Politics & Policy

California’s Divestment Disgrace

Students at the University of California at Berkeley. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)
UC students want vote to divest from their own country.

Most maps show that California is part of the United States. That would make, by a fairly airtight chain of reasoning, the University of California also part of the United States.

Although not if its Student Association has anything to say about it. Not satisfied merely to urge divestment from Israel, as is the trend on campuses around the country, the Student Association board has voted to divest from the United States itself, in an act that is a mashup of Noam Chomsky and a Monty Python skit.

The “Resolution Toward Socially Responsible Investment” recalls the notorious motion that carried the day at the Oxford Union in 1933, “that this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country.”

Back then, the forces of social responsibility rallied behind the Oxford motion. One proponent argued that “the only country fighting for the cause of peace, Soviet Russia, is the country that has rid itself of the war-mongering clique.” Another explained that “this House will never commit murder on a huge scale whenever the Government decided it should do so.” These sentiments, of course, didn’t fare well over the course of the 1930s.

The heirs of the Oxford scourges of “King and Country” live on in the student representatives of the University of California. In their critical distance from and lack of sympathy with these United States, they are particularly callow representatives of a Left that is most comfortable when afflicting its own country.

The UC resolution cites U.S. drone strikes, the prison system, and deportations of illegal aliens. Reasonable people can disagree about policy in all these areas without endorsing a symbolic secession from the United States. (Somewhere old Jeff Davis is smiling that self-styled progressive students caught up to his wisdom 150 years later.)

The UC students lump in the U.S. with other divestment-worthy governments like Sri Lanka and Russia. “The only way to achieve financial neutrality in such situations,” they judiciously conclude, “is to end our investment in and implicit support for such governments through divestment.” Take that, United States.

What the UC students lack in thoughtfulness, they make up in presumptuous brattiness. Through no fault of their own, they were born in a country that respects individual rights, enjoys untold material abundance, and invests massively in the education of its young people — even though the UC resolution suggests some of them are, in fact, uneducable.

Rather than thundering on about what the university should do with its investments, it is directly within the power of students who agree with the UC resolution to forgo all federal student aid, as a step toward severing their own connection to the country they find so monstrous. But moral rectitude is always much easier on someone else’s dime.

If the University of California were to establish its own, independent republic, at least it would open up another cushy ambassadorial spot to be sold to the highest Obama donor. But how would it defend itself from aggressive acts by a United States that might want to reclaim its sovereign territory? Soon enough, splinter groups of UC students would surely be protesting the unacceptable measures undertaken by the Free Republic of UC to protect its own territorial integrity.

The main event at UC was the Israel divestment resolution (technically from companies doing business in Israel), which is part of the ongoing effort to delegitimize the Jewish state for the offense of being a pro-Western country struggling to survive in a Middle Eastern pit of vipers. It is always curious that the world’s lone Jewish state is singled out for obloquy on campuses. At least the additional UC resolution including the United States provides some cover in the form of non-Jewish states.

Regardless, the UC action raises the question, as writer William Jacobson asked: Can the United States divest from the University of California? It might be the only socially responsible thing to do.

— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. © 2015 King Features Syndicate

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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