Right Thinking From The Left Coast
Chance favors the prepared mind - Louis Pasteur

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Taking On Death, Inc.

The Institute for Justice is one of the evil libertarian organizations partially funded by the evil evil Koch brothers (see below).  You may remember them from two prominent lawsuits—on eminent domain (Kelo) and interstate wine sales (Granholm).  They lost the former, but have spurred numerous legislatures to pass laws restricting the process (although they need to get involved in the disgusting blight scandal in Montgomery).  The won the latter, which allowed interstate wine shipping.  However, Congress is trying to restore the wine cartels through the back door.

They’ve now found a new enemy—Death, Inc.:

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina gave the Benedictine monks at St. Joseph Abbey a new calling.

After the storm pummeled much of a pine forest they had long relied on for timber and income, the monks hatched a fresh plan: They would hand-craft and sell caskets.

But now, local funeral directors are trying to put a lid on the monks’ activities. The state funeral regulatory board, dominated by industry members, is enforcing a Louisiana law that makes it a crime for anyone but a licensed parlor to sell “funeral merchandise.” The morticians are serious. Violators such as the monks can land in jail for up to 180 days.

“I don’t relish that thought,” said Abbot Justin Brown, head of the 107-year-old abbey, as he sipped coffee in the monastery on a recent misty morning.

St. Joseph’s 36 monks, whose pastimes include baking raisin bread for the homeless, are putting up a fight. On Aug. 12, they filed a lawsuit in federal court in New Orleans to try to overturn the state edict. In the filing, the monks argue that the state law violates their right to pursue a gainful occupation. “We’re not just going to sit back and let these guys bulldoze us,” says Deacon Mark Coudrain.

Penn and Teller have a great episode on the funeral industry and how they treat consumers.  So I’m not surprised by the reaction.  I think the IJ has a great chance here.  To enforce licensed markets, the industry has to show a need for licensing—think of amateurs doing surgery in the absence of medical licensing.  Unfortunately for them, the funeral industry’s attempts to justify their licensing is becoming laughable:

The regulatory board, naturally, “has nine members, eight of whom are funeral industry professionals”.  And the explanations of why the monks should not be able to sell caskets are embarassingly bad; the best the Journal could come up with, apparently, is this:

Boyd Mothe Jr., a member of the fifth generation of his family to run Mothe Funeral Homes outside New Orleans, says Louisiana’s law should remain on the books because licensed directors have the training to sell caskets--transactions he calls “complicated.” For instance, he says, “a quarter of America is oversized. I don’t even know if the monks know how to make an oversized casket.”

Because, you know, changing the dimensions on a box is really complicated.  Presumably it took the funeral directors years and years to learn the advanced technical skills--multiplication--involved.

Caskets are a high-margin items, turning over gigantic profits for their purveyors.  But you can’t got to court and say that.

The IJ is fighting the good fight, again.  Too bad their an evil shady organization funded by the evil shady Koch brothers.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 08/25/10 at 03:32 PM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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