Garbage Monopolies Upheld By Court Despite Constitutional Ban

In a 6-to-3 decision, the Washington State Supreme Court has upheld a state-enforced garbage monopoly even though Washington State has a state constitutional “equal privileges and immunities” clause whose framers expressly intended to ban monopolies. The monopoly was challenged by a small waste disposal company driven out of business after it was barred from competing with the monopoly.

The state supreme court claims that monopolies are OK in waste disposal, because it is supposedly a “public function” that was merely delegated by the government to the big (and politically-connected) companies that received the monopoly, and there is supposedly an unwritten “public function” exception to the “privileges and immunities” clause. The dissent in Ventenbergs v. City of Seattle rebuts this, citing past cases barring monopolies and cartels even in areas (like public accommodations and conveyances) that are subject to special regulation under a state’s police power.