Ordinary people, farmers and fishermen, taxpayers, doctors, nurses, teachers are being asked to shoulder through their taxes a burden that was created by irresponsible greedy bankers.
– Iceland President Olafur Grimsson
In October 2008, polls showed that the majority of the American people, 56 percent, were opposed to the $700 billion TARP bill that funded the bank bailouts at the cost of $2,334 to each and every 300 million of them. Despite some initial resistance shown by the Republicans in the House of Representatives, the bankers succeeded in overriding the will of the American people, thanks to their elected officials who purport to represent them. So much for democracy in America.
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Unlike the unfortunate Americans, the people of Iceland were given the chance to exert their will directly on a similar banking bailout in the form of a referendum. As the U.S. Congress had done before them, the politicians in the Icelandic parliament approved legislation covering the losses of a private Icelandic bank, a bill that would have cost every Icelander $16,400. But thanks to the brave resistance of their president, the Icelandic people took full advantage of their more democratic system to vote down the Icesave bailout on March 6. A full 93 percent of them voted against handing over $5.3 billion, nearly half their annual GDP, to repay the Dutch and British governments. The Icelandic people rightly questioned why they should be held responsible for reimbursing Dutch and British depositors who were compensated by their governments for their failed savings on behalf of a private bank whose largest stockholder was based in London.
President Grimsson is the first true hero of the current financial crisis, which is far from over regardless of how many economic green shoots are spotted by keen-eyed central bankers or created by government statisticians. In direct contrast to John McCain and Barack Obama, who didn't hesitate to throw over the American people on behalf of the bankers, President Grimsson personally intervened in the political process and, by forcing the referendum, gave the Icelandic people the opportunity to make a genuinely democratic decision on their financial future.
Of course, as was seen in Ireland with regard to the Lisbon Treaty, the dedication of European politicians to genuine democracy as opposed to the faux democratic trappings of so-called "representative democracy" is as limited as their American counterparts. Iceland's finance minister, Steingrimur Sigfusson, wasted no time in assuring the international bankers that the will of the Icelandic people would be overridden at the very first opportunity, announcing:
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"It's of utmost importance that we don't over-interpret whatever message comes out of this. We want to be perfectly clear that a 'no' vote does not mean we are refusing to pay. We will honor our obligations. To maintain anything else is highly dangerous for the economy of this country."
It should be clear that what is much more dangerous to the economy of Iceland and every other country in the world is a political system that permits politicians such as Haarde, Sigurdardottir, Sigfusson, Brown, Bush, McCain and Obama to turn entire nations into the unwilling serfs of a small number of short-sighted and woefully incompetent bankers. There is no one road to serfdom, and given their woeful performance over the last five decades, it would appear that the banking oligarchy would make for a de facto ruling class that is even less effective than the communist apparatchiks, fascist bureaucrats, inbred aristocrats and clueless kings who preceded them.
If, as we are repeatedly assured by the media, Democrats and Republicans alike, we must have a ruling class in America that is deemed too important to fail and cannot be held accountable to either the rule of law or its own blunders, is it really too much to expect it to demonstrate at least a modicum of competence? This is not to say there is not a reasonable argument to be made against rule by the will of the people. The case against the vagaries of democracy dates back 2,421 years to Thucydides and his history of the Peloponnesian War. On the other hand, each day that passes is an argument against this fraudulent form of representative democracy that represents the interests of Wall Street, the city and their international equivalents at the literal expense of the people.
How long will Americans languish upon their cross of debt? Where is America's Grimsson?