Sunday, October 11, 2009

Do not take the Nobel Committee too seriously

Think about it: The Nobel Committee consists of five Norwegians, selected by the Norwegian parliament. In his will, Alfred Nobel, the Swedish dynamite tycoon who thought up this whole thing, specifically wanted Norwegians to choose the winner, apparently because Norwegians, being outside the European mainstream, would be less likely to be politically corrupt. The trouble is that Norwegians, being outside the European mainstream, are also more likely to be eccentric. Norway is a wonderful country and Norwegians have some of the highest living standards in the world -- thanks to their low population numbers and their large deposits of oil and gas – but the last time I was there, I got in an argument with someone over which country was more evil, the United States or North Korea. This being a few years ago, at the height of the Bush Terror, you can guess which side the Norwegian was on.

Perhaps as a result of their eccentricity, the five Norwegians who choose the Nobel Peace Prize winner have made quite a few odd decisions over the years. Look at the most recent American winners. In what sense did Al Gore, whatever you think about his movie on global warming, fulfill the wishes of Alfred Nobel, who wanted his money to go to "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”? Jimmy Carter won it in 2002, presumably for his skill in being an ex-president; I’m not sure where he created much peace or reduced any standing armies in the decades after he left the White House, either. The Nobel Peace Prize, like all prizes, is a roll of the dice, and thus it does sometimes go to apparently deserving people – Martin Luther King Jr. won it, as did the 14th Dalai Lama – but a lot of times it doesn’t. Mahatma Gandhi never won it, but Yasser Arafat did. Need I say more?

Read more here: Why Should We Care About the Nobel?

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