders of this protectionist 1920 federal maritime law tell it, the Jones Act is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Among many other wonderful things, the Jones Act supposedly:

>> Protects national security.

>> Contributes to economic growth.

>> Protects American jobs.

>> Keeps foreign ships out of America’s inland waterways.

>> Helps states and territories that rely on waterborne transportation, such as Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and Guam.

Unfortunately, these popular misconceptions just won’t die.

As Institute President Keli’i Akina writes in the report, “Over the last century, a series of myths has grown up to justify the Jones Act’s continued existence. As America’s maritime industry has withered and contracted, the myths have flourished, carefully tended by those who would have us believe that the law bears no blame for the decline of America’s merchant marine.

“Now, however, we live in an age of myth-busting. Research and data have shown us how flimsy the rationales for the Jones Act really are. Is the Jones Act necessary for our national security, to protect jobs or to help our economy? No. As shown in this report, ‘Five myths about the Jones Act,’ the Jones Act has actually undermined our national security, cost maritime jobs and become an economic burden.”

Akina points out that there actually is “sixth myth” not mentioned in the report, which is that we must be either totally for the Jones Act or totally against it.

“In truth,” he says, “there are ways to bring the Jones Act into the modern era without repealing it.”

One option, he says, is to let Jones Act carriers use ships built overseas, since U.S.-built ships typically cost four to five times more. Another option is to exempt America’s noncontiguous states and territories from the law completely. Another is to expedite the waiver process when no Jones Act-compliant vessels are available to meet a legitimate need.

“The point,” Akina says, “is that modifying the Jones Act does not need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. We do, however, have to stop clinging to the old myths that have propped up the act for so long. Only then can we work together for a more prosperous and stronger America. Only then can we update the Jones Act for the 21st century.”

For more information about the report or to arrange an interview with Institute President Keli’i Akina, please contact Mark Coleman at 808-386-9047 or email info@grassrootinstitute.org.

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