A Black Report on a Septic Isle

The RNA committee of the Icelandic Alþingi has, finally, issued its Black Report, into the collapse of the Icelandic economy and the events leading up to it.
The entire report, all 2000 pages or so, are being read aloud by a series of actors at the City Theater.
Initial reactions range from the weasel "mistakes were made", through blunt assertions of robbery and treason.

It can be done...

I remember, as an idealistic teenager, being outraged as I became conscious of the ongoing political corruption in Iceland.
Yet, there was some reassurance in noting its pettiness.
It was a bottle, or a case, of whiskey at christmas; maybe a nice silver service from a "friend of the family".
But, civil servants who ruled on billion dollar deals continued to live in small suburban apartments, and politicians were still of the people, not a separate aristocracy.

Iceland wasn't like "those" other developing nations, where civil servants worked for the bribes, where politicians treated their nations banks as their personal piggy banks, and fled to their illicit Surrey mansions just ahead of the revolution which installed the next generation of kleptocratic sociopaths.
It was not like that.

"Banana Republic
Septic Isle
Screaming in the Suffering sea
It sounds like crying (crying, crying)"

The thing is, that the society worked.
People mostly got rich through hard work - there was that one guy who built a mansion while declaring no taxable income (income tax records are public records), but that was tax dodging through a loophole on individual proprietors businesses, not outright fraud.
My classmates from elementary school seem to have done well for themselves, they run businesses, work as professionals, are politically active, or not, happy with their life.
Iceland went in a few decades from a post-colonial third world country selling fish, to a diverse post-industrial economy with high per capita GDP, an educated workforce, high tech niche industries and a flourishing art scene.

Then the rentiers stepped in.
It was rationalized - straight out of the Anglo neo-capitalism playbook.
Deregulation, privatization.
Iceland was Special, and everyone would be Rich. Well, everyone who mattered.
All the cronies and cousins of the 12, or was it 20, people who decided to divide the country between themselves.
They probably honestly thought everyone would get rich.
After all, they were Special, and they just wanted to make sure they got Richer Firstest.

So, the ill-named Independence Party and Progressive Party split the banks. One for each Party and their friends.
Fraudulently conveyed decades of savings by a nation to themselves, and then leveraged their theft to multiply their gains.

They stole the whole fucking country.

The amount of money seized through excess dividends, bonuses, asset sales and unsecured loans is somewhere around 50-100% of Iceland's GDP, as it was.
And every stage of the looting has now been carefully unwrapped and exposed, and the fuckers sit there and look in the camera and say it wasn't their fault.
"Don't blame me, it just isn't fair"
Some of them are too cowardly to even do that much, fleeing into temporary, or permanent exile.

And we are all, the whole country, being terribly civilized about it.
We wouldn't chop off their heads - they don't deserve the honour.
Though it is tempting to contemplate at least chopping their goolies off.
Or, to be traditional, stuff them in a sack and toss them in a river...

After all, if they passed laws that made it legal to steal, for them to steal, what can you do?

Well, something must be done.
The focus right now is on the politicians and regulators that were delinquent or complicit, the implication is that the politicians broke laws and may face jail. Eventually. Maybe.

But, the real problem is the theft. It is the businessmen, the "Sortie Vikings", who are sitting on numbered bank accounts, shell companies and their yachts and mansions.
If Iceland is to survive as a society, the stolen property must be conveyed back.
Freeze and seize - and, if necessary, make the laws that make it happen.

A thief can't give good title, and you have to give value to receive stolen negotiable paper in good faith.

"Stab you in the back yeah
Laughing in your face
Glad to see the place again
It's a pity nothing's changed"

Ha, ha, ha.
It was a joke...
Seriously, it was a joke!

Too little, too late

The Black Report (english executive summary)
The Black Report (is.)

Oh, and lest you laugh.
Their brethren are robbing you, right now.

I have to say, the dramatic reading of the report by actors is very powerful.
It is webcast, and the dry dramatic reading makes an impact.
Just checked, still going strong, at 5 in the morning.

More like this

fled to their illicit Surrey mansions just ahead of the revolution

I used to live in Miami, and I went to high school with the children of some of these people. There was quite the influx from Nicaragua circa 1979.

I've been long tar and feathers for a while now. I'm wondering whether I can maintain the position long enough for it to pay off.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 14 Apr 2010 #permalink

Your story reads like a children's book. Except the part you left out, where the thieves end up in an oven trying to steal one last cookie, or find some other timely demise.

Hm, only if you like the original Grimm versions.
Or maybe HC Andersen morality tales - poor people who freeze to death on the steps while the rich party on in the warmth.
No Disney there.