Lessons on the World Financial Crisis from a Small Bankrupt Island
By Roger Boyes
(Bloomsbury USA, Hardcover, 9781608190188, 256pp.)
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
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The compelling and authoritative story of the financial destruction of Iceland—a saga that mirrors, in microcosm, the forces that caused the global economic crisis.The economic crisis that emerged in America in 2008 unleashed a veritable epidemic of ill health around the world. However it was Iceland, whose population of three hundred thousand had the world’s highest GDP per capita and counted itself the happiest of countries, that caught the worst cold. It has nearly killed them. No story from the economic crisis of 2008 is more evocative than I celand’s. The names may be unfamiliar—Johanesson, Bjoergolfsson, Oddsson—but their exuberance, greed, and miscalculation have many counterparts on our shores. And however traumatic the collapse of individual companies may be in the United States, in Iceland’s case an entire country melted down. All the wealth accumulated in the previous decade—during which a new breed of Icelanders had dared to believe they could compete economically on an international level, during which Reykjavik became the Capital of Cool—disappeared practically overnight. Iceland’s story shows how closely the world economy is interconnected: The default on subprime mortgages in the U .S. led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which led directly to the run on Iceland’s banks, which forced local authorities in Britain to switch off the heating in their classrooms. With panache and color, Roger Boyes tells the inside story of the bankrupting of I celand: how it happened, the human dramas—from politicians to financiers to fishermen—that continue to swirl around it, and the lessons we can not ignore. Published on the first anniversary of its collapse, Meltdown Iceland is a cautionary tale for our times, an authoritative and compelling account of the financial destruction of a tiny country whose saga should resonate for us all.
Roger Boyes is an award-winning correspondent, having covered Western and Eastern Europe for the past thirty years. He currently writes for the Times of London, and has in the past written for the Financial Times. He has been reporting from Iceland since he was sent on his first foreign assignment to cover the Cod War in 1976. He lives in Berlin.
"British correspondent Boyes, a veteran when it comes to covering Iceland and its 300,000 citizens, recounts how the country's financial saga began in the 1990s with the privatization of banks and a series of accommodative government policies... Boyes goes beyond the financial crisis to explain the country's social structure, cultural outlook, and political and business hierarchy... For anyone interested in Iceland, Boyes's work is absolutely essential. For those needing material on the global nature of the credit crisis, this is a great supplementary source."—Library Journal "How did the tiny, remote island nation of Iceland become a casualty of the global financial crisis? Boyes, correspondent for the Financial Times and the Times of London, has been reporting from Iceland since he was sent on his first assignment to cover the “Cod War” in 1976. In Iceland, as elsewhere, the seeds of destruction were planted 25 years earlier with the privatization and deregulation of the Reagan-Thatcher years... When it all fell apart during the global financial crisis, Icelandic banks collapsed, bankrupting the entire nation. Boyes follows the saga involving a mere handful of bankers and politicians, but the story becomes a microcosm of the situation facing the world at large."—Booklist A valuable adjunct to the small but growing literature surrounding the current economic crisis."—Kirkus Reviews “An energetic exploration of lessons to be drawn from a statelet that skidded toward bankruptcy a year ago this month.”—Bloomberg.com