NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Curtailing Competition In Caskets

November 19, 1999

A dozen states have laws on their books which critics say protect funeral directors from competition -- and guarantee that relatives of the deceased pay far to much for funeral caskets when those folks are at their most vulnerable.

  • Those 12 states are Alabama, Delaware, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.
  • All require some type of license to sell funeral merchandise.
  • Critics charge that caskets which might otherwise sell for $800, for example, are marked up to as much as $3,500 -- because the laws protect the funeral services industry from competition.

For example, the Tennessee Funeral Board -- which is composed of six licensed funeral directors and embalmers as well as four members of the state legislature who reportedly have strong ties to the funeral industry -- requires those wishing to sell caskets to take two years worth of courses at a cost of $8,000, plus pass an exam testing the applicant's ability to embalm a body, restore a damaged corpse and so forth.

The Institute for Justice, in Washington, D.C., has joined in a federal lawsuit protesting such protectionist practices. Parties to the suit argue that it seeks to protect the right to earn a living, without governments placing unreasonable barriers in the way.

Source: Rev. Nathaniel Craigmiles (Marble Top Missionary Baptist Church), "Funeral Directors Close Lid on Competition," Investor's Business Daily, November 19, 1999.


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