There’s No Such Thing as Excessive Profits

If you want to do business in Venezuela, you will have to let the government do your bookkeeping to make sure you aren’t making too much. Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro’s decree, called the “Organic Law of Fair Prices,” sets a maximum “fair” profit at 30 percent of costs.

Besides the practical problems of implementing such a measure, the ceiling rests on a basic misconception: the idea that there is such a thing as “fair” or “excessive” profits misunderstands the function of profit — and loss — in a market economy.

To bemoan a capitalist earning high profits is like complaining about a surgeon saving too many lives.

The Profit-and-Loss Test

The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises cherished the market process because he thought it was a wonderful institution for using the world’s scarce resources in the way that best serves consumers. The market prices of various resources, from labor hours to tons of iron to acres of farmland, show entrepreneurs how valuable those resources are in the most valuable activity — as judged by the spending decisions of consumers — and thus provide the right incentives to deploy them rationally.

As I detail in my new book on Misesian thought, Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action, we can understand Mises’s perspective by imagining a silly scenario where a building contractor decides to coat apartment interiors with solid gold. Surely tenants would be willing to pay a lot more in rent if their apartment had gold-coated countertops. So why would this be a foolish move for our entrepreneur?

The answer, of course, is that even though revenues might be much higher, the use of gold would drive the monetary costs of the project higher still. The decision to start using large amounts of gold would transfo…

NYPD officer shot in the head, dies

(NYPD) An NYPD housing officer was killed Tuesday night, shot in the head by a trigger-happy perp during a chase and gunfight on a pedestrian overpass above the FDR Drive in East Harlem, police said.

Officer Randolph Holder, 33, was shot in the forehead by the callous gunman, who had stolen a bike and was being pursued by cops along the promenade hugging the East River around 8:30 p.m., Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said. The brave officer died at 10:22 p.m. at Harlem Hospital.

A suspect, shot in the legs, was arrested.

Depression-Era Laws Threaten the Sharing Economy

Imagine you’re driving for Uber or Lyft. As an independent contractor, you enjoy setting your own work hours, picking up people you like chatting with (well, for the most part), learning about new parts of town, and earning back some of the investment in your car. Then, one day, an email from your ride-sharing service informs you that some bureaucrats you’ve never heard of have decided that Uber is now your employer. You have to work a certain number of hours and within prescribed times, and the company will start withholding a portion of your pay for taxes, like a typical paycheck. More changes are probably coming. What do you do?

That’s the dilemma ridesharing drivers may soon be facing if the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division follows through on its stated intention to radically redefine what constitutes an employment contract. Ridesharing companies and other sharing-economy startups have operated somewhat freely thanks to the DOL’s relatively laissez-faire attitude toward contracting and other innovative work arrangements. All of that may soon change.

The Wage and Hour Division is, for all intents and purposes, the nation’s wage regulator. In a blog post last July, its head, David Weil, issued new guidance regarding what makes someone an employee rather than an independent contractor. The guidance relies on the expansive wording of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, which President Franklin Roosevelt regarded as one of the most important parts of his New Deal.

That act defines employment as simply including “to suffer or permit to work,” giving the Department of Labor huge discretion in defining the term for practical purposes. The New Deal Congress, in choosing this language, specifically re…

The Nightmare of Living in the Past

Swedish doctor Hans Rosling loads a washing machine with laundry on stage at the beginning of his TED talk. When his talk is over, he returns to the washer and pulls out … books.

His presentation, “The Magic Washing Machine,” is about how this one example of consumer technology is far more than a convenience. By mechanizing the arduous process of doing the household laundry, the washing machine gave women back all of the many hours they spent washing, agitating, and wringing out clothes by hand.

With a machine to do the wash, Rosling’s mother had time to read to him and to learn English. That’s what the books he pulled out represented: the age-old opportunity cost of doing laundry the old-fashioned way.

Telling Stories

Over the last few years, I’ve written a lot about how much better life is today than at any time in the past. It’s pretty easy to make that case with a variety of economic data, but data never seem to pack the punch that I wish they could. What’s more effective are presentations like Rosling’s. He provides an incredibly powerful visual image to demonstrate what economic development has done for women both historically and across the globe.

But it’s just one exampl…

Big Pharma and the Opposite of Science

Can we all agree that no reasonable and compassionate person would want to force people to choose between food and medicine?

Unfortunately, too many people across the ideological spectrum assume that by opposing or favoring certain measures — greater regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, for example — you forfeit your reason and compassion.

Politics Is the Opposite of Science

The question of effective means to achieve a particular end is often a question of science — physics or economics, for example — rather than of politics. Determining whether it’s technically feasible or economically worthwhile to explore Mars is a matter of science; trying to gather sufficient popular backing to do so is a matter of politics.

Strictly speaking, pure science is about the search for the genuine causes of observable phenomena; politics is about gaining the authority to pursue favored outcomes. The method of science entails tolerance of and relentless but reasoned criticism of all views, including one’s own; the tools of politics include what urbanist Jane Jacobs calls “deception for the sake of the task.” Real science is about critically examining premises; pure politics is about defeating your opponent.

In politics, you focus on that part of what is seen that supports your position, while in science, you try to get at the part of reality that is often not seen.

There’s no denying that there’s some science in practical politics and some — perhaps a lot — of politicking in the practice of science. But when it comes to the pursuit of truth versus winning or principle versus expediency, politics is the opposite of science.

What Is Seen about Daraprim

A rich entrepreneur named Mar…

Minnesota cop killed when suspect wrestles away gun

Police were investigating why a suspect shot and killed a cop.

Police were investigating why a suspect shot and killed a cop.

A Minnesota police officer was shot dead after the domestic abuse suspect he was guarding grabbed the cop’s weapon and fired at him during a tragic turn of events at St. Cloud Hospital.

Police on Monday said they are still trying to determine the suspect’s motive in the shooting.

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Killed was Steven Martin Sandberg, 60, by shooter Danny Leroy Hammond, 50. Police and security officials quickly subdued Hammond with a stun gun. Hammond later became unresponsive and died, Gawker reported.

Hammond was being treated at the hospital for unspecified reasons. Sandberg was tasked to guard him. The Associated Press reported Hammond, who had been detained for a domestic incident, had prior convictions for burglary, terroristic threats and escaping police custody.

Colin Flaherty’s book, “Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry: The Hoax of Black Victimization and Those Who Enable It,” documents black crime in America and exposes how the media and politicians are willing partners in what the author calls “the greatest lie of our generation.”

The St. Cloud TImes said Hammond was in his hospital bed but got up and “initiated a struggle” with Sandberg, and subsequently wrestled away the officer’s gun. Hammond had not been official under arrest at the time of incident, and had therefore not been handcuffed or restrained.

An officer had just arrived at the hospital to replace Sandberg as guard when the shooting occurred.

‘Unplugging the American Matrix’

snapping-of-the-american-mind-coverSince its national debut last week, David Kupelian’s latest book, “The Snapping of the American Mind,” has soared up the Amazon bestseller charts and elicited rave reviews, which the author hopes is a sign Americans are hungry for a rare commodity in today’s culture: truth.

In the book, says Kupelian, “I endeavor – kind of like Neo in the popular sci-fi film ‘The Matrix’ – to ‘unplug’ the virtual reality program that has captured the minds of so many of us. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that in today’s America, tens of millions of people are living in a delusional dream state.”

He explains: “Even our everyday terminology is fantastical and dreamlike, seemingly designed to obscure our reality. For example, in politics and culture we speak casually of ‘the left’ and ‘the right,’ as though these were two morally equivalent camps or worldviews. In reality, as I document in the book, the socialist/Marxist ideology that has captivated today’s Democrat Party is at war with reason, human nature, common sense, history and truth – indeed, at war with God and His laws.”

In fact, Kupelian claims the far left cannot operate without violating the Ten Commandments. “Leftist radicals,” he says, “continually elevate and excuse murder (abortion), adultery (‘sexual liberation’), stealing (‘wealth redistribution’), lying (deceiving Americans as to their real intentions) and covetousness (Churchill called socialism ‘the gospel of envy’) – thereby wiping out Commandments 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, all in the guise of championing freedom, justice and equality.”

The problem for the rest of us, he adds, is that the political and cultural left that dominate today’s America is “driving millions of unsuspecting Americans completely over the edge – into depression, family breakdown, debauchery, mental illness, violence, addiction and worse.” “The Snapping of the American Mind” exhaustively documents this stunning correlation.

“Fortunately”, he adds, “the better we understand the madness that has captured us – both as a nation and as individuals – the more clear becomes our escape route back to the God-blessed land we once knew, and would know again if we could find the way back.” The book is hopefully subtitled: “Healing a Nation Broken by a Lawless Government and a Godless Culture.”

Kupelian, vice president and managing editor of WND and editor of Whistleblower magazine, is the author of two other influential books, “The Marketing of Evil,” and its sequel, “How Evil Works.”

Rave reviews

On Tuesday, radio talker and Fox News personality Laura Ingraham, while interviewing Kupelian, told her vast radio audience, “David’s a compelling writer, and the way he presents the narrative of what’s happened to our political psyche, our spiritual psyche, all of it, is really compelling. It’s a page-turner. I really urge you all to get this book.”

She added, “Some people may think, ‘Oh I already know all this stuff, we’re going to hell in a handbasket, why do I need to read it?’ Because you need to know the way out! And we need to help each other.”

Other interviews in the last few days – including George Noory on “Coast to Coast AM,” Steve Deace, Barry Farber, Bill Martinez, Dr. Michael Brown, Carl Gallups, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson and Fox News radio host Kate Dalley – have echoed Ingraham’s assessment.

Joseph Farah, who as CEO of WND Books is the publisher of Kupelian’s latest work, says “‘The Snapping of the American Mind’ is so unique and deeply affecting that I believe it could actually influence the presidential race and even the future of our country.”

Here’s what other prominent voices are saying:

“David Kupelian is one of the most thought-provoking and iconoclastic writers I know.” – Sean Hannity, top-rated radio and TV talk host

“David Kupelian is one of the very few must-read writers in the 21st century.” – Dr. Ted Baehr, Chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission, and publisher of MovieGuide®

“David Kupelian’s ‘The Snapping of the American Mind’ chronicles the decline and fall of America and shows that it is no accident, but rather a direct result of progressive misrule – an eye-opening, scary and galvanizing book.” – Dinesh D’Sousa, author and filmmaker

“In an era when our nation’s Judeo-Christian foundation is coming under increasingly open and brutal attack, Kupelian’s powerful and redemptive book couldn’t have come at a better time.” – David Barton, historian, author, and founder of WallBuilders

“An absolute must-read in the Age of Obama.” – Jamie Glazov, editor of and host of “The Glazov Gang”

“Read it!” – Michele Bachmann, former congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate

“David Kupelian has once again given us a must-read in these times of political turbulence and cultural insanity.” – Paul Kengor, author of “Takedown” and professor of political science at Grove City College

“This book is a stunning exposé of all that is evil and delusional in the liberal-progressive plan to destroy the American miracle. A moral tour de force!” – Lyle Rossiter, M.D., forensic and general psychiatrist and author of “The Liberal Mind”

“Kupelian points the way to national and personal renewal.” – Phyllis Schlafly, author, lawyer and founder of Eagle Forum

“Maybe once in a generation are we so graced with a communicator like David Kupelian. … In ‘The Snapping of the American Mind,’ David explores the root cause of our age of lawlessness and moral anarchy, yet somehow leaves us filled with hope for American revival and renewal. It’s just the book Americans need at such a time as this.” – J. Matt Barber, columnist and associate dean at Liberty University School of Law

SPECIAL OFFER: Get your copy of David Kupelian’s “The Snapping of the American Mind: Healing a Nation Broken by a Lawless Government and Godless Culture” – autographed and personalized – at a special discount at the WND Superstore!

Also, get Kupelian’s culture-war bestseller, “The Marketing of Evil” – now available in paperback – and the acclaimed sequel, “How Evil Works,” also in paperback – all available, autographed by the author, at the WND Superstore!

Virginia drivers refusing to swap Confederate plates

(WAVY-TV) It is now illegal to drive with Virginia license plates featuring the Confederate flag, but some plan to defy the change in the Commonwealth.

Kevin Collier of Suffolk is a commander of the Stonewall Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He received a letter last month telling him he had until October 4 to swap out his Confederate flag license plate with a new one without the flag, provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Governor Terry McAuliffe called for the change this summer after a man pictured posing with the flag was accused of killing 9 African-Americans in a South Carolina church. Collier has missed the deadline to change plates and said he doesn’t plan to.

Government Power Was His Mortal Enemy

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.

 “Sometimes standing against evil is more important than defeating it,” wrote novelist N.D. Wilson. “The greatest heroes stand because it is right to do so, not because they believe they will walk away with their lives. Such selfless courage is a victory in itself.”

In the last six of his 49 years of life, brought to an untimely end by tuberculosis, the classical liberal Frenchman Frédéric Bastiat produced an astonishing volume of books and essays in defense of free markets and free people. He towered over the smug intellectuals and politicians of his native France, most of whom were mentally mired in the country’s ancient traditions of statist central planning of the economy.

“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws,” he reasoned. “On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”

Bastiat also gave us perhaps the world’s most succinct description of the redistributive apparatus of government: “The State is the great fiction through which everyone lives at the expense of everyone else.

The world in the 21st century is beset with economic fallacies that are, for the most part, modern versions of those that Bastiat demolished 16 decades ago.

If a posthumous Nobel Prize were to be awarded to just one person for crystal-clear writing and masterful storytelling in economics, no one would be more deserving of it than Bastiat. Here is the great pity of his short time on this earth: while he lived and ever since, his own country never possessed the collec…

ISIS attacking U.S. energy grid

(CNN/Money) U.S. law enforcement officials revealed the hack attempts on Wednesday at a conference of American energy firms who were meeting about national security concerns.

“ISIL is beginning to perpetrate cyberattacks,” Caitlin Durkovich, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security, told company executives.

Investigators would not reveal any details to CNNMoney — or cite evidence of specific incidents.

Sooner or later, someone — or something — is going to do serious damage to America’s electrical grid system. Are you prepared? Read “A Nation Forsaken: EMP: The Escalating Threat of an American Catastrophe” (Autographed)(Hardcover).

But they did say the attacks by the Islamic State have been unsuccessful. Terrorists are not currently using the most sophisticated hacking tools to break into computer systems and turn off or blow up machines.

“Strong intent. Thankfully, low capability,” said John Riggi, a section chief at the FBI’s cyber division. “But the concern is that they’ll buy that capability.”