Saturday, November 17, 2012

With No Real Political News to Write About Washington Post Columnist George Will Writes About – Wait for It

Restrictive Laws on Selling Caskets in Louisiana

The dean of the conservative political commentators for the Washington Post is George Will, a man whose main claim to fame is to defend freedom of speech by endorsing totally unlimited contributions to political causes.  He has largely won that battle, and so the half billion or so that private groups funneled into the Romney campaign with no result has apparently left him both bereft of reason and a little bit cranky. 

So Mr. Will is devoting an entire column about how monks in Louisiana cannot sell the coffins they have made.

In the 1960s, Louisiana made it a crime to sell “funeral merchandise” without a funeral director’s license. To get one, the monks would have to stop being monks: They would have to earn 30 hours of college credit and apprentice for a year at a licensed funeral home to acquire skills they have no intention of using. And their abbey would have to become a “funeral establishment” with a parlor, able to accommodate 30 people, and an embalming facility, even though they just want to make rectangular boxes, not handle cadaver.

Now there is no doubt this is a law designed to provide trade protection for the funeral industry, but it is really no different than a thousand other laws with the same goal for other industries.  And yes it is offensive and courts should rule the law void, so everyone (except the funeral industry) agrees with Mr. Will.

But having nothing to write about except the massive failure of Conservatives in the recently completed election Mr. Will is reduced to making the Louisiana law a symbol of lost freedom, and giving it importance comparable to jailing journalists, prohibiting political speech and the like.

When circuit courts disagree, the Supreme Court should referee. The monks’ lawyers — libertarians from the Institute for Justice — want the court to confront the consequences of its 1873 mistake. So, the monks’ problem is much more than just another example of dumb bullying by government in cahoots with powerful interests. Last month, the 5th Circuit appeals court rejected Louisiana’s casket nonsense, saying, “Neither precedent nor broader principles suggest that mere economic protection of a pet industry is a legitimate governmental purpose.” And: “The great deference due state economic regulation does not demand judicial blindness to the history of a challenged rule or the context of its adoption nor does it require courts to accept nonsensical explanations for naked transfers of wealth.”

One now waits for the George Will's of the world to start writing about all the other special treatments given to industry, like the huge tax breaks given to oil and energy companies, or the right of pipeline companies to condemn private land for their personal gain.  No wait, those are provisions supported by Republicans and Conservatives.

So in Mr. Will’s world this issue could set forth a “new birth of freedom”.  No , that phrase refers to Lincoln’s glorious speech during the Civil War.  Of course that is a cause that in Mr. Will’s world probably is comparable to restrictions on selling coffins in Louisiana.

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