(Photo: Saint Joseph Abbey website)

As we near the end of October, I thought this seemed like an appropriate free market success story to share:

Monks in Louisiana win right to sell handcrafted caskets

When the state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors told the Benedictine monks of St. Joseph Abbey in southern Louisiana they could not sell their handcrafted caskets to the public, the normally peaceful order took the fight to court.

Hurricane Katrina had wiped out the order’s traditional income from selling timber, so the brothers decided to market the simple cypress boxes they had long built to bury monks who died. They were priced at $1,500 or $2,000, far less than a funeral home would charge.

But the state board, composed mostly of embalmers and funeral home directors, ordered the monks to stop.

Their five-year legal battle ended quietly at the Supreme Court last week with a defeat for state-enforced “economic protectionism” and a victory for small entrepreneurs.

It is part of a growing trend of successful “economic liberty” cases championed by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian legal group based in Arlington, Va.

The costs of a typical funeral have risen from about $700 in 1960 to over $7000 today.  It looks like as technologies have been developed or improved in this country, both life and death have gotten more expensive:

Legal Insurrection #03

Putting a stake through the heart of the state board’s original ruling, to make life a little easier for cash-strapped Louisianans at a time of bereavement, was the right thing to do…both on a moral basis and a free market one.

The monks are expressing their gratitude for the victory appropriately:

The abbey had celebrated its previous legal victories, but Abbot Brown said they will likely mark the final milestone “quietly in our prayers.”

“It’s great that we’ve been able to secure our own economic liberty and protect the economic liberty of others,” he told The Advocate. “We always felt the Constitution was on our side.”

One of the chief elements of the Tea Party, which remains undead for another Halloween season, is empowering Americans to push-back on the stranglehold of regulatory control at the state and local levels.   It is good that a group of hard-working citizens got a little “economic justice” for a change.