Why Iceland Should Be in the News But Is Not

Photo © Layne Kennedy/www.laynekennedy.com

By Deena Stryker

An Italian radio program’s story about Iceland’s on-going revolution is a stunning example of how little our media tells us about the rest of the world. Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt. The reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then, this little-known member of the European Union fell back into oblivion.

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As one European country after another fails or risks failing, imperiling the Euro, with repercussions for the entire world, the last thing the powers that be want is for Iceland to become an example. Here’s why:

Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the country’s banks were privatized, and in an effort to attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave, attracted many English and Dutch small investors. But as investments grew, so did the banks’ foreign debt. In 2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent. The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro. At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy.

Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights, through a process of direct participatory democracy that eventually led to a new Constitution. But only after much pain.

Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic coalition government, negotiated a two million one hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic countries added another two and a half million. But the foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose drastic measures. The FMI and the European Union wanted to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain, who had promised to reimburse their citizens.

Protests and riots continued, eventually forcing the government to resign. Elections were brought forward to April 2009, resulting in a left-wing coalition which condemned the neoliberal economic system, but immediately gave in to its demands that Iceland pay off a total of three and a half million Euros. This required each Icelandic citizen to pay 100 Euros a month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5% interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that broke the reindeer’s back.

What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.

Of course the international community only increased the pressure on Iceland. Great Britain and Holland threatened dire reprisals that would isolate the country. As Icelanders went to vote, foreign bankers threatened to block any aid from the IMF. The British government threatened to freeze Icelander savings and checking accounts. As Grimsson said: “We were told that if we refused the international community’s conditions, we would become the Cuba of the North. But if we had accepted, we would have become the Haiti of the North.” (How many times have I written that when Cubans see the dire state of their neighbor, Haiti, they count themselves lucky.)

In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt. The IMF immediately froze its loan. But the revolution (though not televised in the United States), would not be intimidated. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis. Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country.

But Icelanders didn’t stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the exaggerated power of international finance and virtual money. (The one in use had been written when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark, in 1918, the only difference with the Danish constitution being that the word ‘president’ replaced the word ‘king’.)

To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.

Some readers will remember that Iceland’s ninth century agrarian collapse was featured in Jared Diamond’s book by the same name. Today, that country is recovering from its financial collapse in ways just the opposite of those generally considered unavoidable, as confirmed yesterday by the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde to Fareed Zakaria. The people of Greece have been told that the privatization of their public sector is the only solution. And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal are facing the same threat.

They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign.

That’s why it is not in the news anymore.

* Both editor and author are aware of mistakes in this piece which are due to mistranslation from Italian – apologies

Originally published in the excellent SACSIS (with thanks)



Categories: Collapsononics, Consumer Culture, Death of Capitalism, Economics, International

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139 replies

  1. Iceland is not a member of the European Union, little-known or otherwise.

    • Thanks John. It is correct that Iceland is not yet a full-fledged member of the EU. The application has been filed and awaits ratification. Iceland is a member in EFTA, which is part of the EEA, and also the Schengen Area. Iceland does participate in many EU affairs as a non-woting member. The author should have been more specific.

      Sure there are errors in this piece which we have re-published but I think many of the complaints cry too much without addressing the authors real points:
      1) Participative processes can work in crisis.
      2) There is an alternative to IMF austerity and privatisation / sale & sell-out of public sector
      3) The EU doesn’t want us to look at these options and the media is too pliant, narrow or partial to know where there’s a story.

      • The IMF itself should be on trial

        The MSM are just spinning what they are fed that is why blogs have become far more important in finding the truth such as Golem XIV – Thoughts for one.

        Blue Lagoon

      • Sorry Bella, I’d love to see the greedheads get a bloody nose but this article is truly awful as are the assumptions it makes. This is what they are saying here in Iceland: http://grapevine.is/Features/ReadArticle/A-Deconstruction-of-Icelands-Ongoing-Revolution

      • I’m more than in agreement with the three points made above, and Iceland is a great example of how they can be applied to the sort of first world, egalitarian, remote rural, edge of Europe, but rich in energy resources economies personified by Iceland, Northern Scotland, and the North and West of Scandinavia. Living as I do in the far North of Scotland, and working with Icelandic colleagues on projects that look at how rural peripheral regions can maximize outputs from social and community assets, as well as physical resources I have a huge admiration (and envy) of Icelandic societies bottom up localism. A welcome foil to an urban obsessed Scotland, living in the shadow of post industrialisation.

        But this piece was and is still a shocking piece of shoddy, sloppy and lazy journalism, where the author seemed to have been so transfixed by the coolness of the concept not to do even the simplest of sense checks.

        The fact you have had to come back with a comment that is both a sort of apology, and a synopsis of what the main point of the article, says it all. Indeed if this had piece had been – say – posted on Labourhame, most of us would have taken great pleasure in dissecting the errors to death, burying it, and dancing on the grave.

      • Well I disagree, I think she raises important interesting and overlooked points despite obvious errors.

      • This is also not entirely correct. Only three of the four remaining EFTA countries jointly form the EEA: Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway. EFTA member #4, Switzerland, never joined the EEA. Switzerland did however become part of the Schengen area, as did Iceland and Norway. Liechtenstein on the other hand is not yet formally part of the Schengen area, even though there is no border control to either of its neighbors Switzerland and Austria.

    • kind of missing the point John….. principal over semantics please.

      • I agree with the principals of this article, but if you convey your principals through factual inaccuracies then you lose credibility. At that point, it doesn’t matter how right you are, no one is listening any more.
        The article linked to by northatlanticdrift directly addresses and correct factual errors in almost every paragraph of this article. Remarkably, if the true facts had been used, the principals and inspiration in the story would not have been diminished and would have, in fact, been more powerful because the FACTS would have been there.

      • What you say is true and we’ll be updating coverage of Iceland and the remarkable things that are happening there soon. Thanks for your comments.

    • This is the way t go Icelanders, freedom should be a unconditional choice…theses bankers a financial terrorist and should be always little room to maneuver freely.

    • Iceland should be in the news because this stuff is newsworthy. I want to know what is happening out there. I want to know what affects others so I can compare it to what affects me. We have to know that we are not alone and we are all affected by what happens to each other.

  2. Interesting: however Iceland is *not* a member of the EU!

  3. Seems a nice story, but so full of errors as to be useless. Any journalist whose first sentence is so factually wrong as to be embarrassing does not really warrant reading on (in case you missed it Iceland is not, and never has been, a member of the EU, and the reference to Jared Diamonds theory on cultural collapse referred to Greenland not Iceland). But I did, it did not get any better in accuracy terms. The writer above seems to have simply plagiarised this article –

    http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/728.1?frommailing=1

    It says a hell a lot more about the prejudice of the author than anything to do with Iceland (a great wee country whom I love visiting and working with colleagues who tell me a hell of lot more insightful info in the current state of Iceland than this piece).

    A wee suggestion for Denna – next time you rip off an article from the web, check the comments under it for accuracy, decency and simple sense. Crap like this does Bella no good whatsoever.

  4. Fantastic post. Can’t wait to see how this online communally-written Constitution breaks the mold!

  5. We’re going to need a constitution soon. Best start crowd sourcing asap for 2014. The Icelandic website looks superb. The images tell you the whole story:

    http://stjornlagarad.is/

  6. This article makes good points but is full of inaccuracies, biggest two is Iceland is not a member of the EU and Geir Haarde led a centre-right coalition not Social Democratic.

    Can’t take the article seriously with these basic mistakes about Icelandic politics. Please correct.

  7. The real point of the story, is that while everyone else in the western world simply wrung their hands then accepted the establishment’s choice of bailouts, the Icelanders said no.
    Repeatedly.
    Until their voices were heard.
    Now look at them.
    Obviously that’d be much easier if the MSM would help us, which is one of the points the article makes. Except it doesn’t fit in with the narrative we are to be fed here – ‘there is no other way’ is all we’re told and evidence to the contrary from a near neighbour is pointedly ignored.

    Regarding EU status, given that the article is from a South African site and that it doesn’t actually invalidate anything in the story, it’s an eminently forgivable mistake IMO; particularly so given that Iceland is part of the EEA and Schengen and has applied for full EU membership.

    • No it is not a forgivable mistake. I repeat, what many others have said. Iceland is NOT in the EU. That is a huge mistake for a journalist to make. It has its own sovereign government. EU members have given sovereignty over to the EU government. That is one HUGE HUGE difference.

      • Yes we know we know, the errors are being kept on the story because they have now become part of the story. As we have said before but repeat here we’ll be updating this piece soon with a new report from Iceland. Please RSS this site or subscribe for updates.

        http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/feed/

        Subscribe button top right of homepage:

        http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/

        thanks, Editor, Bella Caledonia

      • That is extremely damaging. At least change the title of the report to something else, or include a paragraph at the start that explains that this article is full of errors. People are reading and believing this, and the longer it stays up the more people will read and think that there is a word of truth in this article. If you wont take it down then you should make it clear that it is not true.

        This article is damaging and even dangerous in terms of the international impression of Iceland. Not everybody reads the comments, as you can see from the people who have commented and said that this was an informative article. It is not informative, it is untrue. You have a responsibility to let people know this.

  8. Some of the figures quoted don’t make sense e.g.
    “In 2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent.”

    and also I think the article may be using the word ‘million’ instead of ‘milliard’. A debt of a few million Euro could be paid off very easily.

    Makes you wonder how much fact checking the author has done.

    • Absolutely! Such a terribly badly written article. Million mixed up with Billion. Duh!! Stick to writing kids books and not ‘grown up’ issues!

  9. The problem in Iceland was the collapse of the banking system. This could be compared to the problems in Denmark or Ireland, but the problems in the Southern European countries are not comparable. Trying to apply the same medicine to both the two different problems will not work. Also, it would not make sense for Greece to nationalise their banks and steal the deposits, because the deposits belong to Greek people. The bonds the Greek banks hold are also Greek sovereign bonds Stealing only improves your wealth if you steal from someone else. If you steal from yourself, then you are just moving around deck chairs on the Titanic. Also, i hate to point it out again, but it is a whopper, Iceland is not in the EU, and might never be because of the deposit stealing. I have no problem with burning “savvy” investors that did not do their due diligence. Depositors however, are supposed to be protected.

  10. It is a good story – but the quoted numbers are so ridiculous, innumerate (and plain wrong) as to undermine its validity entirely.

    The debt was 200 times GDP, now it is 900 percent more – that is 9 times gdp. Surely a reduction? The debt was 3 1/2 Million. that is $11 per head of population, as a one off payment, not $100 per month for 15 years.

    It is a pity, for there is a good article to be written about Iceland, but, alas, it is not this one.

    • These are important errors – but again the main thrust of the argument is not affected ie sever financial shocks are used as an excuse to punish those not responsible for managing / creating them, there is an alternative and that is more democracy, not less.

      Would you agree with those points Osbert, separate to the factual errors in the original piece?

      • Pedantic point, maybe, but Sovereign Debt only means that the instrument of debt (usually a Bond) was issued by a sovereign government, regardless of who bought it. What I think you meant is Domestic Debt – sovereign debt held by citizens and institutions of that country.

      • Bella

        I agree with argument, but on the basis of principle, not on the evidence of this post! I don’t know enough about the situation in Iceland to judge the post, but the errors pointed out by others undermine it’s credibility.

  11. Good critique of this article here in response to Naomi Klein’s tweet (thanks to Scott Riddell who lives in Iceland)

    http://grapevine.is/Features/ReadArticle/A-Deconstruction-of-Icelands-Ongoing-Revolution

  12. Not sure why I cannot comment directly on your reply in the thread above but………

    “Well I disagree, I think she raises important interesting and overlooked points despite obvious errors.”

    Disagree with what Bella – the fact that I agreed with your three key points, or that the “obvious” errors point to shoddy, poor and ill researched journalism. You cannot have both ways, and I’m afraid that whether we like it or not the pro “independence, self determination and anatomy” online media has to be both self policing, and have obvious higher standards the the MSM if we are to retain any credibility and impact in the next few years. You need to better, for all our sakes, and accept when folk tell you that your writers have – despite the best of intentions and being on message – have simply got it badly wrong.

    • Thanks for the comments Tearlach, we’re trying.

      We accept the errors – and are going to do a follow up piece.

      • Thanks for the update – a follow up would be more than appropriate, as the article did raise a number of important issues. Appreciate your candour as well, not something you will find in the MSM!

  13. Lets take the three points posted in defence of this article:

    1) Participative processes can work in crisis…..despite the questions raised over the legality of the constitution committee, their draft constitution has yet to be adopted by the Icelandic government.
    2) There is an alternative to IMF austerity and privatisation / sale & sell-out of public sector….Iceland DID adopt the IMF austerity plan and the public sector has been hit by it. Thankfully, Iceland signed-off today (http://www.grapevine.is/News/ReadArticle/IMF-Leaving-Iceland), the politicians expressing a degree of gratitude toward the IMF!
    3) The EU doesn’t want us to look at these options and the media is too pliant, narrow or partial to know where there’s a story….there is a story, I’m just not sure the international media was interested after the initial collapse (bar Icesave) especially when there were the more interesting volcanoes causing all sorts of problems. Shoddy journalism perhaps? There seems to be a lot of it about. But the EU? Really?

    See also: http://www.grapevine.is/Features/ReadArticle/ZOMBIE-POLITICS

  14. It is a shame that sloppy journalism has spoiled what could have been an insightful piece on how a small country first courts, and then is shafted by, international finance; and how it picks up the pieces afterwards.

    I’ll look forward to the follow up piece. Does anyone know if there’s an Icelandic equivalent to Bella? Not that I can translate, but maybe someone can…

  15. Excellent read…also highlights the fact that the world is catered with selective news !

  16. Lighten up pedants, the facts lain here are seismic, If all proxy debt laced countries told the IMF where to go, there would be no debt and the real criminals dis-empowered.

    This is fantastic news………. we can!

    The 20th century is obsolete.

    NEXT!

  17. Iceland gained its independence in June 17, 1944, not in 1918 as the article states.

  18. Hello, I am from México,and my contry has the same problems. We are living a desperate situation. Ur government has tried to privatize all government institutions, also education. 75% of the population lives in socio-economic low and of those, about 50 million people live in poverty. This add the terrible situation of violence that we have the drug trafficking, unofficial figures say there are more than 50,000 people killed by the stupid war that the government has launched against his own people.
    Daily there are more deaths in Mexico than in the Middle East and we do not have to be “war” against other nations.

    The neoliberal policy of this government is killing us.

  19. I would disagree that Greece is similar to Iceland. Unlessn ofcourse, the level of economic fraud committed by the greeks also occured in Iceland. The greek government clearly lied about its deficit figures to get into the European monetary union. In addition the level of tax evasion in the country is ridiculous. Its an endemic problem that I doubt existed in Iceland. While Iceland was almost certainly being screwed by the global financial machine before it kicked off the yoke, many of the greeks are complicit in how their country turned out (not that the banks did not do most of the bad stuff- but tax evasion also contributed to how bad the government’s debt situation ended up being).

  20. I’m sorry, but the misinformation in this piece is actually a disservice to the economic justice movement. You should print a retraction at the very top of the article. If you’d then like to make the points you made in your first comment (“Participative processes can work in crisis.” etc), feel free. But this gets people’s hopes up on falsehood, only to dash them — thereby damaging the possibility of hope — with the rebuttal.

    The rebuttal, FYI:

    http://grapevine.is/Features/ReadArticle/A-Deconstruction-of-Icelands-Ongoing-Revolution

    • Hi Peter – thanks for the comment. Many people have posted the link to that ‘rebuttal’. We have posted a clarification that we are aware of the errors in the piece (most of which were due to mistranslation from Italian), and we are writing an update to bring people up to speed with the situation in Iceland.
      The Editor

  21. An interesting picture of IMF is drawn up in the documentary “Life in debt”. I went to Jamaica once (the doc is about the impossible situation in Jamaica) and after watching the documentary, I understood so much more of the preposterous situation there and I wonder if IMF would be able to put Iceland in such financial shackles as they did with Jamaica?
    You can read about the documentary here; http://www.lifeanddebt.org/ but I strongly suggest you take a look at it. If you ignore the dramatic narrator, the documentary is just brilliant and an eye opener.

  22. Great article, thank you, however The monetary values must be wrong…”two million”?

  23. Please fix the “millions” in the text…

  24. My impression is that the people carping about the errors are trying to make the situation in Iceland invalid.and that doesn’t make sense. The situation is what it is, and if the article misstates the situation, don’t say “Nyeah, nyeah”, tell us what you think the situation is.

    Back in 1960 I didn’t think that the way we looked at the world made sense so I went back to the paleolithic and worked my way back. See “http://rEvolution.karleklund.net”. My impression is that the icelanders have intuited the best way of dealing with the circumstances, and certainly the way most in tune with our species history

  25. The bankers and government are very lucky there is no death penalty in Iceland … too bad for others doing the same thing elsewhere.

    http://911essentials.com

  26. Above, satelliteeyes on November 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm said:

    “…you convey your principals through factual inaccuracies then you lose credibility. At that point, it doesn’t matter how right you are, no one is listening any more.”

    Really? Explain mainstream media then!

  27. Since the banks leveraged the majority of debt on the good ole USA, I think it’s time we told them, like the Icelander’s have, where they can go!

  28. carriage
    Yes by all means let clean this up so that it is usable.
    Interesting thought, Refusal to play “new world order” including the new world banking order usually earns a country a trip to the top of the hit parade. Only three countries remain free of the financial rape at this point. Libya was becoming a bright beacon of financial freedom against these monsters and was such a threat that they too were liquidated and are now in the fold. The cool thing here is that the normal lies that have worked so well for the financial mafia would be a little more difficult with Iceland and a different approach will need to be used. The terrorist angle won’t readily work unless it is finessed for a while. Weapons of mass destruction won’t work either. What is the financial mafia left to work with?
    It is because they have so little to work with that the “media” is not covering this. Now the “discovery” of a “terrorist stronglhold” or (insert b.s. here) would be a different story. But again this will take time to fabricate. I’m thinking that the financial mafia will need a diffeernt approach to take out Brave little Iceland.
    I know that my prayers are with them!
    Yes lets get this cleaned up, however missing the forest for the trees approach is ALSO not helpful.
    Please accept my “preemptive” apology for any small thing I got wrong or misspelled……

  29. Not sure what point this article is attempting to make. I’m not aware of citizens anywhere else being responsible for private debt. The U.S. government made an emergency loan to its banks, which was summarily repaid, in an attempt to stabilize the financial system – which was seen to serve the greater public good. The news we hear from Italy and Greece is concerned with *sovereign* debt, which is a completely different animal.

    Citizens collectively drafting a new constitution online may work for a country with a population of 320 thousand of like mind. How well would it work for a country with a population of 300 million that are sharply divided?

    In short, hooray for Iceland! But I don’t see what has worked for them working here in the United States.

  30. 900 percent is 9 times. 200 times is 20,000%

    I really wish there were educated, informed and well spoken people out there to do real research. This is obviously an attempt at building a strawman.

  31. It is shocking that this is still doing the rounds. I have received this article twice from friends who know that I have conducted an extensive study on Icelandic economics and politics who thought I might be interested. This false farce of a “news” report is insulting to read. Inaccuracies does not begin to describe – this entire thing is false from start to finish.

    Yes, Iceland have made a fantastic response to the crisis. Yes, they are handling their economic and political situation well. But for god’s sake take down this travesty of misinformation because as soon as people begin to research the falsehoods that you are spouting here this entire movement will lose credibility due to your foolishness.

    Travel to Iceland and see what is happening. Talk to Icelandic people. And do your research before posting misinformed articles online.

  32. Back in 1960 I didn’t think that the way we looked at the world made sense so I went back to the paleolithic and worked my way back. See “http://rEvolution.karleklund.net”. My impression is that the icelanders have intuited the best way of dealing with the circumstances, and certainly the way most in tune with our species history

  33. there’s only one real mistake in the article: Iceland is not (yet) a member of the European Union, but they are in negotiations. The biggest point, why Iceland still doesn’t want to join the EU is about the fishing rights – Iceland doesn’t want EU-fishing fleets at it’s coast taking all the fish. Another fight against authorities!

  34. There seem to be a lot of idiot commenters that harp on her error about Iceland being in the EU. Then they say it is ‘full’ of inaccuracies? can you count sucka? 1 error does not mean ‘full’. You are ‘full’ of shit!

  35. I have been arguing for a year or two that the only viable solution to our national debt is a form of planned bankruptcy. However, that is not the word I use, as it is not technically correct. What I propose is hyperinflation to pay off our debt, then an IMMEDIATE revaluation of the currency, to counteract the effects of inflation. What few realize is that the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic worked: it was the reason Hitler was able to rebuilt Germany’s armies so quickly.

    The IMF, World Bank, Bank of International Settlements (which few have heard of) and the UN were all conceived by socialists as instruments of developing a global, totalitarian government. Doubt me? Bretton Woods was run by Soviet agent Harry Dexter White, and Fabian John Maynard Keynes. The UN conference was chaired by Soviet agent Alger Hiss, who went to jail for the crimes he committed.

    In any event, I deal with this topic at length in the treatise linked on my name. There is an appendix in there in which I deal with Keynes patent Fascist/Communist beliefs.

    Our problems can be solved, but not by doing the same things that got us here in reverse. It is too late for that.

  36. People go visit and spend your money in their hotels, restaurants etc in a show of solidarity for this most noble of Nordic tribes that refused to be bullied by the ‘one-world’ kleptocracy that infests the western world.

    • The Return to Equality

      In and around 10,000 bce (in the mideast), in order to exploit the recently invented technology of agriculture, the human species went from an infrastructure that was equal-on-the-average to one that was follow-the-leader.

      The equal-on-the-average infrastructure has a shaman who deals with chronic problems as required and a hunting-chief who leads the hunting-band as required. The shaman and the hunting-chief satisfy certain requirements that make them equal-on-the-average.

      The follow-the-leader infrastructure has a permanent chief who, with assistants, forms an aristocracy. Because the leader is not required to be equal-on-the-average, the follow-the-leader infrastructure is not as stable as the equal-on-the-average infrastructure. When it fails it is generally replaced by another of the same kind.

      Around 1500ce, (in Europe) the technology of the ocean-going ship was developed sufficiently that shipmasters and traders could travel and exchange trinkets for tchotchkes, which were exotic goods that were rare enough to be used as status symbols. These could be brought back to Europe and sold to local leaders. The shipmasters and traders (and bankers, who were traders in money) became rich, but did not have the status of the leader class, called the aristocracy.

      Calvin invented a new class, the elect, who had the characteristic that they were blessed by God. The way you could identify the elect was that they prospered, i.e., they were rich. In other words, capitalism is a device that was invented by Calvin in order to give the mercantile interests that supported Calvinism the same kind of social status that the earlier military (and, later, landed) aristocracy had.

      Calvin’s elect constituted a quasi-aristocracy that were considered better than ordinary people, because they were rich, but not as much better as traditional aristocrats. They constituted a “middle class”.

      The religious aspect of the Calvinist elect was soon lost as investment became just another technology. Capitalism became the notion that a person who acquires money that is surplus to survival needs has status equivalent to a person who has social rank (e.g., an aristocrat or senior bureaucrat).

      A surplus of money usually conveys more status if it is held for longer or inherited than if is recently stolen but that is less important than it was in the past. The method of the initial acquisition of the surplus money is unimportant. By a series of transformations capitalism currently provides status for senior members of the government bureaucracy (democrats) and senior members of the corporate bureaucracy (republicans).

      The net effect of capitalism is that from 1500 to 1950 it provided the social function of reversing the earlier change from equality-on-the-average (which functioned from 100,000bce to 8,000bce) to follow-the-leader (which functioned from 8,000bce to 1500 ce). This gradual increase in status of the middle class is called upward mobility.

      From 1500 ce to 1950 ce upward mobility was certified by the display of status symbols or tchotchkes. However, it was recognized by economists in the 1950s that continuation of this practice would create shortages of resources for tchotchkes; so the policy of the elite from 1950 was to reverse evolution and make the middle and lower classes downwardly mobile.

      Since capitalism no longer provides the useful evolutionary function of gradually making everybody equal, capitalism will no longer have any useful social or evolutionary function and it can cease to exist. Since we have already decided that a particular skin color, childhood language, birth location, political or religious opinion, or gender do not determine status, we can easily decide that neither does the accumulation of tchotchkes.

      Then we can eliminate money as a medium of exchange and replace it with computer accounts.

      That will leave only position in the bureaucracy as a potential measure of status and most bureaucrats requiring contact with humans can be replaced by Turing-pass voices like the “Siri” in the iPhone 4S.

      Human workers may still be necessary but they should only serve in positions that:
      (1) require more creativity than robots are capable of
      (2) can have input and output through Turing-pass voices like “Siri”.
      (3) do not require contact with other human beings

      That will eliminate bureaucratic position as a basis for status.
      After a while, when people get used to not having a hierarchy based on skin color, gender, bureaucratic position, childhood
      language, and the like; these can be relaxed to guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.

      The function of the government shall be to:

      (1) Provide whatever food, clothing, shelter and other health services are necessary for everyone’s survival and to distribute these goods and services equitably; and

      (2) Make those provisions on the most efficient possible basis with the minimum damage to the environment. Note that most of the direct interaction with humans can be done by robots (most being in non-human form) because that will generally be the most consistent. Note that by maximizing efficiency rather than minimizing cost the criterion provides for maximum utility.

      (3) Provide equal access to available surplus resources that are not needed for survival of the global population to allow for individuals to express creativity not otherwise provided for in (1) and (2), and

      (4) to provide a social mechanism for coping with unanticipated conditions or needs.

      The current activity of “Occupy Wall Street” serves to call attention to the lack of a useful function for capitalism, and thus facilitate its extinction.

      A discussion of evolutionary progress from 100,000 bce to 2011ce is provided in:
      [ http://rEvolution.karleklund.net%5D.

      A projection of evolutionary progress in the future is provided in:
      [ http://utopia.karleklund.net%5D

  37. Icesave’s debt was not solely a private debt. The representatives elected by the people of Iceland had chosen to guarantee deposits up to a certain level in order to allow Iceland’s banks to operate in the rest of Europe. They are now being called on that guarantee which they chose to make. It is of course quite in order for Iceland to refuse to reimburse deposits in excess of the level that they guaranteed, even though the UK government chose to make savers whole — those are indeed private debts.

  38. Things that are hidden eventually become known.

    I love the online drafting of the new constitution.

    The power has return back into the hands of the people.

    Just imagine if the whole world woke up to this truth.

  39. We should do this same thing in the USA!

  40. Okay… just went through half the posts and decided to give a list of Europa Countries. This is from http://europa.eu/about-eu/countries/index_en.htm

    Candidate countries
    Croatia
    Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
    Iceland
    Montenegro
    Turkey
    No, Iceland is not a full member of the EU. It is a candidate country.
    In the site;http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/the-policy/conditions-for-enlargement/index_en.htm, the following is offered:
    The so-called ” Copenhagen criteria “, set out in December 1993 by the European Council in Copenhagen, require a candidate country to have:

    stable institutions that guarantee democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
    a functioning market economy, as well as the ability to cope with the pressure of competition and the market forces at work inside the Union;
    the ability to assume the obligations of membership, in particular adherence to the objectives of political, economic and monetary union.
    In 1995 the Madrid European Council further clarified that a candidate country must also be able to put the EU rules and procedures into effect. Accession also requires the candidate country to have created the conditions for its integration by adapting its administrative structures. While it is important for EU legislation to be transposed into national legislation, it is even more important for the legislation to be implemented and enforced effectively through the appropriate administrative and judicial structures. This is a prerequisite of the mutual trust needed for EU membership.

    In addition, the EU must be able to integrate new members: it needs to ensure that its institutions and decision-making processes remain effective and accountable; it needs to be in a position, as it enlarges, to continue developing and implementing common policies in all areas; and it needs to be in a position to continue financing its policies in a sustainable manner.

  41. Wow, that’s a drubbing! Here’s the translator’s reply:

    1) Iceland not a member of EU: The issue has been on the table off and on for years, so both the Italian author and I made an honest mistake. Whether or not Iceland is in the EU does not change the essence of the story: people deciding they’ve had enough and sticking to their guns over a long period of time.

    2) Plead guilty to not remembering that ‘milliardi’ is ‘billion’. Translator is numerically challenged but understands international affairs at a level seldom reached by the public, otherwise would not have picked up this story from an Italian radio transcript which many would have seen.

    3) Corrections by various foreign and Icelandic readers have been all over the place as to the financial details, so how to pick one?

    4) What is not contested, and is the main point of the story, is that each Icelander was originally going to pay $150 a month for 15 years (if I remember correctly) for bankers’ and investors’ follies.

    5) See my update on how the people of Iceland were whipped into line by the IMF and Co: otherjones.com/2011/11/04/red-distress-sos-from-a-small-nation-living-far-away-in-the-north/

    6) Icelanders have criticized this post but they are also very grateful to be finally getting into the news.

    7) The story was written on August 1, and is still making news.

    8) My posts are about the ‘gist’. People have been trained to believe that ‘facts’ (which can be disputed, as reactions to this post show) are the be all and end all of life.

  42. What’s the point of reposting an article with admitted — and unidentified — mistakes? What can we believe if we know there are inaccuracies, just not which ones?

    If the verified “gist” is that each citizen would have to pay $150/month, then only state that. Throwing around inaccurate, undocumented numbers and assertions only destroys the credibility of the author, any re-posters, and the Daily Kos.

    And who could be proud that their incorrect story is still around three months later? I guess one to whom the “facts” are not to be believed at all. Unbelievable.

    • Wow.

      Well the author and the writer stand by the article warts and all and think it makes important insights despite the factual errors. Watch out for follow-up piece.

      • Bella – you promised us a follow up piece back in August. I’m still looking for it. This must be an salutatory leson for “online journalists” such as Denna, where what she thought was an innocent, repost of a story about Iceland, but was so riddled with basic errors of fact and opinion has landed her – and you – in such keech. The fact that you have not totally disavowed yourself from this car wreck of a story makes me shake my head in wonder.

        Of course she in writing this, and you in publishing it, was done with the very best of intentions, and as I’ve said before, as someone who has the utmost admiration for the Icelandic way of democracy, I salute that. But when the article was found to be riddled with the most basic errors of fact, full of unsupportable opinions, and its promises easily debunked, I’d have thought that someone would have said – shit we got this wrong. Sorry.

        I do so look forward to the follow up piece – as I said you promised one back in August, It’s now December.

      • Mike, Did you have this story since August?

        Will answer this post.
        Deena

      • Confusing, don’t know who I’m writing to now. Assume MacDaid.

        I really think you’re going overboard with your ‘full of unsupportable opinions, and its promises easily debunked’.

        I don’t remember there being any ‘opinions’ in this piece, nor certainly any ‘promises’.

        If you are referring to the fact that the Icelanders ended up getting smacked back into line, that, hard as they tried, they ultimately couldn’t beat the system, that’s another thing. Are you prosecuting me for sharing their hopes and enthusiasm, which, by the way, led others to dare say no to power?

        I really don’t understand what all this fuss is about. We are bombarded day and night with false ‘facts’ and nobody thinks anything of it, though certainly, large media corporations have more than enough staff, money and tools to make sure what they say is true. In fact, I have been campaigning against the media’s idea of ‘truth’ for thirty years! Also, against the public’s belief that there really is such a thing as objectivity: Eureka! Maybe that’s what you’re suffering from!

    • I’d really like to know how to stop this article from circling the globe. Please be kind enough to inform me.

      P.S. Wondering how all those readers didn’t know what was happening in Iceland til they read my piece, but then suddenly knew there were mistakes – attributable, I repeat, to the original, Italian journalist. Unless something strikes me as odd, I do not question colleagues’ facts.

  43. Deena – as a reader who does know a little bit of what is – and has – happened in Iceland as I work and communicate with friends and colleagues there on a regular basis – I wonder how a “journalist” such as yourself can take “colleagues facts” as the truth without even the most basic and simple fact checking.

    I’m sorry but your attribution of mistakes to the original Italian journalist is simply embarrassing – “a big boy done and ran away”.

    I’d be lot more sympathetic if you had said – OK the original article was full of crap, sorry, but there are there some gems of truth that we can all learn from in this story – here they are discuss.

    But all we have now is you typing – “I’d really like to know how to stop this article from circling the globe”.

    Says it all.

    • Have you read all my responses to criticisms of this article? The gist was exactly what you said I should write.

      Enough already. I’m not going to be the whipping boy for all the sleazy journalists in the world!

  44. Deena

    I do thing you have innocently picked up on a story and found youself way way out of your depth.

    Couple of things. Firstly I’m very comfortable with the basic principle of what I think you were trying to say about Iceland and the Icelandidic economy, and the Icelandic people’ s reaction to what they were face with it.

    You just did it very very badly. I’m not looking to knock you for that, just a sorry would work.

    The thing that saddens me is your statement that – “I really don’t understand what all this fuss is about. We are bombarded day and night with false ‘facts’ and nobody thinks anything of it, though certainly, large media corporations have more than enough staff, money and tools to make sure what they say is true.”

    So because the BBC, Murdoch and Fox provide us with “false facts”, its also OK for you to provide us with “false facts”?

    Shameful, absolutely shameful

  45. P.S. Why, instead of carping, do you not give readers the benefit of your on-site experience and knowledge of what is going on in Iceland?

    I haven’t written a follow-up yet because I am waiting for information from several Icelanders whom I have contacted.

    • Mmmm – interesting that when a poster on a Scottish Blog dedicated to a social democracy and localism is one of a flood of people who highlights serious and sustained criticism of an obviously flawed piece of liberal journalism someone else suggests that the objections must come from the right.

      Well not in this case. A wee bit of background – I’m a community and third sector worker, activist and consultant from the far North of Scotland, and have wide experience in the areas of community land development, community energy and community empowerment. Unlike many folk who have commented on this piece, I’ve worked in Iceland, and worked with their local communes and municipalities on social and community development programmes and projects, and on knowledge exchange activities between Scotland and Iceland.

      The first time I stepped off the plane in Keflavik, I was smitten by the country, indeed Reykjavik is the sort of place that I knew instinctively that if I could not live in the North of Scotland I would find a home there.

      Over the years a number of things struck me about Icelandic society that we in Scotland can learn from – the bottom up nature of their rural community organisation, with communes of 80 to 100 people involved in serious local democracy, with elected but employed mayors involved in deciding housing, healthcare, power and heat distribution, and local economic development. With towns such as Húsavík in their far north changing their marine economy from whaling to whale watching, quietly, through consensus and through serious local leadership.

      Or a Town such as Grundarfjörður, where the residents were so concerned by the loss to teenagers to school in the capital that they build a fantastic, innovative and radical new school where kids from 11-18 now complete their full time education, using experts from the town to teach on a part time basis in a architecturally innovate building. Or the town of Akyuri, reinventing itself as a ski and College town, even though its just under the arctic circle and half an Island away from Reykjavik and international flights.

      All bottom up. All community and people focused. All great example of how people and local communities can change their futures

      That’s why I was so annoyed with the original article – so riddled with factual errors as to be almost useless, and its central thrust of the dramatic success of people empowerment against international capital arguable to say the very least. I’m not saying the intent was arguable, just the outcomes. Despite what the article said, the IMF were welcomed into Iceland, and the new people driven constitution is still to be ratified by the Althingi – indeed it may yet be subject to a plebiscite. I hope it passes, but it’s a long way to go yet, and of course Iceland’s outstanding application to the EU may change all that yet.

      But what really annoyed me – indeed made my bile flow – was the inability or unwillingness of the author or her supporters to admit that article was deeply flawed. Objections were brushed off with – oh it’s the fault of the original Italian author (so why did you write your version without the simplest of fact checks), or its just a few wee errors of fact that do not affect the principle thrust of the article.

      I’m sorry but that’s what got me really really annoyed.

      The argument that a blog on a cool political concept, a blog on a people driven anti banker anti government movement does not need to be either factually accurate, or indeed based on demonstrable fact, just cos its really cool, and people who point out the real and obvious errors are at best wet blankets and at worst right wing zealots is just wrong in so many many ways.

      We on the left, when using the Internet as an alternative to the Main stream Media, to the Fox’s, the BBC, the Mail and Torygraph need to be whiter than white. Every article that attacks the dominance of the right needs to be bomb proof, error free and defensible in a court of law.

      The argument that the intention was good, so the content and accuracy does not matter is not just naive, its downright dishonest, and is completely indefensible. And the continuing defense of that position in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary simply plays straight into the hands of the radical right.

      So Deena, I’m jealous? Jealous of what? Jealous of writing what in my view is one of the poorest pieces of on-line journalism of 2011?

      We have a saying where I come from. Aye right………

      Sighhh – no not jealous, just very disappointed at your reaction, and to be honest at some of the other responses here. And if you want to personalise these things I’d suggest that you are shocked that your lazy journalism got caught so easily, are now feeling very insecure, and also way way out of your depth.

      But for goodness sake we are on the same side – that’s whats so galling. I know there is an alternative – I’ve seen it in Iceland, in rural areas of Scandinavia, and all around me in the community land movement here in Scotland, So please admit that you got it wrong, move on and and research your next article properly for goodness sake!

      I will then restrain my bile, and give credit where credit is due. OK?

  46. Actually, I did write a follow up after the Oct 2th IMF conference. I think it was Nov 4th You can find it on my sebsite, otherjones.com. I’ve asked my contacts in Iceland to comment on that.

  47. A fantastic read Deena. If 99% read it, they would agree too. I got the gist of it from the start and don`t care about any errors. The negative comments are probly (deliberate error) the 1% trying to save themselves. I love watching them squirm about the place.

    • Hi Luke,

      Well, I guess you read those last few comments. Such bile!
      thanks for your support. You can see my follow up piece at http://www.otherjones.com – or on Daily Kos, on I think November 4th. I’m glad to hear from someone who realizes the gist is what counts in this interconnected world!

      • Its the bile of people clinging helplessly to the idea that there is no alternative. Present one and people get quite angree, it takes them out of their comfort zone.

      • I’m grateful to you for pointing out that these comments could come from the right.

        It hand’t crossed my mind.

      • I am a visual artist and event organiser who has been involved in establishing elements of occupy movements in Ireland and although I try to see all sides of the picture I generally fall on the side of egalitarian views. I believe in equality for all people, and I believe in free press media.

        The Reykjavik Grapevine, referenced several times for their complete destruction of this article in the comments, is a left-wing English language newspaper in Iceland, which was a bible for me when I lived there. They have wonderful writers and are a solid source of factual information, with good journalists and interesting opinion pieces.

        You have no way of proving any of this is true. I don’t care. I’m unsubscribing from these comments because you don’t seem to be able to see the damage you are causing from the people who are reading and believing what you have written.

        So regardless of whether you think it or not, this article is completely bogus (again, see the Grapevine: http://grapevine.is/Features/ReadArticle/A-Deconstruction-of-Icelands-Ongoing-Revolution). There is no online Icelandic constitution. The figures and other (much referenced) information is factually incorrect, and this is as dangerous an article as any of the drivel that Fox News come out with, because left-wing lies only damage the cause and make us just like them.

        Your heart is in the right place. Your article is lies and should not be online. I hope you learn but I think that your stubbornness on this issue is showing that you are unwilling to.

        If you travel to Iceland and see the wonderful things that are happening there you will see exactly who you are creating these lies about, and you will probably change your mind and take this down because that is a wonderful nation of people that you are belittling by creating untrue stories and forcing untrue opinions on them.

        Also, I would presume from the comments that I have read from people who clearly have well informed opinions that most are not from “right-wing” sources, but are from people like me who can see the potential damage publishing untrue stories can lead to. Blaming the errors in this text on a mistranslation is a cop-out. You are leaving this up intentionally so that people will continue to read it and get the wrong idea about what is going on in a beautiful country. Factual errors are not errors from mistranslation. An entire article full of factual errors is unforgivable.

        Don’t dismiss the Grapevine. That is an amazing paper by an amazing group of people who you should aspire to be more like.

        That’s all.

        Peace.

  48. What do you make of the latest news about China`s land grab hopes?

    http://www.icenews.is/index.php/2011/12/05/chinese-land-grab-in-iceland-causing-military-fears-in-canada/

    China is buying land all over the world and not for recreation purposes. They are buying up land in Australia to extract their gas. I only know this because I am a very active Fractivist.

    • China is out to beat us with our own methods. And they ares succeeding. And that is in the natural order of things. Nothing is forever. We’ll have to see if they, perhaps, give a better deal to the local than we do. Not sure.

  49. I have this habit of stumbling across info and news while searching for something else. It is certain that something drastic did happen at the end of the Triassic, because in the space of a few thousand years, half of all genera known to have existed at the time suddenly vanish from the fossil record. I hope Iceland is not about to cause another mass extinction.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15995845

    If it does, let`s hope It`s just the 1% who are wiped out otherwise we don`t stand a chance of recovery.

  50. (Reuters) – Iceland’s special prosecutor arrested the former chief executive of Glitnir Bank on Wednesday and questioned nearly two dozen people related to the collapse of the bank in 2008.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/30/us-iceland-glitnir-idUSTRE7AT2UX20111130

    I think some citizen arrests are in order around the world. Let`s follow Iceland’s lead and bring those bankers in.

  51. This is an interesting article and a great point of view that really deserves to made, a shame the journalist devalued it with a few inaccuracies and has since not corrected them.
    It is important that you publish the truth and you can’t lambast the rest of the press if you are not prepared to be honest yourself, so please make this a worthwhile article by correcting it.

    • Okay, enough. We’re going to close comments on this article because we are just going round and round in circles. The author has accepted her mistakes and we – the publisher – have retained them as they have become part of the story.

      A follow-up piece will be published shortly on this important subject. Thank you.

    • What inaccuracies would you like me to correct? that Iceland is not in the EU and that I used the word million instead of billion? I believe I did that somehwere along the line, but I cannot correct the other figures because there doesn’t seem to be one, infallible source. Also, an article that is still circulating is not likely to be caught up by my corrections, unless someone can tell me otherwise. Not bad attitude, I assure you,
      just wondering why I’m being singled out.

  52. While the original article may have a few factual errors, the foundation of the anti-CONservative Fascist argument that it presents is still sound. I mean, look, the CONservatives of the world have used “narrative building” for decades full of lies and manipulations to weave their world-view into the fabric of public perception. I’m not suggesting that Liberals/Progressives necessarily take that path also, but we’ve seen just how malleable a willfully ignorant, apathetic population can be. Yes, Liberals DO have facts, truth, and history on their side and every effort should be made to ensure the accuracy of an argument prior to making it, however the fundamental Truth of this particular article remains valid because at the heart of it, we all know that the Private Sector pro-Fascist CONservative ideology is flawed and evil to the core while Progressive Liberal ideology is the only path toward building a viable democratic civilization complete with a functional economy and social policies.

    • Thank you, Brian, for taking the time to say what cranky readers should have realized. I have just pulled up the comments that appeared on the Reijyavik Grapevine, and once again, cannot understand that people have been so riled up about this story, to the point of missing its point.

      I will do a separate blog that showcases these Icelandic comments.

      • I look at this situation this way. All of us adults can see right through the CONservative rhetoric and how they use messaging to manipulate “dumb” people. The CONservative Leadership recognizes how apathetic and, frankly, busy most people are in the world just trying to do their jobs and raise a family making it impossible to fact-check everything that goes out into the ether. With that fact firmly in their grasp, people like Murdoch, Ailes, Rove, and the Koch’s have successfully used words and media to skew the game to their favor by having people vote against their own best-interests. They have done this by twisting facts and being too casual with actual data.

        This is likely why an article like this is potentially offensive to those who have and continue to fight against the CONservatives, who casually use tactics of data manipulation (and outright lies) to build the narrative that people grow to believe in. The Norway situation is a victory for anti-CONservative ideology and it should be lauded as such which is why the article AT HEART is a positive asset. But giving the CONservative minions ANY ammunition to use (ie. “Look at how the Left lies and doesn’t tell the total truth to further their Socialist agenda!”) isn’t helpful either.

        Liberals/Progressives DO have a valid argument for their ideology and we should make it every chance we get, not only to preach to the choir, but to change the narrative for the generations who will come after us. The CONservatives actively utilize shoddy “reporting” in a way that would make Leni Reifenstahl proud, but Progressives don’t have to resort to manipulation to change that narrative. So I guess the lesson is to not give “them” ANY ammunition to wield because we all know that they will use it. CONservatives do not care about anything beyond their own wealth and they have no ethical core. we don’t have to help them in this war.

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