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InsiderOnline Blog: August 2004

Federal Court Buries Free Market

A federal court in Oklahoma declared this week that economic protectionism is a “legitimate state interest.” The case involves a group of entrepreneurs who want to sell caskets in Oklahoma, but can’t because of a state law that says they must be funeral directors in order to sell them. The law blocks competition and allows funeral directors to inflate prices.

An excerpt from the ruling, which even drops the pretense of consumer protection:

"While baseball may by the national pastime of the citizenry, dishing out special economic benefits to certain in-state interests remains the favored pastime of state and local governments. While this case does not directly challenge the ability of states to provide business-specific economic incentives, adopting a rule against the legitimacy of intrastate economic protectionism and applying it in a principled manner would have wide-ranging consequences."

Consequences like... economic freedom, market efficiency, cheaper caskets, the list goes on. My gosh, people go to law school to learn to write stuff like this?Luckily, a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision struck down a nearly identical Tennessee law as unconstitutional economic protectionism. Similar laws in Georgia and Mississippi have also been struck down, so there's hope for Oklahomans. IJ plans to keep fighting.

In the meantime, this ruling provides a rare glimpse into a federal judge's mind-- a place where protecting groups of businesses from fair competition and ripping off the good folks of Oklahoma is just as legitimate and benign a pastime as enjoying a baseball game and a hotdog. Perhaps he took a pitch to the head?

Posted on 08/26/04 11:56 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

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