Chris Christie signs bill to screw consumers and preserve a monopoly

chris christie

We haven’t heard much from Chris Christie or about his presidential aspirations and that is just as well. Christie may very well be the most conservative governor we can elect in New Jersey but his governance is simply a shade more conservative that what you’d expect from a Democrat.

New Jersey has some of the most Draconian gun laws in the nation. Merely transporting a firearm through New Jersey places you at risk of a long prison sentence. We reported last summer on the case of Shaneen Allen, a mother of two who was facing as much as a decade in prison for carrying a legally licensed pistol across the border from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and made the huge mistake of telling a New Jersey police officer, at a traffic stop, that she had a weapon. While Christie doesn’t have a GOP legislature and changing the law could be tough, he has enormous influence on how the law is enforced. Compare and contrast the treatment of Ray Rice and Shaneen Allen.

Now Christie has signed into law an odious bill that screws consumers and protects a small monopoly from competition.

The Archdiocese of Newark, the largest single provider of in-ground burials in New Jersey, must give up a lucrative companion business — the marketing of headstones and private crypts — under a bill signed into law Monday (March 23) by Gov. Chris Christie.

The measure, which passed both houses of the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, goes into effect in one year, allowing the archdiocese time to wind down without imperiling sales in progress at its Catholic cemeteries.

The archdiocese became the first religious group in the state to enter the headstone business two years ago, alarming dozens of small, independent companies that produce monuments and crypts.

The dealers’ trade association, the Monument Builders of New Jersey, waged an 18-month legal fight and lobbying campaign against the move, contending the practice would spread to other dioceses and then to the owners of other religious cemeteries.
The argument is not about customers of the Newark Archdiocese being defrauded or receiving inferior products. The argument is solely about protectionism:

John Burns Jr., the president of the trade association, said the law will do nothing less than save his industry from annihilation, contending private firms would not be able to compete on a level playing field with a tax-exempt group like the church. In time, Burns said, the archdiocese would have developed a monopoly.

“Thank God,” he said. “If Christie didn’t sign this bill, it would have been a short period of time before we were out of business.”

In the 18 months since the archdiocese began marketing headstones, Burns said, some his colleagues saw business drop off by 40 percent.

In all fairness, I don’t understand why Mr. Burns’s desire to make a living selling monuments trumps my right to find the best buy. If the only way Mr. Burns can turn a nickel is by extorting more money from consumers at a time of grief and mourning, maybe he should take up something more constructive… like stealing lunch money.

This is the kind of protectionist that only favors monopolies and the politicians who get political contributions from them. The interests of the consumer are pushed to one side to provide a lucrative business for a small, politically connected group. This kind of fight is waged by taxi companies (against Uber and Lyft) and even by yoga instructors.

While I am happy to have Chris Christie as governor of New Jersey, his actions are completely out of step with the GOP, in general, and with most of the rest of the nation. At a time when we should be focused on expanding liberty and rolling back the regulatory state, Christie is going the other way.