IgNobel Again: In Liu of a Real Peacemaker

It’s not often that I find myself on the same side of any issue as the Chinese Communist Party. This is one of those times. Like the Chicoms — although for very different reasons — I’m appalled by the selection of “dissident” Liu Xiaobo as winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

According to the Chinese government, conferring the prize on Liu is “blasphemy” because he’s a “criminal” guilty of “inciting subversion of state power.”

If only it were so! I like to think I’m relatively knowledgeable on the subject of inciting subversion of state power. Hell, that’s pretty much my job description. And I’d be the first to congratulate the Nobel committee had it chosen an actual subversive for the prize. But let’s see what Liu himself has to say:

I know the basic principles of political change, that orderly and controllable social change is better than one which is chaotic and out of control. The order of a bad government is better than the chaos of anarchy. So I oppose systems of government that are dictatorships or monopolies. This is not ‘inciting subversion of state power.’

Perhaps Liu was softening his position in this statement to spare himself and his family the suffering of extended persecution? Who could blame him? He faces a long sentence in a harsh penal system.

Perhaps when he refers to “monopolies” in government, he’s outing himself as a panarchist — an opponent not of government per se but of the monopoly state?

But no: The “monopoly” Liu objects to is not the state’s monopoly on violence, but the Communist Party’s monopoly on the state.

The “crime” with which he was charged revolved around his support for Charter 08, a reformist document demanding the transformation of China into a modern “liberal” welfare state, complete with competition between parties for the “right” to exploit China’s workers and peasants; “freedom” for the press to choose the tunes it sings in its guilded cage; theft-funded “social security;” and “civic education” to make sure young whippersnappers don’t get caught up with any silly ideas like, well, real freedom.

Liu doesn’t seek peace, he just seeks a kinder, gentler version of the political class’s war on the productive class. That opinion shouldn’t bring about its holder’s imprisonment, but it doesn’t merit a prize for support of peace, either.

Last year, the Nobel committee awarded the “Peace Prize” to the world’s most vociferous warmonger (among warmongers with the power to fulfill their fantasies, at any rate). Its failure of discretion this year isn’t nearly as glaring, but the committee continues to miss the point: The state is the ultimate weapon in Hobbes’s “war of all against all,” and so long as it remains loaded it shall be continuously fired by those whose fingers have access to the trigger. You can have the state or you can have peace, but you can’t have both.

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