Puerto Rico Aftermath: Jones Act Mystery

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Left-wing scholars, particularly in academe, make lots of attention getting assertions. Regrettably, they usually offer little in the way of illuminating evidence.

“In the midst of almost unimaginable horror in Puerto Rico, a bright light has shone on one of America’s most unjustifiable and economically backward laws, the previously obscure Jones Act,” Brink Lindsay and Steven Teles wrote on October 2, 2017 for Washington Monthly. “First created in the aftermath of World War I to buffer the impact of post-war demobilization, the Jones Act requires that all ships that carry cargo within the United States be built in America, with American crews.”

“The cost to American consumers each year runs in the billions of dollars, with particularly large impacts on places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico that (unlike the mainland) depend almost exclusively on shipping for everything from food to fuel. What in normal times just increased prices on essential goods—bad enough for the poorest island-based Americans—has turned tragic.”

It’s a good narrative introduction. Unfortunately, the only data, unsourced, that accompanies it, is that 2 percent of American shipping is protected by this law.

Lindsey is vice president and director of the Open Society Project at the Niskanen Center. Teles is associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, and a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center.

Perhaps we need to read their book, Captured Economy. Teles’ students may not have much choice.