Thirteen states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia -- have enacted laws to combat what is seen as price gouging in the wake of natural disasters. Price gouging is legally defined as charging 10 to 25 percent more for something than you charged for it during the month before an emergency. Sellers convicted of price gouging face prison terms and fines.

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A widely anticipated textbook, "Universal Economics," has just been published by Liberty Fund. Its authors are two noted UCLA economists, the late Armen A. Alchian and William R. Allen. Editor Jerry L. Jordan was their student and later became a member of President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, as well as the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Professor Alchian was probably the greatest microeconomic theorist of the 20th century, while Professor Allen's genius was in the area of international trade and the history of economic thought. Both were tenacious mentors of mine during my student days at UCLA in the mid-1960s and early '70s.

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President Barack Obama's first education secretary, Arne Duncan, gave a speech on the 45th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where, in 1965, state troopers beat and tear-gassed hundreds of peaceful civil rights marchers who were demanding voting rights. Later that year, as a result of widespread support across the nation, the U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. Secretary Duncan titled his speech "Crossing the Next Bridge." Duncan told the crowd that black students "are more than three times as likely to be expelled as their white peers," adding that Martin Luther King would be "dismayed."

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I'm thankful that increasing attention is being paid to the dire state of higher education in our country. Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has just published "The Diversity Delusion." Its subtitle captures much of the book's content: "How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture." Part of the gender pandering at our universities is seen in the effort to satisfy the diversity-obsessed National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, each of which gives millions of dollars of grant money to universities. If universities don't make an effort to diversify their science, technology, engineering and math (known as STEM) programs, they risk losing millions in grant money.

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So much of our reasoning about race is both emotional and faulty. In ordinary, as well as professional, conversation, we use terms such as discrimination, prejudice, racial preferences and racism interchangeably, as if they referred to the same behavior. We can avoid many pitfalls of misguided thinking about race by establishing operational definitions so as to not confuse one behavior with another.

Discrimination can be operationally defined as an act of choice. Our entire lives are spent choosing to do or not to do thousands of activities. Choosing requires non-choosing. When you chose to read this column, you discriminated against other possible uses of your time. When you chose a spouse, you discriminated against other people. When I chose Mrs. Williams, I systematically discriminated against other women. Much of it was racial. Namely, I discriminated against white women, Asian women, fat women and women with criminal backgrounds. In a word, I didn't offer every woman an equal opportunity, and they didn't offer me an equal opportunity.

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One of the best statements of how the Framers saw the role of the federal government is found in Federalist Paper 45, written by James Madison, who is known as the "Father of the Constitution": "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. ... The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people." Today's reality is the polar opposite of that vision. The powers of the federal government are numerous and indefinite, and those of state governments are few and defined.

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South Africa has been thrown into the news because of President Donald Trump's recent tweet that he instructed his secretary of state to "closely study" alleged land seizures from white farmers in South Africa.

Earlier this year, a land confiscation motion was brought by radical Marxist opposition leader Julius Malema, and it passed South Africa's Parliament by a 241-83 vote. Malema has had a long-standing commitment to land confiscation without compensation. In 2016, he told his supporters he was "not calling for the slaughter of white people -- at least for now" (https://tinyurl.com/y7mfmhco). The land-grabbing sentiment is also expressed by Lindsay Maasdorp, national spokesman for Black First Land First, a group that condones land seizures in South Africa. He says, "We are going to take back the land, and we'll do it by any means necessary." The land confiscation policy was a key factor in the platform of the new president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

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Mike Scruggs