Yes, the Icelandic story continues. From here in the states, where bankers and CEOs arrogantly flaunt the fact that they are immune from consequences of their actions, it seems like a wild fantasy to have a government with the conscience and courage to actually serve the people – Much less actively pursue white collar criminals.
According to Truthout, the Icelandic government has now appointed an ex-cop as head bounty hunter to track down individuals who helped sink the country’s banking sector during the financial crash. And he means business.
Hauksson’s job description, according to PressEurop’s translation of the piece:
“On one hand, we have to investigate all suspicion of fraud and offenses committed before 2009, on the other hand, we bring the lawsuits against the suspects to court ourselves,” Hauksson explains. This is a ‘totally new’ method which allows the investigators to “follow the case” and the judicial system to “know the cases like the back of their hand”. This is indispensable in order “to compete with the well-prepared defense attorneys”.
For those of us who have been eagerly following the news from Iceland, this is a delightful turn of events, meaning that many of these international criminals will meet justice – at least in Iceland.
Hauksson oversees a posse of 100 researchers to help track down outlaws. He’s netted some major convictions since starting in 2009, including the former chief of staff of the country’s finance minister on insider trading charges. Many others await their day in court…
How would it be to live in a nation that made the decision to allow the banks to fail rather than bail them out on the backs of the taxpayers? And what if other countries put corrupt bankers and politicians on trial? What would it be like to live in a country that actually is responsive to the needs of its citizens – country where wealth does not automatically confer immunity and power, but instead, a country that believes in justice and sanity.
Remember,Iceland has forgiven loans equaling 13 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product, which has eased the debt burden for more than 25 percent of Iceland’s population.
It’s probably not a concept that most U.S. banks and lawmakers want to think about, but the fact is, Iceland’s economy has grown by leaps and bounds since the government there implemented widespread debt forgiveness for many of its citizens.
The initiative came about following protests by Icelanders in 2008-2009 who were angry at the country’s leaders and bankers for its fiscal and economic collapse. At one point, protestors gathered around the Parliament building and pelted it with rocks.
In the ensuing months, Iceland banks have forgiven loans equaling 13 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product, which has eased the debt burden for more than 25 percent of Iceland’s population, according to a February report published by the Icelandic Financial Services Association.
“You could safely say that Iceland holds the world record in household debt relief,” Lars Christensen, chief emerging markets economist at Danske Bank A/S in Copenhagen, told Bloomberg News. “Iceland followed the textbook example of what is required in a crisis. Any economist would agree with that.”
(Well, yes, any REAL economist would agree — one who isn’t on the payroll of the multinational banks!)
Unorthodox approach to defaulting on debt
Yet Iceland has spurred this economic miracle without bailing out the bankers with untold billions.
Instead, Iceland did “everything the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the global economic establishment thinks you should never do”, according to Allister Heath, editor of business daily City A.M., when “it allowed banks to go bust, it defaulted on its debt, it reneged on international deals and so on, putting taxpayers first”.
The IMF sternly warned Iceland that the consequences would be dire if they reneged on the “debt” created by international banksters. The new government opted to ignore those warnings (threats) and put the well-being of its people first. And guess what? Their economy is growing by “leaps and bounds”. Instead of the widespread homelessness and hunger found in the US and other countries that have struggled to repay debts created by multinational banks, their middle class is thriving.
Some people have argued that Iceland is unique due to its lack of diversity (no “others” to blame the crisis in) and its small size, and that their success could not be replicated in a larger country with a diverse population. And this may have a grain of truth – Iceland is homogenous in a way that a larger country is not – yet we should not automatically assume that nothing they’ve done could be applied elsewhere.
To use the US as an example, it is a large country with a diverse population. All one has to do to see the successful “divide and conquer’ strategy is observe conservative “talking points” in the US media, as the wealthy elite repeatedly divert their own looting of the treasury by dividing the citizens into a myriad of different factions, predictably attacking immigrants, gay people, minorities and the poor at every opportunity.
But the inspiring choices taken by Iceland can still be applied in any country educated enough to resist the PR tactics of the 1%.
I do believe that all nations will eventually become more just, more environmentally sane, and more humane. And eventually we’ll evolve beyond nation-states and hierarchical social structure. But while many of us are still far away from that day, we can all learn a thing or two from Iceland.
We look forward to the upcoming trials!