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Morticians, monopolies and manufacturing monks

Industry groups often find competition annoying (and costly) and wish to increase their profits by getting rid of the source of irritation through regulation.  Far from being created to help consumers, most regulations are attempts to restrict competition in their industry.  Various occupation groups seek licensure restrictions, piling requirement upon requirement, and often, some requirements have less to do with how well people who aspire to these occupations do their job and more to do with keeping their numbers down so that they may keep their incomes up.

Back in April and May I wrote a series of three blog posts about local governments restricting competition to favor some producers at the expense of others, all of which harms consumers.  One was on Portland outlawing Groupon.   Another was on how Louisiana seems to be in the lead among states in restricting business and occupational competition through regulations that limit entry into the market by potential sellers.  The third post pointed to an article by John Goodman (the economist, not the actor) who wrote about the “pernicious nature” of occupational licensure, especially in health care.   Also among my previous posts you can find me railing against regultions that have monopolized street vending, taxi cabs and hair braiding

Well, here is another example, a story in the Huffington Post about a court case involving the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors and a group of New Orleans area monks who build caskets in their wood working shop to cover their health care needs.  It seems that the funeral directors in the state do not like the annoying competition with the monks, who provide people with low cost caskets.  What do you think?  Be sure to read my previous posts and the John Goodman article before replying.


13 Responses to “Morticians, monopolies and manufacturing monks”

  1. BG says:

    This topic was actually discussed at work. If I’m not mistaking the monks won this suit since this blog was written. (Please correct me if I’m wrong) I know first hand that funeral expenses are outrageous and continue to rise. I buried my mom in 2004 and my dad in 2008 and just in a 4 year period for all the same services and pretty much the same coffin the increase in price was about 1,500. I’m not sure if many people really understand the big picture because until about 3 years ago I didn’t understand either. I have a friend who manages a funeral home and during a discussion she mentioned the name of the company that she works for. I was confused because I thought all funeral homes were locally owned but not anymore. Most funeral homes are actually owned by a large corporation from out of state. This is why it is pretty much a monopoly. Another interesting fact is that they would not allow monks to make and sell a coffin but we can order a coffin from Wal-Mart on-line. This is a fact..I looked it up myself because I was in such awe. With that being said I agree that the monks should beable to sell the coffins. This is just another example of greed.

  2. Johnny Banks says:

    In my opinion I believe that it is just a friendly competition. The monks are not taking all of the casket business away. If the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral wanted to drive away the monks then I believe they should lower their cost of caskets.

  3. MG says:

    I don’t think that the monks are making the caskets out of spite or intentionally. I believe that they honestly just need to make money to go towards their health care and I completely agree with them. I can understand why morticians are upset with this because it is ultimately taking away from their business. But, many company’s face this same problem daily. I believe that friendly competition ultimately builds a company up and that the morticians should use this and learn from it in order to make their lives more successful.

  4. BH says:

    Friendly competition is what keep businesses in motion. It allows consumers to get the best deals at the most reasonable prices. The Monks in this article are threatening the business life of casket makers because they make them at a better quality of their casket are excellent. Not to mention they preform these services as a hobby rather than a business but if they decide to produce in state rather than get casket out of state they should be cheaper and most importantly more affordable.

  5. HB says:

    Since the monks are doing it for a good cause, the Funeral Directors should be okay with it. Sure it may seem like it is harming the business, but how much damage can the Monks really do?

  6. JS says:

    I agree completely. The monks are not building these caskets to intentionally harm the business. The money they make is going to a good cause and it really isn’t harming them all that much.

  7. JS says:

    I think it’s really great that monks are building these caskets and using the money for their health care, but I do understand that it could be annoying for the people who actually do this for a living. I don’t imagine that it’s affecting these workers too much, but it is a bit of a competition for them and I can understand why they are upset with this; however, I don’t think they should make the monks who build these caskets stop building them.

  8. […] and complicated bill that buried a small boutique industry overnight.   Too bad they cannot get handmade caskets from Louisiana monks for the burial.  This is definitely a good example for a Rent Seeking 101 […]

  9. RD says:

    I agree with JC’s above comment. I think that the Monks should be able to build caskets. But, I also understand why the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors are upset. The Monks pose as a threat to there jobs. I beleive that the Monks had the right to file suit against the Louisiana Funeral Homes. If people need caskets, they can get them out of state for cheaper than in state. The Monks are looking to keep the buying in state, and to also help finance the religious studies of Monks in training. The Monks also do this a a hobby, so why should they have to stop what they do for a hobby. So, I totally agree that Monks should be able to sell caskets at a lower price than funeral homes.

    • RW says:

      Competition keeps businesses honest. it is favorable for the public for monks to build caskets and also for the morticans to not like it. Its apart of the nature of business then the morticans will show the world how much better quality they have or either drop their prices. but i agree with JC

    • LL says:

      I agree. The monks are providing a service to people in need of an economical solution to bury their loved ones, that would keep business in Louisiana. It is incomprehensible to understand how the government and morticians are completely against the monks but people are free to take their business online and Louisiana business loses. And also, the monks are providing for their healthcare needs. Would it be better for them to rely on government assistance for these needs….it is a never-ending push towards a more socialistic economy than a capitalistic one as they hide behind the cloak of their regulations…..

  10. JC says:

    Personally knowing the monks I tend to be partial toward them. I completely understand why the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors are upset by their competition, but in the same breathe it is not like the monks are taking away from their whole business. It is to my understanding that there is much more involved with baring someone besides buying the casket. i can see where there would be this friction if the monks were trying to take all of the operations involved and making it their own practice to make money, but they are not. I say if they can give the last rites and religious services to put the person in the ground then they can certainly provide the casket.


    • CA says:

      Agreed, the monks themselves are only partaking in a small fraction of the operations. As well, they are not doing this as a means of profit making, but merely as a means of supporting their health needs.

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