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Free the monks, free the enterprise

Individual freedom is what has made the United States unique from other nations on the planet. Economic liberty, the freedom to earn one's living honestly by selling one's products and/or services free from onerous government interference, is essential if we are to remain a nation committed to individual freedom.

Crony capitalism, on the other hand, is an insidious practice where politically connected special interest groups work with government to pass laws and regulations to shut out smaller competitors for the sole purpose of enriching the special interest groups. This practice infringes upon the smaller competitors' economic liberties.

The Institute for Justice is a non-profit legal organization that fights for the economic liberties that government has been slowly but steadily curtailing. To further that effort, today IJ filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Saint Joseph Abbey to challenge Louisiana's casket cartel:

Under Louisiana law, it is a crime for anyone but a licensed funeral director to sell "funeral merchandise," which includes caskets.  To sell caskets legally, the monks would have to abandon their calling for one full year to apprentice at a licensed funeral home, learn unnecessary skills and take a funeral industry test.  They would also have to convert their monastery into a "funeral establishment" by, among other things, installing equipment for embalming human remains.

On August 12, 2010, the Institute for Justice teamed up with the monks of Saint Joseph Abbey to file a federal constitutional lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to vindicate their right to earn an honest living.  In a time of 10 percent unemployment and widespread economic pessimism, this case raises one of today's most important constitutional questions:  May the government restrict economic liberty just to enrich a group of politically favored insiders such as licensed funeral directors?

One of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans is the right to earn an honest living in the occupation of our choice without arbitrary government interference.  Louisiana's casket licensing law violates that right.


The Institute for Justice said this about today's filing:

The only reason the state of Louisiana is preventing the Abby from selling its caskets is to protect the profits of the state's funeral directors.  The law is on the books, and the State Board is enforcing it, because licensed funeral directors want the funeral merchandise market to themselves.

"Economic liberty is a constitutional right that matters to everyone, even monks," said Jeff Rowes, an IJ senior attorney.  "If government and special interests are willing to team up against monks, then no one is safe and we need judges to enforce the right to earn an honest living free from illegitimate interference," he added.

"The monks' story is just one example of a national problem in which industry cartels use government power to protect themselves from competition.  Protecting economic liberty and ending government-enforced cartels require judicial engagement - a willingness by the courts to confront what is often really going on when the government enacts licensing laws supposedly to protect the public," said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice.


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Comments (6)

Crony capitalism, on the... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

Crony capitalism, on the other hand, is an insidious practice where politically connected special interest groups work with government to pass laws and regulations for the sole purpose of enriching the special interest groups by shutting out smaller competitors. This practice infringes upon the smaller competitors' economic liberties.

They're called lobbyist;)


The "Funeral Business" is o... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

The "Funeral Business" is one of the biggest rip-offs in this country. I can see requiring a 'license' when you provide certain services (embalming, cremation, etc) - even that doesn't stop some of the horror stories that have come out - but selling a coffin?

"Economic liberty is a c... (Below threshold)
Dane:

"Economic liberty is a constitutional right that matters to everyone, even monks," said Jeff Rowes, an IJ senior attorney. "If government and special interests are willing to team up against monks, then no one is safe and we need judges to enforce the right to earn an honest living free from illegitimate interference," he added."

This has many parallels to the Prop 8 situation out in California.

A state cannot take away Constitutional rights. The US Supreme Court has upheld a citizen's right to marriage as a fundamental right 14 times.

If a majority of the citizens in Louisiana voted in favor of a state law preventing the Abby from selling its caskets a federal judge would overturn that as Un-Constitutional - just as a federal judge overturned California's Prop 8.

This suit says the monks have a constitutional right to economic liberties.

""Economic liberty is a constitutional right that matters to everyone, even monks," said Jeff Rowes, an IJ senior attorney."

And the right to marriage is a fundamental right that has been upheld by the US Supreme Court 11 times. The 14th Amendment provides equal protection for all citizens, even gay citizens.

I don't understand how anyone could be in favor of the monks Constitutional rights to economic liberties and not be in support of the decision to overturn Prop 8. The parallels are bright and clear.

Dane, This thread ... (Below threshold)

Dane,

This thread is about IJ's suit against the Louisiana government, not the prop 8 decision. Stay on topic.

Funeral industry lobbyists ... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Funeral industry lobbyists have owned corrupt state legislatures for decades. In South Carolina, for example, if you wish to be cremated, that's fine BUT the law requires you be in a casket at the time.

Now, it just so happens the only place you can buy a qualifying casket is through the funeral home. A "sturdy cardboard" model was offered for $200 a few years ago, or a "simple, unfinished pine" version for $800 back then. There is no reason at all to have this requirement other than to line the pockets of funeral directors.

That's one example of the dozens and dozens of regulations requiring people to pay more money to funeral homes.

"One of the freedoms we enj... (Below threshold)
wtfo:

"One of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans is the right to earn an honest living in the occupation of our choice without arbitrary government interference. Louisiana's casket licensing law violates that right."

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHA>

HA. HAHAHAHa.

Oh, he's killing me. Where was this attitude a few decades before I was born? You know, back when we started this massive undertaking to make it as stupidly hard to legally start and run a business as possible?

This isn't just about rent-seeking and crony capitalism. It's also about nanny-ism.

Why is it that my generation, who were born into such a world, sees this so clearly while so many who saw life without the shackles can't see them? Oh, yeah, that's right... because we don't have any damned jobs, or pension promises, or retirement savings, or reasonable expectations of receiving SS benefits.

At least being unemployed gives you plenty of time to scrabble in the dirt and plant some extra food... but god forbid Big Brother catches you using his rainwater.

I would love to be able to make an honest living with my own hands, but everywhere I turn... "you can't do that... you need this permit... you need that license... you have to pay these fees... it's just plain unlawful to sell that..."

Is it the boiling frog theory? Distrust of nostalgia? Senile dementia? How the hell can a couple of generations bring us to this point and be so blind about it?




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