A Bear of an Idea

at 12:35 AM

You won't like this, but bear with me. California's massive budget deficit calls for bold ideas.

Why don't we Californians sell Cal? Let's hire Goldman Sachs to take UC Berkeley public on Wall Street. It must be worth as much as Facebook. Think of the land, the brand, the patents, the Nobels. We'll use half to save the budget and put the rest in a giant endowment for the new Berkeley.

Of course Wall Street doesn't like bears. But the new Cal will be wildly profitable. Bigger. More overseas students paying full boat. Worldwide online classes. Stadium naming rights. Company spin-offs. Copy pig farmers and sell everything, even the squeak.

I know, professors would hate it. Unless they all had stock options, like Google. As for the students, let's make tuition free for Californians. And when you graduate, you'll get 100 shares in Berkeley. Congratulations!

According to my spreadsheet, New Cal becomes such a cash cow that it starts paying fat dividends to the State -- that's us! -- forever. That'll put a smile in Sacramento.

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Berkeley as a money machine may strike you as, oh, ironic. But seriously, the place is a hub of innovation and creativity. It's a great asset, so why doesn't it support us?

Okay, it's a bad idea. A for-profit Cal might not focus on developing California's young talent. But look, we're broke. Cuts and tax tweaks won't save us. Here's the point: bad ideas are liberating, they give permission. And then you get to good ideas. So all right, hands off Cal. But I've also got this iconic bridge I'd like to sell you.

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With a Perspective, I'm Giles Goodhead.

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