I haven’t seen much about this in most of the political blogs I frequent, but the Nobel committee’s decision to award this year’s Peace Prize to the European Union strikes me as bizarrely misguided. On the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Dylan Matthews, a neoliberal contrarian in the classic New Republic mode, predictably cheers the decision, but Naked Capitalism’s Yves Smith is much closer to the mark. As Smith points out, the EU is pretty much synonymous with the Eurozone, and these days the Eurozone is all about inflicting its sadistic austerity policies on the masses:

Admittedly, the EU is not the Eurozone, but with the biggest nations in Europe members of the currency union, Eurozone politics are likely to continue to dominate that stage. And as we and others have chronicled at length, the Eurocrats seem determined to strip periphery countries of sovereignity and put not just their economies but their societies on the rack in a failing plan to save the banks of the surplus countries.

It’s true that the EU is not an entirely malevolent institution; it has done some good, particularly in establishing human rights standards for the continent. But that good is heavily outweighed by the severe damage it is causing, in the untold pain and suffering it is inflicting, and the countless ruined lives it is leaving in its wake, via its punitive austerity measures. Those formerly solidly middle class people in Spain, who now resort to dumpster-diving for their next meal? An epidemic of “suicide by economic crisis” throughout Europe? Folks, those are your Eurozone — and, by extension, EU — policies in action.

That the Prize was awarded to EU at this particular historical moment is very bad news indeed; it appears to be a powerful signal that the European establishment is giving its full backing to ruinous, oppressive austerity economics. Only time will tell if this particular Prize will prove as infamous as the one to Henry “Christmas bombing” Kissinger in 1973 (the great Tom Lehrer famously remarked that when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, satire became obsolete).

But really — when you consider all the heroic human rights activists around the globe, who every day put their lives on the line to advance social justice and human freedom — like this heroic, and tragic girl, to take but one example — and consider that the committee chose to give its Prize instead to an institution whose main priority seems to be coddling and enriching the bankers and damning working people to ruin and starvation? That seems utterly morally depraved, to me.

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Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee