Petr Mach: Do Not Bequeath Anything to the Government If You Do Not Want to Turn in Your Grave!

Laissez-Faize, 27.10.2007

published: 27.10.2007, read: 16636×


In the first part of the article we will remember the last will of Alfred Nobel; in the second part we will describe the specifics of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is decided and awarded by politicians; in the third part we will address the issue of the so-called Nobel Price in Economics, which – unlike the other prizes – is funded by the taxpayers; in the fourth part we will consider the institute of the last will and inheritance from the perspective of the government’s role and the individual freedom.

Nobel’s Last Will

Nobel prizes are awarded from the proceeds of the assets of the Swedish entrepreneur, chemist and inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, who left to the Nobel fund an inheritance worth 30 million Swedish Kroner after his death in 1896. An exception is the "Nobel" prize in economics, which is awarded from a contribution that was put in the Nobel fund by Sweden’s central bank in memory of Alfred Nobel in 1968.

Nobel left his last will, which says:

The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses. The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiological or medical works by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm; and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting.

The Nobel Prize is therefore not a private award – it is a state award, only allocated from a private inheritance. If Nobel – while still living – had established a foundation as a private entity he himself would decide who would serve in the foundation’s bodies. Nobel, however, only posthumously told the notaries who found his will after his death that a fund should be established from his assets. So, his assets have become a kind of escheat (property that reverts to the state due to the absence of heirs). The specific nature of this escheat was just that the testator determined how these assets should be used. The state respected this will, and it was the state bodies that established the fund.

Political Peace Prize

While the prestigious scientific prizes are awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences, the peace prize is awarded by five people elected by the Norwegian parliament.

This year, the peace prize in the amount of 10 million Swedish Kroner (CZK 30 million) goes to Al Gore, a U.S. politician, and the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change".

The scientific Nobel prizes are awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences, an institution funded by the state, although impartiality in awarding of the prizes is not disputed. An absolute political power of the state, however, is exercised when the Nobel peace prize is awarded. It is not clear why Nobel entrusted this power to the Norwegian parliament. It is clear, however, that the Norwegian parliament has significantly changed since Nobel’s death. A universal suffrage for all men regardless of property was introduced in Norway two years after Nobel’s death; seven years after that Norway won autonomy from Sweden. Today, the Norwegian parliament, like almost anywhere in the world, is dominated by socialists of different parties.

When the parliamentary Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel peace prize to Yasser Arafat in 1994 the Christian Democrat Kaare Kristiansen, who labeled Arafat "the world’s most prominent terrorist", resigned from the committee in protest.

Taxpayers’ Money for Economists

Unlike the Nobel prizes, which are awarded according to Nobel’s last will and from Alfred Nobel’s money, the "Nobel" price in economics has nothing to do with Nobel’s heritage. It is paid from the proceeds of a contribution that was put in the Nobel fund by Sweden’s central bank in 1968.

Since 1904, the bank is the monopoly money issuer in Sweden, and so even this money was printed by the bank – at the expense of the purchasing power of the Krone, at the expense of Swedish citizens. The Swedes paid for this "charity" of their central bank with the "inflation tax" – the money in the people’s pockets started to lose value faster than if the "Nobel" prize in economics had not been established.

Ironically, advocates of free market and opponents of inflation such as Milton Friedman or Friedrich August Hayek did not receive money from the inheritance after a successful entrepreneur for their contribution to economics but rather money that was printed by a monopoly state bank to the detriment of all the other holders of money.

The State is a Worse Manager of Money Even after our Death

Alfred Nobel was a scientist, an educated chemist. Maybe he is turning in his grave today because this year his money went to a man who not only did not contribute to fraternity between the nations and the world peace but who also manipulates scientific findings for the benefit of his political goals. The Norwegian Nobel committee therefore probably decided contrary to Alfred Nobel’s will but nobody is likely to sue Norwegian deputies for abusing Nobel’s heritage. So what do we learn from this?

It is not sensible to die and leave your assets to the state or let the state decide how your assets will be distributed. If we believe that we decide better about our money that the state would, the same applies when we live and also after our death.

It should be noted that nobody – not even the state – can be obliged to respect any last will. We have no right to require from others to get together after our death, to evaluate something and vote about something. A person has a right to bequeath assets but not to give assignments. Nobel wrote his last will quite carelessly and he had no guarantee that his wish would be respected.

What is the implication for the supporters of laissez faire? An individual freedom advocate should therefore either have children to whom he wants to leave his assets, or properly bequeath his assets to another person or a private institution whose wellbeing is important to him, or spend the entire wealth during his life.

Petr Mach

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Comments to this article

Nubmer of comments: 2, last 16.01.2008 19:31

16.01.2008 19:31 | Al Gore doesn"t deserve the money (Jimmy)

01.03.2014 18:57 | EjrxLCOmUcm (freelove)

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