Funeral Directors Want To Put Monks In Jail For Offering 'Unauthorized' Coffins
from the the-napster-of-coffins dept
Ah, regulatory capture. Down in Louisiana, there’s a law that makes it a crime (yes, a crime) for anyone other than a funeral parlor to sell “funeral merchandise.” This rule is enforced by the state’s “funeral regulatory board,” which (you guessed it) is mostly dominated by funeral parlor industry insiders. Now, a few years back, you may remember, there was a big Hurricane called Katrina. Among the massive damage done to the state of Louisiana, it also knocked down much of a large forest of pine trees on the property of the Benedictine monks at St. Joseph Abbey. With so many downed pine trees, the monks, in a lemons-into-lemonade type of moment, decided to use the downed trees to make hand-crafted caskets.
The funeral parlor directors were not amused, at this “unauthorized” competition — and warned the monks that violating the laws against such unauthorized funeral merchandise could land you in jail for up to 180 days. Yes, the funeral directors were threatening a bunch of monks who were hand-crafting coffins out of pine trees knocked down by Hurricane Katrina with jailtime. After the threat, the monks continued to make caskets, but tried to keep the activity quiet — and the funeral regulatory board literally sent out investigators to go spy on them to see if they were still selling caskets. After collecting evidence, they hit the monks with a subpoena, and are attempting to fine the monks for selling such caskets. In response, the monks are filing a federal lawsuit, claiming that they were being shut out of the market by a “casket cartel.”
It’s difficult not to see this as a clear case of regulatory capture. The Louisiana funeral regulatory board has nine members, eight of whom are in the funeral industry. There are even some funeral directors who are willing to admit that the whole thing looks bad, with one telling the Wall Street Journal that “They’re making us all look greedy.” As for the defense of the law? Well, the funeral directors who support such a restriction on free trade are really reaching:
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.”
Very convincing, huh?