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Opinion
One Nation, One Party, One Bank Account?

One Nation, One Party, One Bank Account?

Published October 12, 2009

A year after the economic collapse and one can’t help notice that nothing has really changed. The oligarchs, though officially bankrupt, still control Iceland’s industries. Of the two daily papers, one is run by the main architect of the collapse, former PM and Central Bank Manager Davið Oddsson, and the other is still owned by Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson, one of the most indebted men in Iceland’s history.
Free speech has been all but suspended, while no one has assumed responsibility for any of the decisions made here in the past twenty years. Even the Icesave issue remains unresolved. Which brings us to the question, are Iceland’s politicians merely incompetent, or could it be that they don’t actually want the current problems solved? It seems the latter might actually be the case.  
In a recent issue of Time Magazine, columnist Joe Klein calls the US debate about Health Care a national embarrassment. Icelanders are no strangers to national embarrassment, but let’s let Klein finish. He writes “Obama should be heartened by the fact that most of his Republican adversaries oppose the bill for crass political rather than ideological reasons.”
He then goes on to explain this, saying that the Republicans are terrified that the healthcare bill will pass, not because they are afraid that the results will be a failure, but because they are afraid that it will be a success. If Obama manages to reform health care, end America’s hopeless wars and rescue the economy, in other words, pull the US out of the quagmire the Republicans have mired it in, the Democrats will be in an unassailable position for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the Republicans seem to have decided to put their own party’s’ political interests ahead of the good of the nation.
They would rather do harm to their adversaries than take part in doing good for their people. No wonder bipartisanship has proven impossible on this or any other major issue.
The Good, the Bad
and the Icesave
Which brings us to Iceland. A year after the October collapse, the Independence Party has proven to be as irresponsible in opposition as it was in government. They spent all of summer squabbling about Icesave while the nation’s households sank deeper into debt. Even after they had made their amendments, they still refused to support the bill, instead electing to remain idle as the bill was passed.
No doubt they hope to accrue political advantage from this. If the bill proves a relative success, they will claim credit for their amendments. If it proves a failure, they will claim to never have supported it to begin with. This argument, of course, can easily be stood on its head. There are no good solutions to Icesave, only various degrees of bad. If worst comes to worst, it will be because the Independence Party left the country in a hopeless position. If the problem can be solved, it only proves that the current government is that much better than the last.
Party or People?
The Progressive Party is little better, if slightly less obvious. On the same day that the current government made their first real proposals, a lowering of the debt of Icelandic families by up to 40%, it was the Progressive Party that captured the headlines by announcing an imaginary loan from Norway.
The Icesave fiasco is something that was created by the previous government. Not wanting to see the country’s problems solved, problems that were created by itself, is therefore a case of the Independence Party offending the people twice. But they don’t stop there. The party still controls the city of Reykjavík, and from there are busy continuing their futile policies, currently by selling off the energy supplies and trying to tear down old houses in the city centre.
From a party-political perspective, this makes sense. Eighteen years of the Independence Party rule led to national bankruptcy. If the Red-Green Alliance manages to solve the major problems, it will be the end of the Independence Party’s dominance in Icelandic politics. It is therefore understandable that it chooses to put its own interests ahead of those of its country. It is also very unfortunate.



Mag
Opinion
Reykjavík Forces Its Music Schools Into Bankruptcy

Reykjavík Forces Its Music Schools Into Bankruptcy

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As you may have heard, Icelandic music teachers recently ended a five-week long strike. The music teachers’ strike was caused by a wage dispute. It was resolved when Icelandic authorities promised music teachers wages equal to those enjoyed by other teachers in Iceland. Now that these demands have been met—even if only to certain degree—we music teachers ought to be able to continue our work, educating Iceland’s future crop of musicians. But, are we? Not necessarily. For instance, my school, Söngskóli Sigurðar Demetz (“The Vocal Academy of Sigurður Demetz”), can now prepare students for the upcoming Christmas concerts. However, if

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Opinion
Good Ol’ Traditions

Good Ol’ Traditions

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One of last week’s loudest debates has to do with next year’s State Treasury budget, which Alþingi has been debating, as tradition has it, these last days before Christmas. Among the proposed changes in taxation is the lowering of VAT on electric appliances, and a corresponding raised VAT on food products. The What Since the proposal was first introduced, these two particular changes, seen as complimentary, have been disputed. The opposition’s reasoning seems obvious: food is an unavoidable expense, and expensive food will hit hardest those with already meager income. Electric appliances, however, remain a largely optional expense, and higher

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Opinion
Spotify: The Market Sets The Price

Spotify: The Market Sets The Price

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Recently, the independent news site Nútíminn, leader among independent news sites named Nútíminn, ran an Op-Ed by a terribly uninformed man who apparently believes he can run a record company without, it seems, having any sort of a business degree. In his screed, he insists that Supply and Demand break up, because their age old relationship no longer suits his specific needs. Furthermore, he seems to believe that record sales and online streaming are musicians’ sole source of revenue, and that free market capitalism should no longer require businesses to either adapt or perish. Should you be reading this, Haraldur Leví

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Opinion
Iceland’s Economy Shrinks In Third Quarter

Iceland’s Economy Shrinks In Third Quarter

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After years of growing at a respectable rate, the Icelandic economy seems to have stalled. According to the most recent measurements of Statistics Iceland the Icelandic, published on December 5, the Icelandic economy barely registered any growth over the first nine months of the year, and actually shrunk in the third quarter. These results stand in stark contrast to the extremely rosy projections of a couple of weeks ago, which promised a growth rate of 2.7% over the year. Analysts at the large banks were similarly projecting growth around 3% for the year. Now it seems more likely we will

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Opinion
Be A Peaceful Infant Smiling In The Manger

Be A Peaceful Infant Smiling In The Manger

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Feast of lights and love, the family days of Christmas; “what to dine and how to dress”— oh, don’t we all just thrill up on the quirky-looking sweaters and find it all so amusing? And don’t we, just this season, take the necessity of “having a good time” all too seriously concerning all the consumerism attached, as it is almost obligatory to accept February’s Visa bill without any grudge, the late-Christmas-hangover? At least, most of the time “doin’ what ya wanna cuz it’s Xmas” has been, in my context, stepping just a little bit over the line; knowing how much

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Opinion
The Nature Pass: The Stupidest Tax In History

The Nature Pass: The Stupidest Tax In History

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According to official estimates, the number of foreign tourists in Iceland will top the one million mark for the first time in history by the end of the year. Which means it will have more than tripled over the course of last decade: in 2003, some 300,000 foreigners visited Iceland. Trampling hordes But while the growing number of foreign visitors has helped fuel economic growth, the hordes of visitors pose problems of their own. Virtually every popular tourist destination in Iceland is under serious stress, as irreparable damage is being done by trampling tourists. The problem is that neither the Icelandic

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