As Jacob Sullum noted earlier this month, the Institute for Justice recently filed a major economic liberty suit against the state of Louisiana for its draconian restrictions on the sale of "funeral merchandise." Among other things, the law currently prevents a group of Benedictine monks from building and selling simple, hand-crafted caskets at a low price. Naturally, the state's funeral directors favor the law, since it prevents competition from the monks. Keep in mind that building and selling caskets poses no health or safety risks to the public, unlike embalming or other funerary practices which can be legitimately regulated. So how does Louisiana's "casket cartel" justify the state's ridiculous infringement on the right to earn an honest living? The Wall Street Journal's Jennifer Levitz found out:
"They're cutting into our profit," says Leonard Dunn, the owner of Serenity Funeral Home, located a short drive from the abbey. He adds. "I don't think the monks are actually making the caskets—I think it's a marketing gimmick."
Recently, the abbey's woodshop was buzzing, with two deacons and two novice monks sawing pieces of wood for the caskets.
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."
But some local morticians are mortified by all the fuss. Darin Bordelon, the owner of LaVille Funeral Home in Ville Platte, La., says the state board should be ashamed of its campaign against the monks.
"They're making us all look greedy," he says.
For more on the case, see this video from the Institue for Justice: