The Financial War Against Iceland: Being defeated by debt is as deadly as outright military warfare
by Prof Michael Hudson
Global Research, April 5, 2009
Iceland is under attack – not militarily but financially. It owes more than it can pay. This threatens debtors with forfeiture of what remains of their homes and other assets. The government is being told to sell off the nation’s public domain, its natural resources and public enterprises to pay the financial gambling debts run up irresponsibly by a new banking class. This class is seeking to increase its wealth and power despite the fact that its debt-leveraging strategy already has plunged the economy into bankruptcy. On top of this, creditors are seeking to enact permanent taxes and sell off public assets to pay for bailouts to themselves.
Being defeated by debt is as deadly as outright military warfare. Faced with loss of their property and means of self-support, many citizens will get sick, lead lives of increasing desperation and die early if they do not repudiate most of the fraudulently offered loans of the past five years. And defending its civil society will not be as easy as it is in a war where the citizenry stands together in coping with a visible aggressor. Iceland is confronted by more powerful nations, headed by the United States and Britain. They are unleashing their propagandists and mobilizing the IMF and World Bank to demand that Iceland not defend itself by wiping out its bad debts. Yet these creditor nations so far have taken no responsibility for the current credit mess. And indeed, the United States and Britain are net debtors on balance. But when it comes to their stance vis-à-vis Iceland, they are demanding that it impoverish its citizens by paying debts in ways that these nations themselves would never follow. They know that it lacks the money to pay, but they are quite willing to take payment in the form of foreclosure on the nation’s natural resources, land and housing, and a mortgage on the next few centuries of its future.
If this sounds like the spoils of war, it is – and always has been. Debt bondage is the name of this game. And the major weapon in this conflict of interest is how people perceive it. Debtors must be convinced to pay voluntarily, to put creditor interests above of the economy’s prosperity as a whole, and even to put foreign demands above their own national interest. This is not a policy that my country, the United States, follows. But popular discussion in Iceland to date has been one-sided in defense of creditor interests, not that of its own domestic debtors.
Ultimately, Iceland’s adversary is not a nation or even a class, but impersonal financial dynamics working globally and domestically. To cope with its current debt pressure, Iceland must recognize how uniquely destructive an economic regime its bankers have created, through self-serving legislation and outright fraud. With eager foreign complicity, its banks have managed to create enough foreign debt to cause chronic currency depreciation and hence domestic price inflation for many decades to come.
To put Iceland’s financial dilemma in perspective, examine how other countries have dealt with huge debt obligations. Historically, the path of least resistance has been to “inflate their way out of debt.” The idea is to pay debts with “cheap money” in terms of its reduced purchasing power. Governments do this by printing money and running budget deficits (spending more than they take in through taxes) large enough to raise prices as this new money chases the same volume of goods. That is how Rome depreciated its currency in antiquity, and how America managed to erode much of its own debt in the 1970s – and how the dollar’s falling international value has wiped out much of the U.S. international debt in recent years. This price inflation reduces the debt burden – as long as wages and other income rise in tandem.
Continue to read:
The Financial War Against Iceland