In the comments to my previous post I criticized the Nobel foundation for not having specific guidelines defining peace and describing what general activities further it. So how does the Henderson Prize live up to that standard? At the very beginning I drafted a statement to that effect, and modified it to its current form on the occasion of the anniversary of the Iranian student protests last July 9:
Liberty represents these four basic rights: to life and physical safety, to property, to choice and expression of personal beliefs, and to choice and pursuit of personal interests.
Speaks for itself.
The State exists to protect individual rights, and society exists to provide opportunity for individuals to voluntarily associate with others to engage in commerce, to share ideas, and to pursue common peaceable interests.
Statism usually empowers the government to usurp the job of society, to serve as the provider of commerce and cultural exchange.
Any person, whether acting as a private party or as an agent of the State, is guilty of violating these rights when that person commits assault against person and property, theft of property, fraudulent trade, coercion to prevent peaceable speech and pursuit of peaceable interest, or coercion to adopt and express undesired beliefs and to pursue undesired interests.
Theft is theft, whether it’s citizens breaking and entering into houses or the State seizing houses through eminent domain or asset forfeiture laws allowing such seizures without criminal conviction. Private-sector versions of the coercion typically involve threat of violence, as illustrated by protection rackets, anti-WTO riots, and death threats directed toward public speakers. Canadian officials would be miffed that “expression” of hurtful speech” is not listed as a crime – they can go suck on a maple leaf.
Liberty is advanced with the broadening of support for individual rights within a society, with legislation that brings a body of laws into greater compliance with individual rights, and with the overthrow of tyrannical governments that have violated the rights of the people and that have abolished all means of seeking redress of grievances against the crimes of the State.
Here’s the nuts and bolts for prize qualification: expanding society’s and government’s compliance with liberty, and evicting tyrannical governments. (I really should add that the tyrants must be replaced with reasonably free governments. The bad guys who overthrow the bad guys don’t count – I’m not accepting any nominations on behalf of Mssr. Robespierre.)
Browsing through the site, one will notice that I awarded the prize for two inventions – the printing press ad the typewriter – that gave the individual technology to compete with the State with regard to disseminatig ideas. These inventions have certainly been abused, but the benefiits to freedom far outweigh any costs. Logically, the Internet represents the next quantum leap in text communication. As the typewriter served as the backbone for the samizdat during the Cold War, the Internet can support dissident communication in the 21st century – but reaching a much wider audience and with near-instantaneous reporting. Being the stickler thant I am, I want to wait until some of the freedom-expanding legacy has materialized before granting those official honors.
At times a prize names an organization and a leader or time period is mentioned. Organizations vary in membership and even basic character over time. The armed forces of France that aided the victory at Yorktown is not the same entity that served in the Vichy government. The Congress that presided over the 1800 election dispute is a far different creature from the Congress of two centuries later.
Since the prizes mark specific events rather than serving as “lifetime achievement awards,” occasionally there will be a winner who hasn’t always been a friend to liberty. One may recall that Founding Father John Adams authored the Alien and Sedition Acts, one of the first Presidential attacks on the First Amendment. Aaron Burr is more famous for his dubiously-applied talents as marksmanship than for his presidential candidacy in 1800; that was the first time ever that a dispute over the outcome of a head-of-state selection process was resolved peacefully.
Then there’s Vladimir Meciar, who shares the prize by default because he was a member of the dissident group Public Against Violence that led the Slovak faction after the Velvet Revolution. His authoritarian rule over Slovakia is noted, as well as his inadvertent contribution that his political opportunism made to the success of the post-Communist era: “Placing the democratic experiment into two baskets did, however, give Czechs and Slovaks greater control over their own destinies than they would have had in a combined federation. This removed the potential for regional political feuds, thus benefiting Czech-Slovak relations, and prevented one region’s political backsliding from dragging the other down.”
I find it utterly ironic that both republics want to join the EU. They couldn’t live with each other under the same government, but they think they can live under a government shared by Germany and France? Quelle absurde.