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Forum Post: "Just Say No To Corporate Greed ; The Case Of Iceland", by Ellen Russell.

Posted 11 years ago on Feb. 28, 2012, 10:42 p.m. EST by shadz66 (19985)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

February 28, 2012 "Rabble" ( http://rabble.ca/columnists/2012/02/just-say-no-corporate-greed-case-iceland ) -


"Capitalism is looking pretty mean these days. No amount of profit is enough, and no level of collateral damage to get that profit is unreasonable. And when capitalism on steroids runs amok, any extremes of public pain are justified to save the butts of those who made the mess in the first place. Corporations understand that they have a green light to punish people ruthlessly for even a modest improvement to their bottom line (ask Caterpillar workers if you want details). Whole nations may be bled dry to shield financial institutions from the consequences of their own bad behaviour. The Greek government is deliberately creating a national great depression to appease international financial interests.

Happily there are some instances of people saying no to this madness. Iceland is a great example of people who stood up and fought for civility.

Iceland used to have a sound but not too adventurous government-owned-and-operated banking system. It more or less did what it was supposed to do to serve local needs. An orgy of neo-liberalism in the 1990s culminated in the privatization of the banks in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The mavericks who took control of the newly privatized banks took corporate greed to extreme levels. They caught the worldwide disease of speculative euphoria, and made immense profits as the country's banks started doing some pretty crazy stuff.

Financial journalist and former investment banker Michael Lewis offered one financier's apt depiction of the hocus pocus that was going on in Icelandic banks: "'you have a dog, and I have a cat. We agree that they are each worth a billion dollars. You sell me the dog for a billion, and I sell you the cat for a billion. Now we are no longer pet owners, but Icelandic banks, with a billion dollars in new assets.'"

This lunacy was largely fuelled by borrowed money. Iceland's top three banks went on such a pathological borrowing spree that their assets were 10 times Iceland's GDP. It doesn't take a genius to realize that this loony behaviour will end badly. When the speculative bubble burst, all three of the country's major banks suddenly collapsed.

Since Icelandic banks had borrowed so heavily, there were a lot of angry creditors looking to get money back from the government of Iceland. Intense pressure was exerted to force Iceland to compensate anyone that lost money when Iceland's banks hit the wall -- regardless of whether those out-of-pocket were local depositors or international financial high-flyers who should have done their due diligence before getting involved with dodgy hijinks. Governments around the world were issuing blank cheques to pay for the sins of their bankers, and Iceland should be made to pay too.

But the people said no. Weekly assemblies outside parliament made it clear to politicians that the people were not going to be forced to pay for the craziness of the bankers. Politicians responsible for the crisis were given the boot. Out went the prestigious David Oddson, who as Prime Minister (and later as chair of the central bank) had championed the neo-liberal agenda. Geir Haarde, Prime Minster at the time of the crash, has been brought up on charges concerning his handling of the crisis. A left-green alliance elected Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, who is herself a trailblazer as an openly lesbian head of state.

Iceland's government faced intense pressure to compensate those financial interests hurt by the wreckage of Iceland's bank failures. The shoot-out at the OK Corral came over the misadventures of one defunct Icelandic bank that had expanded willy-nilly in Europe. When it collapsed, Britain and the Netherlands rushed to bail out its creditors in an attempt to buttress confidence in their own financial sector firms.

Now the British and Dutch governments demanded that Iceland reimburse them. Naturally Britain and the Netherlands figured they bore no responsibility for their lax oversight in allowing dodgy upstart Icelandic bankers to jeopardize British and Dutch financial stability.

The total bill was US$5.8 billion, but the sale of the failed bank's assets covers a big chunk of that bill. The estimated final cost to the people of Iceland to compensate these foreign governments would have been over $2 billion. That is a lot of money for a country with a population comparable to that of Windsor, Ontario. A deal was proposed that Iceland pay back this debt -- with interest -- until 2046.

OK, dear reader, are you sitting down? Because this just might knock your socks off: Iceland figured that this matter should be democratically decided. Those radical Icelanders actually demanded that they vote on the decision to compensate foreign governments.

The people decided not to pay up. In fact, they held two referendums and it was voted down both times. In the words of a spokesperson for the anti-bailout coalition, "It is totally insane that taxpayers foot the bill for failed private companies. It was odious. We had to say no."

Very ominous threats were made that Iceland would become an international pariah. The U.K. even used anti-terrorism legislation to freeze the Icelandic bank's assets in Britain. Litigation is still ongoing as Britain and the Netherlands seek ways to force Iceland to pay.

Of course, Iceland went through some tough times in the aftermath of the financial meltdown. Ordinary Icelanders suffered plenty because of the economic fallout from the recklessness of their banks. But Iceland is emerging from this mess in much better shape than it would have been forced into the equivalent of a country-wide debtor's prison. Even the IMF is holding up Iceland as an example of how to overcome deep economic dislocation without undoing the social fabric.

All of us owe a debt of gratitude to the people of Iceland. They took a stand and held their ground when all of the forces of international capital were allied against them. Whether it is at Caterpillar or in the streets of Athens, we all benefit when people say no to paying the price for corporate greed. Every time we just say no, we have a better shot at demanding sanity in the face of barbarism.


fiat lux ...


{Economist Ellen Russell is a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her column comes out every two months in http://rabble.ca/ }.

[This article is copied verbatim under "Fair Use" from : http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30662.htm & please use this to access all corroborating links.]



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[-] 7 points by jph (2652) 11 years ago

Great article; Iceland shows that paying the check you are handed by those on the way out, is optional if those leaving are lieing thieving evil corrupted banksters.

We see the same method of plunder being used all over. Banksters in cahoots with corrupted politicians, loot a bunch of cash, and then say, "hay look we got this short-fall here if you taxpayers don't bail us out you will suffer", and then they loot a whole lot more for years on end to pay back the money they took to begin with. Is it any wonder that the 1% keeps getting richer, when this is they system they impose?

Why pay an extortionist, when the debts are generated through fraud, corruption, and gaming the systems, imposed by the thieves?

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

'jph' : Odious Debts ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odious_debt ) incurred by complicit quislings like for example The Greek 0.01% whose unconscionable sell out of The Greek 99.99% and indeed of Greece itself will go down in the history of treachery, should NOT be the responsibility of The Greek People.

The Greeks need to reclaim their Democracy from their own Treacherous, Quisling 0.01%, who have sold their country to The International (in this case mainly Franco-German) Scum Bankster Parasites.

They should Immediately Default ; Offer an absolute maximum, notional and arguably overly reasonable 1:10 ie. 10% on their Onerous and 'Odious Debt' ; Reinstate The Drachma (or declare a New Currency) ; Demand A Referendum On These Matters ; NATIONALISE THEIR CENTRAL BANK & currency issue and reclaim their Country, Democracy, Integrity and Sanity !!!

I recommend this clever, insightful and useful individual and his website = http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/ as well as The Excellent Documentary Film, "INSIDE JOB" : http://documentarystorm.com/inside-job/ in particular, to all readers for the clear insights therein.

fiat justitia ruat caelum ...

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

Further to the above, in The UK, this year - 2012 'AD', is "The Diamond Jubilee" - 60 years of the now 86 year old Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg Gotha, Battenberg (changed to 'Windsor' during WW1!) ) being 'HRH Mrs. Queen' & it's a Olympic and Leap Year too !

However, wherever it is that WE are in The World, WE should all urgently start to realise and reclaim concepts of "The Jubilee", which is an Old Testament word for celebrations and festivities arising from the regular, every 49 years, remission of debt and usury !!

Back then The Wise Ancient Israelite Elders knew and understood that 'Intergenerational Permanent Debt Bondage' was a very bad thing and to be prevented. Sons could pay their fathers' or even grandfathers' debt but that anything else was Unconscionable !!!

SOLIDARITY to The Greeks & to The 99% in 'Debt Bondage' - Everywhere !!!!

Viva Greece & Ζήτω η Ελλάδα ...

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

The movements against corruption sort of qualify ( Jubilee ) don't you think?

I know that I am feeling more jubilant as we move forward.

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

Yes 'DKAt', I do agree and in the matter of "Jubilee", some further insight :

radix malorum est cupiditas ...

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

Thanks for that second link. The 1st wikki link dead ended.

From my understanding the jubilee was brought forward to naturally fight inflation as well as corruption and greed.

Having a regular reset kept people mindful of what was good and proper as well as possible. It tended to focus business practice on reality.

[-] 0 points by ImNotMe (1488) 4 years ago

''401(k) Fees. It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way '', by Dean Baker:

fiat lux ...

[-] 1 points by ImNotMe (1488) 5 years ago

''Swing & Turn Jubilee; Live & Learn Jubilee'' (sweet song)

Corporations, with their ''Externalities'' which are left to wider society to have to deal with, are death dealers to humans but ... Banking Corporations are The Devil Incarnated as Human Parasites, imo.

"Only the small secrets need to be protected. The big ones are kept secret by incredulity!" (Marshal McLuhan)

sub rosa?

[-] 2 points by GypsyKing (8708) 11 years ago

If they can do it, we can do it! Look out GWB and Wall Street!


[-] 2 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 11 years ago

This piece on Iceland has been going around for months. Is there anything more current regarding what is going on there?

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

Re. the above please also see :

Further, you may also be interested by : http://icelandicecon.blogspot.com/2012/02/icelandic-modern-debt-jubilee-steve.html .

fiat lux ...

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 11 years ago

The Stryker piece is quite good, but it's the one that i've seen most often and has been around for months. I'd really like to know if there is any decent coverage of the Iceland situation on a daily or at least a weekly basis,

[-] 1 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

No, 'RJ43', there is indeed very little about Iceland out there and that's the whole point right there !!!

Think about it ... the Corporate MSM internationally would rather the Icelandic example was totally forgotten lest the 99.99% start getting any uppity ideas about 'reclaiming and asserting Democracy' !!

For example did you know that the Icelandic Prime Minister at the time of The Neo-Liberalisation of Icelands economy is currently facing charges and in court answering now for his actions then ?!

ad iudicium ...

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 11 years ago


that's the volcano in the north Atlantic

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 11 years ago

Yes, I don't dispute that, which is precisely why I'd like to know more about what is going on there on a day to day basis rather than the very good but scant and episodic reporting that I've been able to find up until now.

[-] 2 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 11 years ago

Excellent post. We contacted our representatives in the U.S. before the bank bailout. They didn't listen then. I hope we can wake up enough Americans to vote in a Congress of the people this November.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 11 years ago

Iceland didn't bail their banks out

[-] 2 points by GypsyKing (8708) 11 years ago

Thank you for this excellent post. I think the situation really is that the system has been the way it is for so long that people just can't grasp the concept of a different order.

Information like this may be what they need to help them open their minds!

[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

'GK' : Belated thanx. fiat lux ;-)

[-] 3 points by GypsyKing (8708) 11 years ago

Don't know why this hasn't gotten more attention. It's straight to the point. Did you check out my post about avaaz.org?

[-] 1 points by beautifulworld (23740) 5 years ago

Iceland dealt with their bankers. Why haven't we? 10 year anniversary of Global Financial Crisis.

[-] 1 points by Odin (583) 11 years ago

The amazing thing is Icelanders were fairly laid-back people before this.

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

Yes 'Odin' but the Icelanders reclaimed and channelled their long dormant but still potent 'collective inner beserker' ... to excellent effect .. and perhaps we all need to take several leaves out of their books of sagas !!!

dum spiro, spero ...

[-] 0 points by Odin (583) 11 years ago

One of my daughters is really up on the Nordic sagas. It's good to know that when you get screwed...you can reach back to that "beserker heritage." We will share our rage freely. ;-)