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Machinations of the shadow elite

A new article in the Huffington Post by economist Robert Wade from the LSE and Sigurbjörg [Silla] Sigurgeirsdóttir from the U of Iceland is a chilling read. It gives a pretty concise account of the machinations of the Independence Party and their cronies in the lead-up to the meltdown, and proves how a handful of people subversively seized power in Iceland — and can do so elsewhere.

With near-exclusive access to information, power brokers can also brand it for the media and public to suit their own purposes, with only a few able to counter them. The Oddsson and later Haarde government proved masterful at this. They relied primarily on the banks’ research departments for economic analysis. Iceland’s National Economic Institute had built a reputation for independent thinking and, at times, published unwelcome reports, warning that the economy’s management was going haywire. Oddsson abolished it in 2002. Statistics Iceland, the public data agency, was notably cowed into suppressing unfavourable information. And the University of Iceland bowed to pressures to make its Economic and Social Research centres self-funding–that is, to rely on finding buyers for commissioned research–with the convenient result that they no longer published big-picture reports with a critical edge.

Recommended reading.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • sylvia hikins October 14, 2010, 11:46 pm

    The analysis is fascinating, but more importantly, what are you doing about this in Iceland? Those Institutions that were ‘cowed’ like the University of Iceland and bowed to pressures, what are they contributing intellectually to refresh and re-vitalise Icelandic society, to speak out against patronage, to support and encourage radical reform? Oddson may be still trying to manipulate the media but he is no longer in power. Those organisations that were damaged by the meltdown should be speaking out loud and clear for structural change, for transparency, for meritocracy to replace clans, for open governance enshrined in law. Some historians will argue that history always repeats itself. Let’s hope this doesn’t prove to be true of Iceland.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • Kris October 15, 2010, 1:24 am

    I think we are living in the Twilight of Democracy (my unwritten novel). The goal of this process is to create a dictatorship where real power is outside the democratic process. This goal has been achieve in Iceland, the UK and US as well as a variety of other countries. Iceland has crashed and burned, so the bits and pieces of evidence are being found in the trash (financial associations and political agreements). In Iceland, the crime has gone bad. The players are being exposed. That is great. But they still have lot’s of power because people still don’t understand the severity of the situation. How can they with the villains in control of TV and the two major newspapers.I’m more sceptical of the outcome than Sylvia. The more money that you take them more the devil (IMF) has you. The reason the members of parliament welcome the cash is because it saves them. Them. Them. Them. Not you or me.
    It’s too bad Eva Jolly left. Who is going to pick up that torch?

  • R.L.Dogh October 15, 2010, 3:50 am

    As some note in comments on the Huff Post, the article is long on accusations and short on documentation. In the excerpt you provide, at the top, they write, “power brokers can also brand it for the media and public to suit their own purposes, with only a few able to counter them”. This appears to be what they are doing. Note how they “brand” the Oddsson and Haarde government, with no more than their authoritative statement.

    Are Icelandic intellectuals really as easily cowed and lined up to march in lockstep as they say? Do they really have as little self-assertiveness as the article says? Only the hoi-poloi have fortitude enough to stand up in the square and talk back?

    I’m not convinced.

  • Michael Schulz October 15, 2010, 8:39 am

    So what? What’s new? Just by labeling everything flex this and flex that (after all there are things such as liquid modernity etc.) doesn’t give new insights. The question is: how to hold DO and GH and others in politics but also media and academia, etc. accountable, accountable in practical terms, not in theory !?

  • andy KJ October 15, 2010, 9:30 am

    To remove the growth, remove the source of funds – the fishing licences.

    Not really going to happen is it? Need to change how you do business ie , if you are at the bottam of a hole…stop digging.

  • Mark October 15, 2010, 10:37 am

    The problem for the government, and any government of any stripe and with whatever stated intention when the enter office, is that they have to work with the incumbent elite.

    In a country like Britain, with 60 million people, the REAL elite, those that can have personal phone calls with government minister probably lists in the low thousands.

    How many have that influence in a country of 320,000? There a small number of fishing families and the “new” banking and business owners.

    Probably a few dozen, maybe 100 max.

    They run the country. They have the money. The own, either directly, or via mortgage contracts, most of the property.

    Add to the fact that the civil service, judges, politician, etc work in the same circles as the elite, went to the same universities and are often related to them, any new government will be utterly hamstrung. There will be no Enron-style court cases.

    So, bar a revolution, the only thing that can change is for another group of connected students, this time brought up in a culture of social interdependence rather than tooth-and-claw capitalism, to grow up and re-invent the state again. Which will take 2o years or so.

    In the short term, the global economy will recover and probably life will become (temporary) better on it’s own.

  • PeterRRRRR October 15, 2010, 1:35 pm

    One Word: EU. Iceland is just too small, too little oversight, too little regulatory capability, to go it alone in the global economy.

    “The Locomotive?” Are you kidding me? A few months ago, I mentioned how the whole US Neocon, Nut Job Gang (Cheney, Wolfowicz, etc) applied the writings of Ayn Rand to their own vision of the world. Guess the influence on Icelandic undergrads back in the ’70s was pretty strong too.

  • mb October 15, 2010, 1:49 pm

    @Kris – will Twilight of Democracy involve a young, hunky, vampire version of Thomas Jefferson?

  • kevin oconnor,waterford,ireland October 15, 2010, 2:44 pm

    Its the Bilderburgers comrade citizens,communism Stalin style people enslaved by the state ,capitalism our style people enslaved by the rich private cartels with politicians in pocket (competition,free market globalization,level playing field what a laugh, the only level playing field they want is for us all to end up in a Chinese slave factory) Socialism Scando style is the least worst option and even they have rich people, the rule of thumb 50% GDP grab by the socialist state and they then dish it out to the poor bottom 50% after having fleeced the top 1% who deserve it, come on they never worked that hard, double shifts in McDonalds yeah sure.

  • Kris October 15, 2010, 3:53 pm

    mb: I only have the title so far. Maybe you can write that chapter and we’ll make it like an exquisite corpse.
    Iceland is fun to watch because it is so small that these connections are easily perceived. The power relationships are small onions. Much easier than to try to unravel the power connections of a corporation like CNN. Find out who the senior editors are and their bios and you will learn a lot about the ‘news’.
    P Wolfowitz is one of my personal favourites for the most evil man on the planet. He helped set up the torture regime in the US and set up its alibi (enemy combatants are not listed in the Geneva Convention). Then he went to the word bank! Gotta love it.
    Whoever these shadow elite are, you need to tackle them on the policy level: fish quotas, financial regulations, etc. Say you go after the Bildenbergs. Best to get them by reducing the influence of lobyists and special interest groups rather than chasing after the brand.
    PS I view a lot of these things in marketing terms. Bildneberg is like Coke, of Gucci. They can always sell the same product (evil) under a new brand.
    None of this stuff is new, but it is good to be aware of it. Leo Tolstoy in “The Kingdom of Heaven Lies Within” actually devotes lots of energy to discuss the relationship between the state, media and church to make money off of war. He was definitely in the know and was excommunicated for his efforts.
    “Oh the times. Oh the morals!” Cicero
    Catiline Conspiracy is also a fun historical review. Same old stuff I guess.

  • D_Boone October 15, 2010, 8:47 pm

    It happens in other countries….. Iceland is not alone


    Foreclosure fraud parody

    Summarizes the present situation in the US, but it has scary level of relevance to the current situation in Iceland as well