Can we spot a cartel in the forming here? Credit -, CC BY 3.0

One of the useful ways of reading Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” is as a rant, a rage, against the medieval economy of guilds and monopolies. Such are hugely enjoyable and useful for those who are on the inside of such cartels and they’re a manner of rooking the rest of us. There’s a certain necessity for us to be on the lookout for people trying to build new ones therefore. Which is what we can spot here, the funeral directors girding the loins to argue for the creation of just such a cartel at our expense:

Unregulated funeral directors can treat families with “disregard”, experts and campaigners have warned, amid a rise in funeral costs.

Of course, it’s not true in the slightest that there are any unregulated funeral directors. There are changes in who regulates, but no one unregulated. Markets, with their queues of willing customers or not are regulators, impose regulation upon all participants. But this isn’t what is meant here, of course not. They mean those unencumbered by the clipboard wielders, the box tickers:

This has seen mourners forced to shop around find a bargain, but funeral provider Dignity warned: “Experts working in the industry described a wide range in standards of facilities to care for the deceased. This included inadequate storage, lack of refrigeration and general disregard for the person that had died.

“Mourners expect funeral directors to adhere to industry standards or be regulated by the government. Many wrongly assume there are common standards for facilities and training across the sector to ensure their loved one who has passed away is properly cared for. Current industry codes of practice should be updated to reflect these findings.”

And there’s the answer. All must be regulated by the bureaucrats so that price competition doesn’t exist. Or at least only members of the correct trade body should be allowed to handle a corpse, thus allowing the trade body to police any thoughts of cut price or skimpy amenities.

Although all members of the National Association of Funeral Directors are ‘regularly inspected’ and ‘abide by a strict Code of Practice’, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are no restrictions or regulations on who can operate as a funeral director.

That’s the thing that’s got to change, eh?

The large companies being the proponents obviously enough. They can afford to meet the new standards they set while that johnny come lately upstart cannot, at least not to begin with. Which is how they cut off the appearance of that competition which might undermine their market power.

This really is nothing less than an attempt – early stages perhaps – to create a closed off industry, a cartel, which will, just as with those medieval guilds, be able to charge prices which provide a fat life for the funeral directors at the rise in costs of our deaths. Our response should be, as with Smith’s, that they can go boil their heads.

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Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole

The missus and I have agreed we can both be dumped in a skip and left out for recycling (though I’m sure we won’t do that). The purpose of a funeral is celebration of a life and consolation of those remaining, not (unless you’re religious) for the deceased. So the modern idea of letting the council deal with the trip to the crematorium (or whatever) and then booking the local village hall for a bunfight and singalong, seems quite appealing.


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and into the hole he goes.


Unregulated funeral directors can treat families with “disregard” — which is properly the prerogative of the legislator.

We are given the false choice between prior restraint (with its reversal of the burden of proof and cancellation of rights to due process) and total anarchy. As Tim says, even an “unregulated” business is regulated by its reputation and brand, by civil and criminal lawsuit, and by fear of boycott.


How *DARE* different suppliers have different prices, how *DARE* they! I ***DEMAND**** that porche be the same price as a corsa.