The recent release of files related to the JFK assassination has brought to the forefront more troubling reminders of the lack of transparency in our government. This issue pervades at many levels, but in state and local governments the obstructions to becoming informed are usually limited to the procedural. Given an understanding of the law, patience, and sufficient resources, you can usually get whatever information from government records you're looking for, even if they'd rather you not see it.
The federal government is a different and much more troubling animal. Here, the talk of national security is used to justify hiding information on its activities from the public, much of which tend to be very disturbing. Of particular interest in our community from the recently released JFK files was the revelation that the CIA considered bombing Cuban exiles in Miami to then blame those bombings on Fidel Castro's regime.
Even when the activities our government considers are not quite so morally indefensible, they can still do a great deal of harm, and the fact that we're in the dark about all of this effectively breaks our form of government. How can we honestly give our approval of or opposition to an incumbent when we don't know about such important things they may have done? What decisions they've made, plans they've supported, if it falls under the area of national security then the average American voter has no right to know according to the powers that be.
Now I know the national security argument, about aiding our enemies, but without real transparency we won't even know for sure who our enemies are or why they are our enemies. And that may be fine for some people, who are willing to believe that anyone who gets elected is some higher form of life, wielding wisdom beyond that of us mere mortals, but most of us who pay attention to politics see a consistent pattern of poor judgement from just about everyone. Even if you had these great, incorruptible sages in office, transparency simply is not something we can do without. Our responsibility as voters is to hold elected officials accountable for what they do in office, and a veil of secrecy between government and voters makes it impossible to fulfill that responsibility.
Most folks who claim to advocate for smaller government tend to extol the virtues of the free market, but then often contradict themselves with support for protectionist policies. Protectionism's goal is to avoid a free market where all parties can operate as efficiently and unrestricted as possible, and instead to stack the deck in favor of our domestic businesses. Since our government has no way legal way to directly do harm to foreign businesses and make them less competitive, protectionist laws only serve to harm the American consumer who otherwise enjoys the foreign product at its intended price.
This brings us to the Jones Act. Though cloaked in the cowl of national security since its passage in 1920, it is transparently a protectionist measure, used to favor a US based shipping industry at the expense of American consumers by prohibiting ships which are not all owned, built, and crewed by Americans from traveling directly between US ports. That even the government understands that negative impact is exemplified by the typical but temporary waving of the Jones Act for areas hit by natural disasters, to allow relief supplies to enter more freely. But if it's helpful in times of disasters, why wouldn't it be helpful otherwise? Part of why we're talking about it lately is the President's initial refusal to do likewise for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
The territory of Puerto Rico, like the non contiguous states of Alaska & Hawaii, are especially impacted, having the prices for most goods grossly inflated by the costs to ship from the mainland as well the policy dissuading foreign ships from making port there, since the Jones Act would then prohibit them from making port at the US mainland from there, where the mainland has infinitely more consumers. But that said, even the mainland is harmed by this law. Allowing greater freedom of shipping goods will reduce both costs and the need for commercial transport on our roadways, especially as most of our major population centers are on the coasts.
One can even argue that the US shipping industry that supports and advocates for this law would be better off without it. Open competition would likely demand efficiency and innovation to remain competitive, which is what makes any industry improve.