POLITICS

Casket cartel busted in the bayou

By |
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

If you want to sell something for a huge markup, you have a few obvious paths:

1) Rely on uninformed, lazy, or price-insensitive customers;

2) Sell to a captive audience (like baseball-game attendees);

3) Get government to outlaw your competitors.

Funeral homes in Louisiana have used path No. 3, using the state government as their partner. Let Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry explain it in his mellifluous way:

If formality and ritual aren’t your thing, and if the scorn of your peers doesn’t bother you, you can wrap your dearly departed grandma in a potato sack, cover the body with two feet of dirt and rest easy. The state of Louisiana won’t say a thing. However, if you want to bury your matriarch in a box but run an end-around a funeral director, the state will then be all up in your business.

Louisiana law is clear: You can only buy caskets from duly licensed funeral directors. Without their expertise, how would you even know how big to make that box that the law doesn’t even require?

A tape measure, you say? Well, yes, I suppose you could figure it out that way, but the state’s funeral directors — who’ve been granted the exclusive privilege to sell caskets to the bereaved — say their tape measures are more accurate. You might cynically think they’re protecting their profits.

But too bad for those funeral director, a federal court has ruled that it is not a legitimate state interest to protect politically friendly businesses from competition. The court said the laws amounted to “the taking of wealth and handing it to others when it comes not as economic protectionism in service of the public good but as ‘economic’ protection of the rulemakers’ pockets.”

Losers: bureaucrats and the casket cartel. Winners: grievers, the Institute for Justice, and the monks IJ represented. Yes, monks.

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