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The Jones Act—the title for a series of laws—is the backbone of American cabotage laws, and yet, it is rarely talked about in mainstream American discourse. The original Jones Act was enacted in 1920, and since 1920, it has not changed to any measurable degree. The Jones Act requires that all domestic maritime shipping—movement of merchandise from one U.S. point to another U.S. point—be completed by ships that are owned by U.S. citizens, operated by U.S. citizen crews, built in the U.S., and flagged by the U.S. These requirements have hampered the American economy, its security, and the maintenance of its merchant marine, even though these are the areas that are supposed to be boosted by the Act. These requirements, along with the numerous expansions and exemptions that litter their enforcement, have warped American shipping standards and their costs. In fact, because of the Jones Act, the U.S. “is ranked as having the most restrictive maritime transport industry among all OECD countries.” Now, after over 100 years under a regime that has only hurt the United States, it is time to repeal the Jones Act—either in its entirety or partially—and bring the U.S. into the 21st Century.

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