mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Making a killing in the funeral business...

OpinionJournal has an interesting article about a possible Supreme Court challange to an Oklahoma law restricting who can sell caskets. Oklahoma requires that anyone selling caskets be a licensed mortician, with enbalming experience - even if they are just selling the casket and not doing the dead-body-prep related stuff.

So far the two courts that have heard it have sided with the OK Casket Cartel. But overturning it would be a major victory for captitalism and for consumers. This law is a perfect example of what economists like to call "rent-seeking" - basically, where business owners lobby for a law to be passed that increases their profit. They can't compete through traditional routes, so they make it illegal to compete with them. This makes them richer - and their customers poorer.

True capitalism means no barriers on trade. That is probably unrealistic in our political climate. But most laws are designed to protect consumers (although how well they do that is debateable). This kind of law protects businesses at the expense of consumers, who are forced to pay more for their caskets.

Then again, there are even stranger bedfellows in the rent-seeking world, like when the government transfers money from consumers to businesses in the form of, say, crop subsidies or price floors that drive up the cost of food for consumers and make farmers wealthier. So I'm not holding my breath that this will be overturned.


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