Summary of Meltdown Iceland

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Most people aren’t familiar with Iceland, an isolated, homogenous, near-Arctic island. Now, thanks to Roger Boyes’s wonderfully told tale of its financial collapse, readers can learn what happened to the economy, politics and culture of this unusual, mostly-frozen nation. Iceland was the unlikely first victim of the 2008 global financial collapse – the actual canary in the coal mine. Its financial excesses, cronyism and poor governance serve as a microcosm of the problems facing large capitalist nations. Boyes’s financial case study flows like a novel. He is unafraid to draw biting conclusions from his detailed presentation: here, villains are villains, greed is greed, names are named. This fast-moving story puts the global fiscal meltdown into perspective: the 2008-2009 international economic crisis began in this lone, cold outpost and then burst into global flames.

About the Author

Roger Boyes is an award-winning correspondent. He has written about Western and Eastern Europe for the past 30 years for the Financial Times and the Times of London. He has been reporting from Iceland since 1976, when he went there to cover on the Cold War.



It Started in Iceland

The economic recession that engulfed the world in 2008 began in subpolar Iceland. The nation lacked the resources to fight back, given that its entire population is only 300,000, barely a mid-sized town’s worth of people in many countries. Its financial and political leaders could all fit in the same bus. Iceland is so small that it could have staved off financial calamity with only $20 billion, but it didn’t have the money. Instead, it suffered a national crisis that ravaged its citizens, its financial institutions and the foundations of its Nordic culture. The crisis became a national issue in October 2008, when Prime Minister Geir Haarde (who served from 2006 to 2009) told citizens that Iceland was on the verge of bankruptcy. This came as a national shock since local entrepreneurs had embraced globalism, buying supermarkets in the U.S. and Scandinavia, fashion and retail companies in the U.K., as well as England’s West Ham United soccer club.

Icelanders purchased some of these assets with unsecured loans after globalization vaulted it into the economic fast lane. Newfound wealth was a welcome change in a country whose primary resources, prior...

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