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"Iceland instantly became the only nation on earth that Americans could point to and say, "Well, at least we didn’t do that.""

So, I'm reading this article from Vanity Fair on the total economic collapse of Iceland, and it's fascinating. Terrifying, but fascinating. It is essentially a case study of how the psychology of a society could lead them to behave en masse in such a way that has, effectively, ruined them all.

Yet another hedge-fund manager explained Icelandic banking to me this way: You have a dog, and I have a cat. We agree that they are each worth a billion dollars. You sell me the dog for a billion, and I sell you the cat for a billion. Now we are no longer pet owners, but Icelandic banks, with a billion dollars in new assets.
It's like when, after the fire department shows up to put out the smoking embers of what was once your home, your wife says, "What the hell were you thinking?" and all you can reply is, "Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time."

As a side note, it also has this:

Alcoa, the biggest aluminum company in the country, encountered two problems peculiar to Iceland when, in 2004, it set about erecting its giant smelting plant. The first was the so-called “hidden people”—or, to put it more plainly, elves—in whom some large number of Icelanders, steeped long and thoroughly in their rich folkloric culture, sincerely believe. Before Alcoa could build its smelter it had to defer to a government expert to scour the enclosed plant site and certify that no elves were on or under it. It was a delicate corporate situation, an Alcoa spokesman told me, because they had to pay hard cash to declare the site elf-free but, as he put it, “we couldn’t as a company be in a position of acknowledging the existence of hidden people.”
Words to live by.


There's something charming about having to verify that there are no elves on the land before you build. Sounds like something that belongs in a Charles de Lint book.

I think so too.

I do feel bad for the companies, tho. what with the difficulties in trying to prove a negative.

COMPANY SPOKESMAN: There are no elves on this land.
ELF PROMOTER: That you know of!
COMPANY SPOKESMAN: Well, true. We couldn't find any.
ELF PROMOTER: Did you look everywhere?
COMPANY SPOKESMAN: Well, we looked a lot of places.
ELF PROMOTER: That doesn't mean that there aren't any there! You didn't look hard enough! Check again! Everywhere this time!
GOVERNMENT EXPERT: Hooray! My Master's in Folklore Studies is finally paying off!