Iceland's Democratic Recovery from Financial Disaster
According to President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the reason his nation recovered so swiftly from the financial crisis is because the democratic will of the people was prioritized over the financial interests of the markets.
President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson explains how shocked Iceland was to find itself in the midst of financial ruin during the 2008 worldwide economic crisis. The small nation had followed the lead of the United States and Europe by deregulating its financial sector. The consequences of such an action led it to the brink of an economic meltdown. The peaceful, democratic Icelandic people were shocked to see their prosperous status quo interrupted by panic and unrest.
"Iceland is one of the most democratic and secure societies in the world and we've always conducted everything through peaceful dialogue and discussions, but suddenly we had riots, we had demonstrations. There were a fire burning in the center of Reykjavik, the police had to defend the Parliament and even the central bank"
In today's featured Big Think interview, President Grímsson discusses how financial unrest can threaten social cohesion and why Iceland's swift recovery from the crisis of six years ago can be attributed to its unfettered democratic values:
"[Iceland] is, I believe, the only location where the democratic will of the people was deemed to be more important than the perceived financial interests of the markets."
When it came time to formulate policy to help Iceland emerge from financial ruin, the nation's leaders chose to eschew the orthodoxy of crisis-mode economic management. They didn't save the banks. They chose to devalue their currency. They refused to introduce austerity measures of the scale that had been deemed to be absolutely necessary in the decades before. And when there was pressure from European nations for the taxpayers to take on the debt of a failed Icelandic bank in Britain and the Netherlands, Grímsson put the decision to a referendum.
"Now we know the outcome six years later that Iceland, having been the exhibit number one of a failed financial state is now exhibit number one in Europe of a recovery from a financial crisis."
The takeaway for Grímsson is that choosing to divert from orthodoxy led to Iceland's quick and total recovery. The country has thrived because he and his fellow leaders chose to value the will of the people over the interests of the financial sector. Economic growth is at 3-4%, unemployment is at 4-5%, and many of the major business sectors are doing better now than they were before the crisis. Grímsson offers this as a lesson for other nations that find themselves in a position similar to where Iceland was in 2008.
President Grímsson's is co-founder of Arctic Circle, a non-profit, non-partisan open assembly focused on Arctic issues.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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