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Bradley Calder

The idea of Obama winning a Peace Prize says something shocking about the prize committee because it represents a fundamental lack of understanding of the purpose of the prize as stated by Alfred Nobel.

According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded 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."

Nothing Obama has done could be in accordance with this directive.

Dave Tufte

I don't think understanding has anything to do with it.

I don't think they care.

The members of the committee are the ones in charge now, and they are making the decisions. The original intent doesn't matter. What matters to them is their intent at the moment.

And that includes giving prizes based on motivations rather than facts.

Bradley Calder

I do not know much about the law relating trusteeships and wills but I think there is a duty to maintain the purpose of a trust that is legally binding. Then again, perhaps Sweden lacks this notion.

mike shupp

Mr Calder: Sweden doesn't choose the Nobel Peace Prize winners; Norwegians do, for historical reasons which probably make sense to Scandinavians. (Nobel didn't think too much of his fellow Swedes, if memory serves. Many Scandinavians see Swedes as militarists and bullies.)

That said... I think it's really clear Obama got the award simply for being a non-Bush-like President, which is a horrible idea to begin with, and the only thing dumber and even more lacking in class is that Obama chose to accept it -- while continuing a whole lot of obnoxious Bush policies (Irag, e.g.) and starting up some obnoxious policies of his own (assassination by war drones, US bases spread thoughout Africa, etc.)

If the offer of the peace prize had been made to Obama AFTER he left office, that would have been one thing. And if Obama had turned down the original offer by saying "See how you feel about me when I'm no longer President" that would have been all right too. But as is... the only positive note to this sorry episode is that it tarnishes an image beloved by peaceniks.

Dave Tufte

"... There is a duty to maintain the purpose of a trust ...".

Is there? Many people don't think so.

This is at the heart of 3 different philosophical discussions that bear on topics discussed on this blog.

1) The debate about an activist Supreme Court, and whether the original intent of the framers of the Constitution matters, is an analogous problem. I think we do need to keep original intent in mind, and it sounds like you do too - but we're not part of consistent majority. Others would be offended by my view that the behavior of the Peace Prize committee is tantamount to hijacking.

2) Sowell's A Conflict of Visions and The Vision of the Anointed have both been reviewed, and quoted from on this blog. Sowell's whole point is that claims like your's that I quoted above, make a whole lot of sense to you and I, and no sense at all to people who do not have our disposition. No doubt, members of the Peace Prize committee are OK with their decision because they view the purity of their motivations more than the absence of consequences produced by Obama's lack of action.

3) The "rules vs. discretion" debate in macroeconomics, for which in part Kydland and Prescott won their Nobel Prize in 2004, is all about whether the idea of binding future decision-makers to current plans is a good idea. The consensus in the literature is that it's a very good idea, and the behavior of the Peace Prize committee is a case in point.

Bradley Calder

Mr. Shupp, I apologize please insert The words "Nobel Prize Selection Committee" in place of the word Sweden. I didn't mean to misrepresent Sweden. Regardless, I still find the situation disappointing and pathetic.

Dave Tufte

The sad thing is, any public sentiment towards disappointing and pathetic will fade with time.

In only a few short years the only history anyone will learn is that Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize.

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