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By Ryan

NobelAlfredEFSWith all the controversy surround President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize win, little discussion has taken place regarding the other 2009 Nobel laureates.  This is surprising given that not only is the Nobel the most distinguished award in Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Medicine, and Economics, but that, as usual, most of the winners are from the United States.  Yes, those United States.  Come on, Europe, what are doing over there?  Let’s break it down.

Physics:

Willard S. Boyle (dual citizenship—Canada, U.S.) and George E. Smith (U.S.) “for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit.”  This sounds pretty good, until you realize that Boyle and Smith invented their charge-coupled device at AT&T in 1969.  Really, no one did anything more impressive in physics last year?  Or the last 40 years?

Chemistry

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (India, U.K.), Thomas A. Steitz (U.S.), and Ada E. Yonath (Israel) “for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome.”  A female winner from Israel?  Now, we’re talking.  I guess technically Ramakrishnan works in Cambridge, but he was born in India and educated in the U.S.

Literature

Herta Müller (Germany) “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.”  Alright, finally, a true European.  This category is usually pretty favorable to Europe, with Toni Morrison (1993) the only U.S. writer to win the award in the last twenty years.

Physiology or Medicine

Elizabeth H. Blackburn (U.S., Australia), Carol W. Greider (U.S.), and Jack W. Szostak (U.S., U.K.) “for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by miniature bodyguards trained in the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu .”  I did not make that description up, I promise.  It makes sense that the U.S. would lead the way here, due to our heavily-funded medical research, about the only part of our healthcare system that’s worth celebrating.

Economics

Elinor Ostrom (U.S.), and Oliver Williamson (U.S.) “for analysis of economic governance.”  This one really gets me fired up.  The U.S. has had this category on lockdown since 2004.  Does the Nobel committee even read the newspapers?  If the U.S. has the best economists in the world, we’re surely misusing them.

In some ways it’s comforting to know that the rest of the world thinks we’re doing better than them.  But mostly it’s pretty disturbing when a country embattled in multiple wars, struggling with one of the worst health rates in the developed world, and scrapping by on poor economic indicators can take home the highest awards for peace, medicine, and economics.  If this is the best of what humans did in these fields last year, we’re all in serious trouble.

By Erin

Epstein

Epstein

When it comes to the massive failure of an intelligent healthcare debate, I blame the geniuses.  A couple of weeks ago I heard Richard Epstein participate in a debate regarding healthcare.  Professor Epstein, who teaches at NYU School of Law, is of the Chicago school of law and economics, which is to say that he believes in capitalism, or more specifically, in laissez-faire capitalism.  His is the kind of intellect that Ayn Rand fantasized about, and he leads the field in torts, contracts, and health care law.  Basically, if anyone could articulate best why Obama’s plan could fail, it should be Richard Epstein.

And maybe he did.

Unfortunately, the only words I understood were the names he called government employees.  Like listening to Dr. House ridicule his fellows while solving the case, I understood his tone—his general disbelief that people below his I.Q. score can do anything right—but I could not understand his evidence.  Technicalities and jargon riddled his argument which left me wondering whether or not he won the debate.

Now, I don’t necessarily lean populist.  I think the smartest people should work on the country’s toughest problems in order to come up with the best solutions.  But the healthcare debate illuminates the flaws of such a process—in a democratic society, the smartest people need to be able to articulate why their solutions are the best in order for the rest of us to make an informed vote (or, more accurately, in order for the members of Congress to make an informed vote).

I’m not calling for a dumbing down of the geniuses, but I am calling for a new skill set to be developed in the ivory towers.  Communication is key.  Otherwise all we’re left with is name-calling from both the idiots and the intellects.


MS Paint superstar up in here

MS Paint superstar up in here

Does the U.S. need healthcare reform?  Is the current set of bills in Congress a solution?  And what about “socialism”?  Joel and I bat these ideas around in this podcast for all the folks who were watching So You Think You Can Dance instead of the presidential presser.  Listen to it on your way to see G-Force.  AMERICA!

Download Reactionary Century Podcast 04 – 072709

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