Alfred Nobel set up a trust to fund the awarding of a medal and prize money for the best advancements in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine or Physiology, Literature, and Peace. The prize for Economics was added by the Swedish central bank later, go figure. There is no prize for mathematics since that field of study isn’t really a science per se, and it is very theoretical, making it difficult to assign a practical value for what may be useful but only a theory. Physics has had a few extremely brilliant individual who made enormous contributions to that science but only in theory and not practical manifestations. To win the prize your contribution to science must have a practical application. Hence the invention of the solid state transistor or the measurement of black body radiation has immense practical importance, but the idea of a Theory of Relativity does not. Yes, Dr. Einstein won his Nobel Prize for Physics but not for the theory but for the photoelectric effect. True, Alfred Nobel stressed the discovery over invention and emphasized the important benefits of such discoveries and inventions, but it is the committees that determine who will be nominated and selected. To have been nominated is usually an honor in itself. But many are nominated but few taken very seriously.
The three medal that generate the most controversy are for Literature, Peace, and Economics. Actually, the medal for Economics is, perhaps, one of the worst ideas for the advancement of scientific ideas for the simple reason that it is not a science at all. And if we judge by the efficacy of the various experts in economics, their collective record is very dismal. One may discover business cycles using some mathematical precision but ultimately an economy is the collective acts of individuals in a particular economy and human behavior is not amenable to mathematical modeling. We are not automatons in any sense of the word. As for the prize for Literature one may argue that it is a worthless award for it tends to be very biased in its selections. One of the early charges was that the committee preferred victorian style works. And the committee has been very euro-centric in its selection of authors. It is rather difficult to define the benefits or a particular author to the services of mankind or if the author’s literary style is really a pinnacle of achievement in literature. I would believe that MacArthur grants generate better results to the generation of literature than the Noble Prize for Literature. But it is the Peace Medal that is, perhaps, the most sublime sense of the ridiculous. The ultimate hoax was the selection of President Barrack Obama for that medal. man for whom war seems to be a natural state of affairs. His promises have been many and only illusions for those who wanted hope and change. He had promised to get the troops out of Iraq but increased the numbers. He increased the numbers in Afghanistan, killed more people including our own troops, and now we have finally pulled out. We were kicked out of Iraq by the duly elected Prime Minister. Now he wants to go bank and establish bases to fight ISIS. Under Obama we have sent more troops to more countries to do more fighting. It has been reported that not only are we supply more arms and munitions to the Ukraine but there are American mercenaries on the front lines and American advisors training troops. I expect it will be left for the next President to finally withdraw all American forces form combat around the world. The amount of money, that is, taxes either paid in or will be paid against the excessive government bond debt is very costly to the American economy. Perhaps he sees the military as the ultimate make work program.
The idea of a prize given to individuals or even groups, which I find difficult to support, is a noble one but a bit misguided. Yes, the peace prize committee regretted not awarding Gandhi the Nobel Prize for Peace. Yet if we look at the tactics used, the so called acts of nonviolence, these tactics actually provoke violence. How is that possible? Say a man stats working to build a house on his property. Rather than go through the permit process and obtain all of the various permits needed, he simply starts building. Now starts the process where the various city, county, and state officials come out and visit the man. He is given cease and desist orders, notices to appear, and finally the police are sent to enforce the legal proceedings. We forget that the concept of law has two functions. The first is to convince individuals to cooperate for the common good. We obey the traffic laws that specify speed limits and right of way (stop signs and lights do this). Most of us recognize the benefit of compliance for ourselves and for others. On the other hand the law has a second function, and that in involuntary compliance. If the police stop you for exceeding the speed limit you are given a ticket and the penalty is points against your driving privilege and a monetary assessment of a fine to be paid by you. In the second case there may not be a violent confrontation between you and the police as long as you remain cooperative with the officer’s commands. But if you fail to stop, put up any resistance to the issuance of the ticket, or to the extreme, resort to violence, then the officer will need to resort to violence in order to compel you to comply.
But let us say that you feel the ticket has been given in error. You have complied in terms of stopping the vehicle. But now you refuse to sign the ticket acknowledging your receipt. You view this as an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. The officer must resort to using violence in that he will arrest you in a forcible manner, if necessary, and will use some form of violence against you. My friend, civil disobedience is unlawful. If one is protesting some policy or event by sitting on the floor in an office belonging to the person or institution, if one is sitting or standing in a public right of way impeding the flow of traffic so as to emphasize one’s protest, then one is acting unlawfully. And in disregarding the orders of a duly appointed authority is not nonviolent confrontation, it is inviting violence from that authority to compel you to conform to the legal system. To Gandhi’s credit, his civil disobedience save a great many lives. For India to gain its independence from a government still imbued with a sense of saving the empire well might have caused far more bloodshed through the normal revolutionary means. The problems with revolutions is that they are rarely well controlled and often need the support of various factions that can be at odds with the general majority. And the excesses of armed rebellion tend to be great and needless. In that regard, Gandhi preformed a useful service for the public good. He kept the bloodshed down. Still, people did on both sides. What is unfortunate is that so many have invoked the image of Saint Gandhi without understanding why his tactics worked for the good of India and what would become Pakistan. On the other hand, by insisting that what is now Pakistan remain within India, he helped to create a very bloody situation that forced the division and that division has left scars festering today.
The idea of a Peace Prize is nebulous. Perhaps it is a matter of semantics. Peace is really that period where behavior is cooperative among individuals as the norm, the willingness to conform because of the benefits one obtains. But a peace that is pressed like an oppression is not the normal behavior, it invites resistance and struggle. The conformity comes from the expressed threat of violence. In that sense, it is not peace at all, just oppression with out the usual violence that accompanies war. The message is that it truly matters who and what ideal we honor with peace medals. We cannot be content to merely hand out plaudits because some poser has gestured in front of us. To be a person of peace one must seek to be a person who believes in the voluntary acceptance of rule of law. It is that voluntary acceptance of rule of law that brings true peace. In that larger sense Gandhi believed in the rule of law, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It’s the small details that get in the way, as any lawyer, and Gandhi was one, will tell you.