Nobel Peace Prize Winner


Iranian activist Shirin Ebadi has won the Nobel Peace Prize. Here's an overview story from the Toronto Globe & Mail.

The prize inevitably sends a political message, but the meaning is not always obvious. On the one hand, giving it to a female judge who lost her position after the '79 revolution is easy to read as a commentary on Islamism. On the other, there's the committee's singling out of her nonviolence, which is easy to read as a slap at what's going on next door in Iraq:

?Her principal arena is the struggle for basic human rights, and no society deserves to be labelled civilized unless the rights of women and children are respected,? the judges said. ?In an era of violence, she has consistently supported non-violence.?

On the third hand–and by the time you get to the third hand, you know you've got problems–there's her insistence that Iranians need to deal with Iranian problems and the world should butt out.

None of these points is mutually exclusive, of course; in fact, they may all underscore what appears to be an interesting, home-brewed revolt that's slowly taking place in the last Islamic country anyone might have thunk. It may well turn out that Iran's internal forces will provide a model for a relatively peaceful transition to democracy and even something like liberalism. Who, after all, would have thought that so many former communist countries in Europe would have basically nonviolent transitions?

Iraj Isaac Rahmim reflected on a life lived under Iranian tyranny in the July Reason.

Chuck Freund took the measure of liberal martyrdom there.

NEXT: Politics Isn't Funny

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  1. now, shouldn’t we all just be happy that bozo, er bono, didn’t win.


  2. Sharky,

    My libertarian response to the case of the guy next door beating his wife is:

    1. Call the police.
    2. Sell her a handgun.

  3. hrumph.

    yes….. okay.

    (could you imagine the committee’s write up for that???)

    “Alternative rock icon, Bozo wins the prize for alternative music that’s not at all mainstream, for unique, original riffs that don’t all sound like ‘in the name of love’, and for his brilliant understanding of the welfare deadweight loss triangle.”


  4. Mr. Tomlin: I am not an internationalist, intervention should be based on the wisdom of the action. But that doens’t mean there isn’t a duty to intervene to stop tryanny or agression. I have a duty to stop wife-beaters, but I am not all-knowing or all-powerful to stop all of it (but I should do what I can).

    Mr. Russ: You are doging the issue, as in that case the police are acting as YOUR agent, so you are admiting there is a duty.

  5. David F.-

    Maybe my sarcasm was overboard. You criticized the process for being “in typical left wing fashion…” My first thought about the prize was “Nice to see somebody get credit for standing up to the tyrants in Tehran”, not “Yep, another leftist act.” But I guess one could be happy with the outcome (brave woman honored for standing up to theocratic tyrants) and be bothered by the process (she was allegedly picked for “PC” reasons, not solely for her awesome act).

    But my understanding is that sometimes the Nobel committees do pick categories. In “A Beautiful Mind” (the book, not the movie) Nassar points out that the committee knew it wanted to give a prize to game theorists because of the important contributions game theory had made in social sciences, and then it went about deciding which game theorists to honor. Those who invented game theory? Those who made the most important uses of it in social science? The individuals were picked after the category.

    Now, I don’t know whether they said “Let’s honor a Muslim to be PC” or “There are a lot of tyrants ruling over various Muslim countries, and causing a lot of problems. A brave person standing up to them would make a good recipient. Let’s find the most worthy person in that category.” In other words, if the prize was about a problem (tyrants in Muslim countries and the international implications thereof) rather than a demographic (affirmative action for Muslims) then I see no problem with the process.

    And of course I see no problem in the outcome either way. She deserves it, evidently.

  6. I don’t know the exact terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, but as I understand it the prize is supposed to be given to the person who has made the greatest contribution to the particular field in the relevant year. If the Nobel committee went shopping for a Muslim, that might violate the terms and expose them to legal action. But who would have standing to bring it?

  7. Hi Thoreau,

    Wishing to give the prize in a certain area, game theory, certain types of astrophysics (maybe for showing how reducing distance is not changing speed, or whatever that discussion was about a few days ago), and the like. That’s okay.

    I was reacting to the paragraph in the newspaper that said there were rumors (spelt in that cute britspeak way, ha ha) that they were going to give it to a “suitable muslim”. my response was indeed a knee jerk reaction to phrasing that sounded patronizing, arrogant, and racist to me.

    That smacked of the same tone maureen dowd uses when she says that Justice Thomas is a hypocrite because he got to where he is because of affirmative action.

    Not debating whether that’s true, but her assumption was that he couldn’t have. My reaction to the “suitable muslim” was that they were looking to demographics first, then the awesome deeds second. i feel it should be the other way around.

    your game theory comment is also fun because i’m pouring over some payoff matricies as we type — some basic prisoners’ dilemma stuff!

    finally, your characterization of my reaction, being pleased with someone standing up to tyranny and being disturbed by the process is indeed correct.


  8. Sharky:
    “Rick: do you believe your duty as a libertarian means you should do nothing is your neighbor is beating his wife?”

    No, but it IS my duty as a libertarian not to force a another neighbor to intervene in the situation.

    “that agression unchecked won’t collapse a liberal system of law and rights?”

    If our government intervened against every
    government as abusive as Iran’s we would be caught up in way more foreign entanglements then the substantial number in which we are already involved. Also, our government would have to intervene against governments which are our alleged freinds, such as Pakistan and Israel. (where our own government finances the abuse.)

    And, the point Ebadi is making, for Iran, is that foreign intervention has before, and likley would continue to forstall the emergence of “a liberal system of law and rights”.

    “…there is a libertarian case to be made for intervening in these tryannies.”

    Not a libertarian case for GOVERNMENT intervention, not unless these tyrannies are a real threat to US!

    “Sadly most libertarians cling to their isolationist dogma.”

    This non-intervention which you belittle was the council of the founders of our republic. They also warned against the terrible effects of foreign meddling on domestic liberty.
    James Madison wrote:
    ” The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home”.

  9. Sharky: No well-reasoned libertarianism I’ve ever seen says a single thing about a duty to intervene on behalf of those being aggressed against. Sure, most people who are libertarians feel such a duty, on some level. Most people who are libertarians also are literate, but that does not mean that literacy is a tenet of libertarianism.

  10. The message could also be a call to action to Rummy et al.

    Here’s this wonderful activist using non-violence, but the people have not been liberated as they are in Iraq. If Bush wants to win the Peace Prize, they are saying, perhaps, then he must carry through on his promise to liberate the people opporessed by the Axis of Evil!

  11. Robert:

    Sharky: No well-reasoned libertarianism I’ve ever seen says a single thing about a duty to intervene on behalf of those being aggressed against.

    Are you kidding? That is precisely the meaning of limited-state libertarianism (anarcho-capitalists, you’re on your own — literally).

    Human beings have individual rights by nature. Within a polity, they also have a duty to protect those rights enjoyed by others. This duty is discharged primarily by paying taxes for the provision of police and the courts. In this case, the police and judges are acting as agents of the citizens of the state, who retain the underlying moral duty.

    The duty to intervene may also be discharged directly, by use of force, as individuals entering into a social contract never give up the right to use responsive force against an aggressor, including one attacking a neighbor.

    As was said, this does not constitute a legally enforceable duty to risk one’s own life or limb, nor it is an argument for willy-nilly intervention on behalf of every victim that exists, domestic and foreign. Prudence and reasonableness apply.

  12. john,

    please explain further. why is there this duty to protect rights for others? how do you leap from the individual looking out for the individual’s own rights all of a sudden having to watch out for the neighbor’s rights?

    david hume writes about this in Human Nature, but the scenario he describes involves two people:
    “I learn to do a service to another, without bearing him any real kindness; because I forsee, that he will return my service, in expectation of another of the same kind, and in order to maintain the same correspondence of good offices with me or with others. And accordingly, after I have served him, and he is in possession of the advantage arising from my action, he is induced to perform his part, as foreseeing the consequences of his refusal”

    this social contract involves individuals acting on their own interests. i don’t see how or why this interest includes intervening on behalf of someone else.

    finally, how do “prudence and reasonableness” apply to a definition? that’s a huge “yes but” argument. please define these assumptions of “prudence and reasonableness”, too, since those are the assumptions upon which your definition rests, those need to be established.


  13. >>No well-reasoned libertarianism I’ve ever seen says a single thing about a duty to intervene on behalf of those being aggressed against.

    see Jan Narveson — The Libertarian Idea

  14. drf:

    Suffice to say on the general subject of libertarian rights and responsibilities, I’m pretty much just repeating some basic Lockean/social contract principles here. It’s a hypothetical social contract, naturally, not an historical event.

    If government is to exist at all, it must by definition be coercive. The issue is to what extent it should use its coercive power to do anything. In a limited state, its proper actions are few, but they are coercive, at least to the degree that coercive taxes are used to finance them.

    If this government is to protect individual rights, then, it is just to coerce the citizens of the polity to pay for that protection. Such justice stems from the citizens’ duty to act to protect the rights of others, otherwise the coercion ? and all government ? is unjust and you default to anarcho-capitalism (don’t get me started. . .)

    On application, what I am saying is that one reason advanced by the social contract theorists for having governments at all is that without them, rights are insecure (Hobbes thought they were impossible to defend, but Locke begged to differ and just argued that they would be better defended by a state). Government is needed to protect rights, but that doesn’t mean individuals acting as individuals can’t or shouldn’t act on their own. However, they do not have a legally enforceable duty to risk their own life or limb ? though naturally they are free to act heroically if they wish, and deserve praise when they do.

    I would argue that the same prudential calculus applies in an international context. That is, I believe that free governments have a right to intervene outside their borders to protect individual rights and defend freedom from tyranny, but they do not have a duty to do so in every conceivable case. They should reserve their activities in this regard for situations where there is a probability of “spill-over” effects that would threaten domestic security or freedom or the rights of citizens to engage in voluntary travel, trade, and commerce overseas.

    Think Barbary pirates.

    I’m not worried about “violating the sovereignty” of other states, as some libertarians oddly say they are, because only free governments have sovereignty.

    And now, I must prepare to fulfill an even-higher-ranking moral duty: picking up the kids.

  15. hi John!

    thanks! and thanks, Sharky, too.

    for anybody else interested, the link Sharky recommended is, “”

    am reading above and reading Sharky’s recommendation. Appreciate the feedback on each.

    John — have fun with the kids!


  16. >>No, but it IS my duty as a libertarian not to force a another neighbor to intervene in the situation.

    Why we have paid agents (police, volunteer army).

    Comparing Israel to Iran…cute.

    >>And, the point Ebadi is making

    I agree, it is an argument of pragnatism.

    >>Not a libertarian case for GOVERNMENT intervention, not unless these tyrannies are a real threat to US!

    Based on what…the statist Treaty of Westfalia? Tyrannies are fair game, they OUGHT to be destroyed.

    Our founders were wise men, who ultimatey invaded Canada, fought Indians and Barbary pirates, threatened war with France, etc. Their wisdom is noted, but they did not issue religious commandments.

  17. Libertariannes or non-libertarianness of intervention aside, how do you deal with rogue actors who want to throw a wrench in the works of our open, and increasingly globalized society?

  18. Sebastian wrote: “how do you deal with rogue actors who want to throw a wrench in the works of our open, and increasingly globalized society?”

    I’d just tell the steel industry to boost productivity or go under! [Rim-shot]

    Thank you, thank you! I’ll be here all week!

  19. Here’s my cheap shot:

    “how do you deal with rogue actors who want to throw a wrench in the works of our open, and increasingly globalized society?”

    There’s nothing to worry about. Rush Limbaugh is entering rehab, and civil society will soon be fine once again. 😉

    Don’t forget to tip on your way out, folks! I’m here all week!

  20. “doot doot…” etc.

    be sure and try the fish.

    (Judas! how about a beverage? the mulled wine is fantastic)


  21. The “Libertarian Idea” by Jan Narveson is the title of an engaging book, not just the interesting, Jan Narveson autobiographical page from that drf cited. But, there is nothing in either one to back up any of Sharky’s main contentions in this thread; just the opposite. Sharky’s seeming lack of understanding of the rudiments of libertarianism make it obvious that he has never read the Narveson book he cited.

  22. The case for the world butting out of Iran’s business would be easier to make if the Iranians themselves would put a stop to exported terror.

  23. “Her principal arena is the struggle for basic human rights, and no society deserves to be labelled civilized unless the rights of women and children are respected”

    “The Nobel decision was somewhat unexpected in spite of rumours that the judging panel was hoping to find a suitable Muslim to confer the honour on”

    well, yes the prize most certainly does send a “political message”. and often the politics of the message is some sort of all peach-fuzziee, warm left wing message.

    and in typical left wing fashion, the individual is reduced to the description of his/her representative group, and then that group is further described… “a suitable muslim”??? how about a suitable candidate who… nevermind. this is probably how the candidates are seleceted for the olympics…

    happy friday.

  24. I don’t think that picking a Muslim woman for the peace prize is reducing the winner selection to “warm, fuzzy, leftie thinking.”

    I think it is a genuine message to the world, especially since the events of 9/11/01, the ensuing conflicts in Iran’s neighbors, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the general turmoil of the Palestinian intifada. Giving this prize to an Iranian woman who is peacefully working to change her repressive government highlights for the world that there are good things happening in the midst of all that violence.

  25. It should be condidered that the long history of the “butting in”, in Iran has engendered terror. Also; they aren’t terrorizing us, so our government should definitely “butt out”.
    Read Ebadi’s plea. She has a long history of opposing the tyranny of her government and maintains that intervention from foreign governments will harm this cause.

  26. Aw, Xmax, you just don’t get it. We can’t ever be happy about something good if leftists are happy about it. This woman may be working to bring freedom to Iran, but we can’t applaud her if leftists do. Being antagonistic towards our enemies on the left is so much more important than saluting people working for freedom.

    Remember, libertarianism is about complaining, not about liberty!

  27. I think the committee made a GREAT choice.

  28. thoreau: ditto for our enemies on the right

    Rick: do you believe your duty as a libertarian means you should do nothing is your neighbor is beating his wife? do you really think he wouldn’t be threat to you (eventually) if he got away with it? that agression unchecked won’t collapse a liberal system of law and rights?

    Not saying it is the “best way” in every cicumstance, but it is clear that there is a libertarian case to be made for intervening in these tryannies. Sadly most libertarians cling to their isolationist dogma.

  29. I should note – to stay on topic – that I think non-violence is also a methond to undermine terror-states, though it is foolish (and dangerous) to advocate that as the only method.

  30. it’s all fine and good that an individual who works for peace, non-violence, empowerment of the individual, etc. gets the peace prize. what i objected to was the fact that the nobel committee wanted to give the prize to a category then fit the person in. oh here’s “a [category]” let’s give it the prize through this individual. it’s like not giving it to the pope because of his other stances, not for the specific work cited.

    also, the thought of making the war in iraq NOT a holy war as part of the peace prize is a position that i’m still wrestling with. i’m not sure how i feel about that yet. an immediate thought is “well we didn’t start the terror there”, but the terror i fear has nothing to do with iraq or iran or in israel.

    (i also have a knee-jerk reaction that is a UN style complaint, independent of this committee and this is probably more telling: this committee made its choice to appease a category. the un makes decisions to appease or slam certain groups. that happens to the US in the un (who does have a provocotive stance visavis the us, however). if the decision were solely based on the

    and thoreau, are you suggesting that my position is not to like something because “the left” likes it? jeez. now i’m conflicted. because many left wing positions (gay rights, anti-religion, being against this war, think the aid to israel is too much, etc) are my positions. so when Lawrence was overturned, i was happy – no sad – no happy. taco. hotdog. taco. hotdog — i was in a regular anne heche loop there.

    since the goal was to give the prize to a category, yes, i do feel that this is an example of the leftist thinking.


  31. whoops. i hit send too soon. sorry guys! anyhow, yes, giving the prize to a category not to an individual is still something i do find to be left wing peach fuzz. for chrissake, listening to the committee, it sounds like they’re giving the friggin speech for the miss america pagent.

    i think the right is just as guilty of giving praising the group and fitting the person to the group. it’s the i trust georgie because he’s a mindless — whoops, because he’s religious.

    had the committee given the damn prize to this person for reasons of her work, not searching for the proper multikulti group then searching there, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. dammit.

    it’s like people getting all psyched about General Powell for president without knowing his politics. there are plenty of examples. had this one been for some fucking thumper, i’da said something disparaging about the religious right here. and i’d feel it’s all part and parcel of the same mechanism.


  32. ” . . . it is clear that there is a libertarian case to be made for intervening in these tyrannies.”

    I agree that there is a case, but not that it is particularly strong, much less unanswerable.

    You can accuse me of clinging to isolationist dogma, and I can accuse you of clinging to internationalist dogma. Neither insult advances the discussion.

  33. … and (finally, phew), i don’t mean AT ALL to minimize the work of Ebadi and any positive change she’s affected. NOT AT ALL. My comments were in reaction to the committee. Definitely not meaning to diminish her courage, bravery, intellgence, and expertise. And i certainly don’t want to say, “well, because these lefties chose her for this reasion, i’m against her”. No.

    My comment is to say, “sheesh, the committee picked based on X and Y and fit the individual to the specs. i would prefer the committee selecting based on the individual”.


  34. I should add that “The Libertarian Idea” is very foundational to libertarian thought and it’s scope is broader than the seminal “Anarchy State and Utopia” by Nozick, which it engages, as Narveson also explores the implications of libertarianism for social policy. (part 3). Included in the eight chapters of part 1: “Is libertarianism possible” are: “Rights”, “Liberty and Property”, and “Liberalism Conservatism Libertarianism” Part 2 asks; “Foundations: Is Libertarianism Rational?” The six chapters in this
    part look at moral philosophy, morality and Narveson’s conception of contractarianism. The book also critiques various attacks on libertarianism. Do a “mind meld” with this book. It’s a fun read!

  35. The Founding Fathers got it all wrong. Maybe THEY wanted to get out from under what they percieved was the British yoke, but they certainly did not speak for me. They should all be tried as war criminals.

  36. On Thursday evening, the thirteenth annual Ig Nobel Prize awards were announced. The Ig Nobels are a tongue-in-cheek alternative to the real Nobel Prizes. The Ig Nobels celebrate “all that is bizarre, weird and improbable in real-life scientific research” and which honor those whose achievements “cannot or should not be reproduced”.

    The awards are an eclectic bunch that have commemorated the Norwegian biologists who studied the effects of garlic and sour cream on the appetite of leeches, an amateur scientist who discovered ten-mile-high buildings on the back of the moon, the Scottish doctors who researched the collapse of toilets in Glasgow, and (getting nearer to this newsletter’s concerns), the man who founded the Apostrophe Protection Society.

    One of this year’s ten awards went to “the late John Paul Stapp, the late Edward A Murphy, Jr., and George Nichols, for jointly giving birth in 1949 to Murphy’s Law”. Now there’s an interesting
    citation. Why should it require three men to invent Murphy’s Law, even if one of them was indeed named Murphy?

    It’s a long story. Cut to the bare bones the “official” version is this: in 1949, Captain Murphy was working on experiments at Edwards
    Air Force Base in California to learn how much sudden deceleration a person could stand in a crash; these used human volunteers and
    dummies strapped to a rocket-propelled sledge.

    Murphy had designed transducers for the sledge, but after John Paul Stapp, an Air Force doctor, had been subjected to about 35G in one test,
    Murphy found that a technician had wired them in backwards and they hadn’t given any readings. Stapp is then supposed to have said something
    (the accounts vary) along the lines of “If there are two or more ways to do something and one of those results in a catastrophe, then someone will do it that way”. The project engineer working on the tests, George E Nichols, noted this among a collection of “laws” he had been amassing and named it after Murphy, even though Murphy
    hadn’t actually said it, because he had provoked it by proxy.

    This story has been retold many times and a four-part article on the background to it has just appeared in the Ig Nobel’s journal, the Annals of Improbable Research (link below). There’s nothing new about the famous Law in itself, of course. The form in which it is now usually quoted, “If something can go wrong, it will”, has long
    been known to engineers as an awful warning that all possible causes of misunderstanding among workers on a project must be eliminated if disaster is to be prevented (we British have our own version, Sod’s Law).

    Not everybody believes the official line, which makes the award of an Ig Nobel for it somewhat provocative, even 54 years after the supposed event. Barry Popik of the American Dialect Society has researched it, but has found no reference in contemporary archives.

    The first known use of the term was in an American publication Aviation Mechanics Bulletin for 11 May 1955, in which a headline read “‘Backward’ mechanics prove Murphy’s Law”; it turned up in Scientific American and the New York Times early in the following year and from then on quickly achieved the iconic status in
    American life that it retains.

    A similar law was attributed to one O’Reilly in 1954, which might suggest an Irish joke in the making (some people still think it is one.)

    Until the story above was told in the 1970s, nobody connected the law to the very real Captain Edward Aloysius Murphy, who wasn’t widely known. In fact, a 1962 book by seven US astronauts,
    We Seven asserted that Murphy was a fictitious character in a US Navy training cartoon. However, the film was made in 1957, two years after
    the saying’s first appearance in print, so we can rule out that origin.

    Others claim the eponymous Murphy dates from the 1930s, though without giving firm evidence.

    Much uncertainty remains about the origin of the saying. It’s not that anyone is doubting the story told by the three men (although, as you might expect of an event remembered years later, details of their stories conflict). The problem for historians is that without an audit trail of recorded evidence it’s not possible to say for
    sure that the Captain Murphy of the story and the first appearance in print of Murphy’s Law are linked. It might well be, as one wag remarked, that it wasn’t Murphy, but another man of the same name.

    The Ig Nobel home page:
    The article, “Fastest Man on Earth”, from the Annals of Improbable
    paperair/volume9/v9i5/murphy/murphy0.html .

  37. >>Sharky’s seeming lack of understanding of the rudiments of libertarianism

    I don’t accept the standard dogmatism, but I have read most of the source material – including Nozick and Narveson.

    But you will probably slam me because I don’t cut’n’paste the words of your high-priests. Bah bah, war bad, bush evil, zionists evil, eh Mr. Sheep?

  38. Last post was mine.

  39. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/20/2004 08:42:00
    I am a hobo in the house of the lord.

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