Saturday, August 6, 2011

Piss on them - Iceland's loud 'No'

Photographs of bankers who left Iceland after the financial crisis have a new use in the restroom of a bar in Reykjavik. In addition to urinating on the bankers, Icelanders voted out the right-wing Independent Party and elected Johanna Sigurdardottir: head of the Social Democrats, former flight attendant, the first woman to lead Iceland’s government, and the first out lesbian to lead any government in the modern world.

"Can’t pay back, won’t pay back!" The people of Iceland have now twice voted not to repay international debts, incurred by banks and bankers, for which the whole island is being held responsible. With the present turmoil in European capitals, could this be the way forward for other economies? - An inside look by Silla Sigurgeirsdóttir and Robert H. Wade at the country’s financial tsunami and its stunning road to recovery.

The small island of Iceland has lessons for the world. It held a referendum in April to decide, more or less, whether ordinary people should pay for the folly of the bankers (and by extension, could governments control the corporate sector if they depended on it for finance). Sixty per cent of the population rejected an agreement negotiated between Iceland, the Netherlands and the UK to pay back the British and Dutch governments for the money they spent to recompense savers with the failed bank Icesave. That was less resistance than the first referendum last spring, when 93% voted no.

The referendum was significant since European governments, pressured by speculators, the IMF and the European Commission, are imposing austerity policies on which their citizens have not voted. Even devotees of deregulation are worried by the degree of the western world’s servitude to unconstrained financial institutions. After the Icelandic referendum, even the liberal Financial Times noted with approval on 13 April that it had been possible to “put citizens before banks”, an idea which does not resonate among European political leaders. Article posted here

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