The Weekly Standard | Esenberg: Why Is the State of Wisconsin Trying to Prevent a Man Who Owns a Cemetery from Opening a Funeral Home?

WILL President and General Counsel, Rick Esenberg writing in the Weekly Standard on our lawsuit challenging Wisconsin law that prohibits cemetery owners from providing funeral services to grieving families:

Free markets work through competition. Sellers offer an array of goods and services and buyers tell them what works. So when protectionist legislation favors one group of competitors over another, there’s a problem. That’s what’s happening to E. Glen Porter, who owns a cemetery in New Berlin, Wisconsin.

The problem is that Porter would also like to own and operate a funeral home. He believes that many grieving families would like an opportunity to deal with someone who can provide a full panoply of goods and services to help memorialize their loved ones. But the state of Wisconsin won’t let him.

In the 1930s, Wisconsin banned joint ownership of funeral homes and cemeteries to protect funeral directors from a then-new form of competition: combination firms that sold both cemetery and funeral home services.

On behalf of Porter, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has sued, alleging that the state of Wisconsin has unconstitutionally infringed on his economic liberty and right to earn a living. We will argue the case in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 19.

Many firms offer packages of goods and services that could be sold separately, the way Porter would like to with funeral home and a cemetery services. They do so because some customers like to deal with a single firm. Or they find a package of combined services more convenient.

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