Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Jonesing for Disaster

Puerto Rico, Jones Act, protectionism, hurricane, unintended consequences, folly

First, do no harm. Second, stop harming.

You might think that these would be the Two Commandments of Government.

But no.

Politicians make a good show of saving us, sure. Sadly, appearance alone suffices. For them. Much easier to announce a new program than get rid of a harmful old one.

Latest case? Courtesy of a storm and a new president, we now get to witness hurricane recovery mismanagement all over again, but this time outside the continental United States.

“The administration announced some bad news for Puerto Rico,” writes Scott Shackford at Reason. It will not, Mr. Shackford explains, “be waiving the Jones Act, which significantly restricts the ability of foreign or foreign-owned ships from bringing goods to Puerto Rico.”

The “unincorporated U.S. territory” that is the island must take its lumps.

The Jones Act* limits foreign ships port access . . . down to one. The mandate allowing port-to-port commerce only to American-manned ships is designed to save a few jobs and grease a few union wheels in the mainland.

And now, especially, that old, ongoing “centralized government planning for the benefit of a small group of powerful U.S. shipping interests” amounts to a real kick to a people already devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Closing ports to much needed help doesn’t help. An emergency order could suspend the ongoing harm of throwing roadblocks in the way of a swift recovery and rebuilding.

Or Congress could repeal the Jones Act entirely.

Neither is likely.

So the wounded Puerto Ricans — prior to the storm hobbled by years of territorial misgovernance — can expect more fake government help.

This is Common sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


* Not to be confused with the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917, which set up territorial  governance of the island.

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By: CS Admin


  1. JFB says:

    That the government itself is conflicted with itself in itself speaks at great volume.
    This is not a function of the new President, it is a function of the old system. Arguably this President, nor any before him, should not act to waive any of the laws passed by Congress which the president’s job and duty are to administer and enforce.
    “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.” – Abraham Lincoln.

  2. Karen H says:

    That is criminal under the current disastrous conditions in Puerto Rico. I knew nothing about this Jones Act. I doubt few do, since it is archaic. Unfortunately, JFB is right too. You can’t be an Emperor (although Obama thought he was & Trump is leaning there) & waive rules. But can’t Congress act to repeal this hurtful law under the circumstance?

    • JFB says:

      Karen H – You appear to think the government is here to help. Banish the thought!

      As there is no duty of the government to help in disasters, the failure to help, or to make it easier or less expensive for others to respond, is not actionable or criminal.

      The primary goal of governments generally is to assure those in power remain in power. In our system, with elections, individuals in power also have to “deliver” perceived benefits to their constituencies (by stealing more from other “representative’s” constituents than their own) and please “contributors” to their individual election expenses in order to individually reach the primary goal of re-election.

      Quite simply, disaster relief does not approach the primary goal of the “representatives”, except for those who are elected from the area. National news cycles and attention are fleeting, moving on quickly. As Puerto Rico has NO representatives or senators elected by its residents, assisting it is only a very lower level priority to anyone in power. Therefore the Jones Act, for the “protection” of the US maritime industry and its unions (to the detriment and additional cost of all other enterprises and citizens, but to the benefit of campaign coffers of many) remains in effect.

      You might not like it, but it is what it is.

  3. Brian Wright says:

    I’m leaning toward First Principles grand juries ( as a general solution to all government corruption and crime. But how about in this instance we bring class action suit under the RICO Act. Here’s a fairly amazing writeup for my own city and state of Novi, MI. But RICO has prospects of being used against federal corruption, too. Check this out: To establish RICO, you need a pattern, a small group, and “racketeering activities.” The list of federal racketeering activities is here: Worth a look, and obviously somewhat urgent. Why isn’t the MSM making a hue and cry?! Oh, right. They don’t do that sort of thing anymore. Totally bought off as they are.

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