WASHINGTON -- Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) was a hero to the American left, partly because of his 1939 anti-war novel "Johnny Got His Gun." Trumbo's title modified the lyric "Johnny get your gun" from the World War I song "Over There." Trumbo's "Johnny" is horribly maimed in that war. Now we need a novel titled "Berkeley Got Its Liberalism." Pending that, we have Tad Friend's report, in the Jan. 4 New Yorker, on maimed Berkeley.
California, a laboratory of liberalism, is spiraling downward, driven by a huge budget deficit. So the University of California system's budget was cut 20 percent. Then the system increased in-state student fees 32 percent to ... $10,302. But that is still 70 percent below student costs at Stanford and other private institutions in California that Berkeley considers no better than it is.
Last September, Friend reports, 5,000 Berkeley employees and students rallied in Sproul Plaza, scene of protests that ignited the 1960s and helped make Ronald Reagan governor. Some protesters, says Friend, were "naked except for signs that read 'BUDGET TRANSPARENCY.'" At an indoor meeting, a "student facilitator" used a projection screen to summarize proposals, which included: "rolling strikes"; "nationalize all universities"; "socialist revolution"; "a tent city in Sacramento"; "create a shadow Board of Regents"; "occupy Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Oakland"; "worker-student control of the university"; "strike in March"; "act now, f--- March"; "capitalism is bad." Toward the end of the seven-hour meeting, participants shouted "General strike! General strike!"
In its impact on the institution, and on students trying to grip the lower rungs of the ladder of social mobility, the UC system's crisis is sad. This academic year, only one-sixth of the normal number of new faculty have been hired at Berkeley. The Cal State system -- a cut below the UC campuses -- will enroll 40,000 fewer students this year than last. But because the professoriate is overwhelmingly liberal, there is rough justice in its having to live with liberalism's consequences, which include this:
Kevin Starr, author of an eight-volume -- so far -- history of the (formerly) Golden State, says California is "on the verge" of becoming something without an American precedent -- "a failed state." William Voegeli, writing in the Claremont Review of Books, tartly says that "Rome wasn't sacked in a day, and California didn't become Argentina overnight." Indeed.