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Sending Joe the Plumber to Pick Up Grandma's Body

Even when the dead bodies Zachary Smeltz lifts for a living are hefty, he makes sure to handle even the burliest corpse in a gentle manner, masking any exertion. “Treat every case like that’s your mom that you’re transferring,” is the motto Mr. Smeltz imparts on the staff of the mortuary transport business he owns that sends him all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania and to other locales, picking up bodies.

via www.nytimes.com

This is how protectionist occupational licensing regimes emerge and are strengthened. Well-meaning outside observers write about something they don't really understand, in this case the "shadowy and sometimes controversial industry" of body transport companies, and then suggest that the answer to the hypothetical problems is more regulation.

"Others in the funeral industry contend the body transport business should be more strictly regulated," The New York Times reports.

“There are some states you don’t even have to be a funeral director,” said Scott M. Schmidt, the president of the New York State Association of County Coroners and Medical Examiners. “You just hang a shingle on a wall and you’re an undertaker all of a sudden.”

First of all, it is absurdly untrue to suggest that anyone can "hang a shingle" and become an undertaker anywhere in the United States. Second, yes, of course people within the industry want more regulation to restrict these activities to those within their industry. It is called economic protectionism.

"The purpose of New York’s stringent regulation, Mr. Schmidt said, is 'so you’re not sending out Joe the Plumber to pick up Grandma at the nursing home.'"

Because we all know what a problem THAT is...

Tanya Marsh

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