Obama's Nobel seen from Sweden

About Obama the Savior, I was simply embarrassed at being a Scandinavian when those naïve enthusiasts in the Norwegian Parliamentary Nobel Committee decided to celebrate their own political biases by awarding poor Obama their Prize.

I interpret it first of all as an anti-Bush award, purely political, and as betraying such a hopeless lack of perspective and lack of professionalism that thinking about it makes me blush! The transparency of the political motivation alone should have stayed their hand -- but it has not done so on previous disastrous occasions. After all, Yasser Arafat was one of the architects of modern terrorism. That was not what Alfred Nobel had in mind for his Peace Prize.

In fact, I think Obama was a bit uncomfortable with it, but I am not even sure that refusing to accept it would have helped. As far as the stature of the Prize goes, the damage has already been done in that respect, though I would have admired Obama if he had said no. As it is, the whole thing is just an embarrassment. What a waste of a potentially important institution and its Prize!

To me, it is just another symptom of the West's free-fall cultural collapse, which ever since the beginning of the 1980s I have been wracking my brains to understand. Recently I had the pleasure of discovering Walter Lippman's 1929 book A Preface to Morals, which outlines the consequences of what he calls "the dissolution of the ancestral order." It is most profound, and I am astounded that the seriousness of the sickness of the West could be seen so clearly already in the 1920s.

The 20th century proved beyond a reasonable doubt that if you want prosperity, wealth, and productivity, you cannot do without the market. You simply have to leave people free to barter, trade and travel without trying to steer the way they do it towards predetermined goals. Despots and all manner of "big" men want to promote wealth and productivity too, in order to appropriate as much of it as possible for their own uses -- hence the new beast of "authoritarian capitalism."  China is now the startlingly successful role model, spreading its gospel that capitalism and despotism are by no means incompatible around the Third World.

I recently realized that European-style social democracy is an early version of this. The socialist ideologues in Germany and Scandinavia realized that they needed the productive capacity of private big industry to pull off a well-run welfare state. Sweden prides itself on its "politics of concord," nursed during the social democratic heyday of the last century. The "concord" was between big industry and the unions, who reached an agreement in 1938 to settle issues among the "parties to the labor market" by negotiation, from which point on a yearly accord on wages and so on was hammered out and sealed by a famous "handshake" between the "class enemies."

In other words, private enterprise will play along with any regime that leaves it reasonably well alone, and will sell and trade with anyone who can pay for its wares. It matters not one whit whether there is a despot or a democrat at the other end of the deal, as we see demonstrated daily in their international dealings with states across the spectrum from despotism to democracy. Even Google and Yahoo are cooperating with China's obscene demands to control what its citizens may or may not be exposed to on their computers. Who, after all, can afford to exclude himself from a billion-person market because of moral scruples?

I used to think that there is an inherent tie-in between a market economy and political freedom. But I am afraid that that may have been an illusion generated by the rather good match that existed between political freedom and free markets until the Soviet collapse. Singapore, China, and so on demonstrate otherwise, and it is only reluctantly and slowly that I have come to realize that these may not be quirks of history, but may in fact be viable political models, and what is worse, that they may even become the dominant model for the future. 

At least I have seen no real signs that make me sanguine in contemplating these matters.