Liberal economist Paul Krugman recently won a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his research, much of which has concluded that the Reagan Revolution left behind a massive gap between the rich and the poor. Last year, Al Gore recieved a Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental advocacy.
Krugman’s nomination is more appropriate than Gore’s, as Krugman is an accomplished economist, while Gore is not an accomplished peace activist. The trend of prizes being given to Utne Reader’s top authors list, however, does make one begin to question the seriousness of the Nobel organization. Does it really mean anything other than popularity amongst academia? After all, a Nobel Peace Prize was once given to terrorist and authoritarian Yassir Arafat. If that’s all it has become, then why should it hold any more weight than an award given by a peer-reviewed journal?
When Gore was given his Nobel Peace Prize last year, he was chosen over Irena Sendler, who helped save 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. The Nobel organization apparently found Gore’s work with PowerPoint presentations to be of more importance to humanity than Sedler saving children from the Nazi death camps.
As a society we tend to cordon off certain organizations and individuals as sacred and untouchable; impolite and offensive to criticize. The Nobel Prize is one of these phenomenons the legitimacy of which is socially unacceptable to be called into question. Maybe it’s time we took a healthy dose of polemicism.