Victor Davis Hanson

Colleges waste money on the superfluous, from rocking-climbing walls to diversity czars. College catalogs now include offerings such as Dartmouth's "Queer Marriage, Hate Crimes and Will and Grace: Contemporary Issues in LGBT Studies" and Harvard's "Race, Gender, and Ethnicity in Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee."

American universities have the luxury of offering the inane precisely because their math, science and computer departments, along with their medical and business schools, would never offer such fluff. In other words, the meritocratic protocols of institutions such as Caltech, MIT, Stanford Medical School and Harvard Business School are so successful in turning out the world's most gifted graduates that they can afford to subsidize the widely publicized but otherwise shallow and politically correct nonsense.

The same paradox is true of the green movement. The United States has the luxury to waste billions of dollars subsidizing a failed Solyndra or insolvent electric car companies because it has the richest coal -- and soon, gas and oil -- deposits in the world.

Californians have shut down huge swaths of irrigated farmland to save a bait fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and to restore 19th-century salmon runs in the state's rivers. Sometimes even more radically they dream of blowing up the Hetch Hetchy dam to return to a pre-modern landscape in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains.

These realities and fantasies assume that California farmers will remain the most productive and innovative in the world, while supplying both the cheapest and safest food in the nation. And only because long-forgotten engineers once crafted a brilliant system of dams, canals and hydroelectric projects can the present generation of Californians -- well fed, watered and powered -- indulge in fantasies about discarding them.

At some point our margins of error will disappear, and with them the indulgent toying with our freedoms, defense, energy, education and food. Americans will then have to reawaken and act more like our no-nonsense predecessors -- if our successors are to inherit what we have taken for granted.

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.