Broke pension funds divesting themselves of hugely profitable gun maker stocks

George Will has an excellent column on liberal posturing when it comes to guns. The nearly broke pension funds in Chicago ($25 billion in unfunded liabilities with a $1.5 billion ballon payment due in two years), will divest themselves of gun maker stock while Mayor Rhambo has been jawboning banks not to lend to legitimate gun manufacturers.

Chicago's current and retired public employees might wish the city had invested more in both companies. Barack Obama, for whom Emanuel was chief of staff, has become a potent gun salesman because of suspicions that he wants to make gun ownership more difficult. Since he was inaugurated four years ago, there have been 65 million requests for background checks of gun purchasers. Four years ago, the price of Smith & Wesson stock was $2.45. Last week it was $8.76, up 258 percent. Four years ago, the price of Sturm Ruger stock was $6.46. Last week it was $51.09, up 691 percent. The Wall Street Journal reports that even before "a $1.2 billion balloon payment for pensions comes due" in 2015, "Chicago's pension funds, which are projected to run dry by the end of the decade, are scraping the bottoms of their barrels."

Nevertheless, liberals are feeling good about themselves - the usual point of liberalism - because New York state's public pension fund and California's fund for teachers have, the New York Times says, "frozen or divested" gun holdings, and Calpers, the fund for other California public employees, may join this gesture jamboree this month. All this is being compared to the use of divestment to pressure South Africa to dismantle apartheid in the 1980s. Well.

Apartheid was a wicked practice. Guns are legal products in America, legally sold under federal, state and local regulations. Most of the guns sold to Americans are made by Americans. Americans have a right - a constitutional right - to own guns, and 47 percent of U.S. households exercise that portion of the Bill of Rights by possessing at least one firearm.

The larger question is; should pension funds and endowments be used to promote a specific political agenda or should they invest with the best possible return in mind? Will thinks that the "moral posturing" of liberalism - the feel good, emotionally satisfying actions taken in pursuit of a cause - is not only self-defeating, but ethically questionable.He suggests that perhaps the only investment of which they would approve would be electric cars:

Liberal ethicists may decide that the only virtuous investments are in electric cars. The Obama administration says that 1 million will be sold by 2015. Maybe 70,000 have been so far. Just imagine how pension funds will prosper by betting on the next 930,000.

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