Brain Food: Meltdown Iceland (The Volcano Wasn't the Worst of It)

Last week I decided I wanted to take a crack at reading books with a bit more heft, substance, weight. Books about finance, politics, social issues...

It's OK! Don't start sweating yet. We can get through this. I know, I know. I'm worried too.

The series is now called BRAIN FOOD! Look for the walnut.

What you will not get from Meltdown Iceland: lore about Icelandic society and customs, loin-stirring descriptions of the island's natural beauty or a concrete sense of how Iceland's near-bankruptcy affected the average person.

What you will get from Meltdown Iceland: a better sense of why and how the global economic meltdown happened. Most everything that led to Iceland's economic downfall are small-scale examples of what happened globally (particularly in the United States). For example:
  1. Ridiculous loan terms (no money down? no assessment of qualification?)
  2. A willingness to take on debt (both by the average person and corporations)
  3. The rise of a banking class that was allowed to operate almost autonomously from the government
  4. The lack of an empowered watchdog
  5. A desire to accelerate industrialization and progress, even without the backing of native capital or natural resources. The mindset that such progress is deserved, even if forged in smoke and mirrors.
  6. Use of dated economic policies (Thatcherism=deregulation, privatization)
How accessible is the book?: Medium. It sure made me wish I'd retained something anything from my first year economics class. Stuff like: what is the correlation between inflation and rising interest rates?

Key take away: Iceland's financial meltdown was partially caused by the incestuous nature of its financial/governmental pool and a tolerance for a boom/bust rhythm (the super trendy-cool Iceland of yore was nothing but an economic bubble pushed to the max). It was also a global equivalent of a canary that pointed to the dangers of tolerating high levels of debt and a lack of regulation.

Fun fact: Did you know that Iceland's current prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, is the first openly gay head of state in the world? Nice.

Meltdown Iceland/ Rogers Boyes / Bloomsbury US / PB, 2010

3 comments:

Amy said...

Sounds like a good book! It is going on my want list. Also, the prime minister is now the first openly gay and married head of state! :D I love it!

Serena said...

sounds like there is a great deal to learn in this book...and an openly gay and married head of state...that's just fantastic. It's about time.

B.Kienapple said...

Gay marriage is legal in Iceland? Rock on! Now if the US would only follow suit...

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