BY RYAN HERBERHOLZ
Published October 21, 2012
Out of all the individuals and organizations that are genuinely dedicated to creating a peaceful and just global society, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Even if the prize was intended to be a political award, I would not rank the EU high on a list of worthy recipients — one only needs to cast an eye at Greece to begin questioning the validity of this selection.
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The unrest in Greece and in Spain can largely be blamed on the EU's mishandling of several debt crises. These financial upsets reek of the unregulated and simply vampiric financial practices that Wall Street churns out to create fortunes from thin air. Unfortunately, these convoluted financial models were exported before the fallacy of Greenspan's “self-regulating free markets” literally came tumbling down like a house of cards.
Another factor that seems to have been considered when awarding the Nobel Peace Prize is armed conflict. One may think this is the opposite of peace, but perhaps the Norwegian Nobel Committee was thinking of the kind of peace brought on by war — a philosophy that falls into the oxymoron category as firmly as the phrase “humanitarian bombing.” This backward thinking has been exemplified by awarding of the prize to President Barack Obama in 2009 and the subsequent escalation of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars with cooperation from the EU, not to mention the devastation caused by unmanned drone strikes.
I don't think Alfred Nobel would agree with this logic. According to his will, the prize is to be given 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.”
I think the Nobel Prize decision is a symptom of the same disease that seems to plague our own country. We allow institutions to be entrusted with individuals whose agendas are influenced by special interests, political power and wealth, rather than their original purposes.
The FDIC was meant — through regulation and insurance — to protect from the collapse of financial institutions, not to be used in combination with massive bailouts as publicly funded gambling insurance for already filthy rich financiers. In fact, the entire regulatory structure created to avert crisis like the Great Depression is lousy with individuals from the “too big to fail” institutions they supposedly regulate. This blatant conflict of interest and constant legislative castration of regulatory checks on financial institutions — like the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act — illustrate a legacy of decisions made by a small group of very powerful and very wealthy people.
Right before the controversial Nobel decision, Americans were treated to a similar spectacle. What the Commission on Presidential Debates calls the “presidential debates,” the League of Women Voters (who ran the debates before the commission) calls “the hoodwinking of the American public” in a press release delivered in Oct. 1988 when they withdrew their sponsorship and support for the debates. The CDP calls itself a nonpartisan organization, but if you look at the circumstances contributing to the commission’s creation, it’s obvious that this corporation is bipartisan and absolutely unwilling to allow for the possibility of a third party candidate.
This unfortunate event is not the only reason for the red-blue monopoly on politics, one of the cornerstones of non-representative democracy. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision makes the already dim prospect of a political candidate (who does not have millionaire backers) participating in any election virtually impossible.
Teasing out all the ways in which corporate excess and influence have damaged democracy in America is as expansive and complicated a task as solving the problems facing the world today. So I ask why — given the difficulty of the tasks at hand — would the American public accept only two plans for the future prosperity of our country? This should be an unacceptable situation to every American regardless of party affiliation. It is undemocratic that the American public should not hear nor can even recognize, the voices of Rocky Anderson, Luis Rodriquez, Dr. Jill Stein, Cheri Honkala, Gary Johnson or Jim Gray (the respective presidential and vice presidential candidates for the Justice, Green and Libertarian Parties).
More Americans should remember the fact that political offices exist to serve the people and freedom in a representative democracy should include freedom to choose the best candidate to serve the American public.
During this election season, I envision a possible future where candidates are chosen based on individual merit rather than the social standing, wealth or inherited political power they wield. I hope to have a future where we are not presented with two predetermined and extremely similar approaches to solving our nation’s problems.