Licensing is Anti-Consumer (An Ongoing Series)

This week's episode -- Monk's making simple caskets to support themselves must desist because Louisiana has detailed licensing laws to protect current funeral homes from just this type of low-cost competition. This is what the monks would have to do to sell what is basically a nice wooden box

Louisiana law purports to require that anyone who is going to sell a casket has to jump through all same regulatory hoops as a full-fledged mortuary operation that embalms bodies. See, selling "funeral merchandise" (including caskets) means you are a "funeral director." And to be a "funeral director," you must be approved for "good moral character and temperate habits" by a funeral-related government entity [of course, that's in Louisiana, but still], complete 30 semester hours at college, apprentice with a funeral director for a year, pay an application fee, and pass an exam. But that's not all. If you want your facility to sell caskets, it's got to qualify as a facility for funeral directing, including a showroom and "embalming facilities for the sanitation, disinfection, and preparation of a human body."

The monks are being represented by the IJ (what the ACLU should have been if it weren't for its Stalinist founders) which hopes to get to the Supreme Court.  If I were one of the monks (wildly unlikely as that is) I might be tempted to sell them as "human-sized wood boxes" rather than coffins and see where that got me.


  1. Rick C:

    Seems to me like this would be an opportunity for a truly enterprising organization to pick up stakes to a state that doesn't have such ridiculous laws...and maybe start a mail-order business back in Louisiana.

  2. Mark:

    Couldn't they offer the coffin as a free gift in exchange for donations to the Abbey? Surely the government wouldn't try to regulate the free exchange of gifts...

  3. Dr. T:

    "If I were one of the monks (wildly unlikely as that is) I might be tempted to sell them as “human-sized wood boxes” rather than coffins and see where that got me."

    Nowhere. Bodies being buried or cremated must be placed into approved coffins. Human-sized boxes can't meet that "standard."

  4. Henry Bowman:

    Reason had an article several years ago about a very similar law in Tennessee. In that case, a pastor of a Chattanooga church wanted to sell low-cost caskets to his congregants. He learned to his dismay that he would hav to take two years of training in order to obtains a license...

  5. Maureen:

    But what's really different here is that the monks have been making the coffins for many a year, and that this law was made deliberately to include them out.

    Obviously, these caskets are too nice for the funeral home association's liking. We're not talking pine boxes, and yet they're not stupidly fancy or hugely expensive, either.

  6. CT_Yankee:

    The monks might offer "care packages" of common items for the deceased's family, and deliver them in a large "shipping container".

  7. T M Colon:

    As far as I can tell, licensing is a way to turn a right into a government granted privilege. Just like the state claims driving a car is a privilege. Why? Is travel a privilege? Is walking on a public sidewalk a privilege? Is riding a bike a privilege? What's the principle here? Where do we draw the line on what the government can claim is not a right but a privilege?