Joseph Stiglitz on Iceland’s Crisis and Recovery

Here is an IMF video on Iceland’s program featuring Joseph Stiglitz, who has derided "free market fundamentalism" at international institutions like the World Bank, where he was once Chief Economist, and the International Monetary Fund (hat tip Global Macro Monitor).

Of course, the video stresses the positive since it is an IMF video. The blurb on the You Tube page accompanying the video reads:

As the first country to experience the full force of the global economic crisis, Iceland is now held up as an example by some of how to overcome deep economic dislocation without undoing the social fabric. Professor Stiglitz discusses lessons learned.

I would say that Stiglitz is right that Iceland and the IMF have done well. Remember, people were rioting in the streets to keep the IMF out.

The program has worked (so far) in large measure because Iceland was not subjected to the kind of austerity that you traditionally see in these kinds of programs and which is an anti-growth policy. We are seeing the negative repercussions of this in Greece. He is also right that capital controls were necessary (at least temporarily). Most importantly, sovereigns should not step in and assume all of the banking sector’s liabilities. Ireland has learned this the hard way. I cover some of this in my post “Four biggest lessons from Iceland’s brush with national bankruptcy”.

Iceland was right to hold a referendum as Michael Hudson argues in Consent Needed for Debt Repayments. Greeks should want to hold one as Hudson argues in EU: Democracy Incompatible with Debt Collection.

Still, Jon Danielsson has written two posts that tell you that all is not well in Iceland and much needs to be done. See “Was the IMF programme in Iceland successful?” and “How not to resolve a banking crisis

Stiglitz video below

  1. fresno dan says

    Maybe I just don’t understand the English language
    “…who has derided “free market fundamentalism” at international institutions like the World Bank, where he was once Chief Economist, and the International Monetary Fund (hat tip Global Macro Monitor)”
    But it seems to me that Iceland is one of the very few (???only???) country practicing “free market fundamentalism” – i.e., Iceland actually let the stupid and venal bankers FAIL and take their losses!!! Wowee! What a concept – you invest, your an idiot, and the market says, “YOU LOSE!”
    Compare this to all the gyrations and contortions, that the banks and the FED (but I repeat myself) do to KEEP INVESTORS FROM TAKING THEIR OWN LOSSES.

    What am I not understanding correctly? Is it that the words “free enterprise” have been so abused by crony capitalists that the defacto meaning is “bailouts for the rich, incompetent,and evil”?

    1. David Lazarus says

      The way I look at it is that countries fear the markets. And really who are the markets? Primarily the 1%. The bulk of the population might have some ownership through pensions they exercise no influence through them. So the markets are basically 1%. If the bailouts were described as saving the 1% where ever they are they would be rejected.

  2. Rodger Malcolm Mitchell says

    It would be helpful if Mr. Stiglitz would acknowledge (or even knew) the diametrical difference between Monetarily Sovereign nations ( and monetarily non-sovereign nations.

    Iceland is Monetarily Sovereign. Greece and Ireland are monetarily non-sovereign.

    Iceland, being Monetarily Sovereign, cannot be forced into bankruptcy, as its ability to pay its bills is endless. Greece and Ireland, being euro nations, can be forced into bankruptcy, because they do not have the unlimited ability to pay bills.

    Equating Monetarily Sovereign nations with monetarily non-sovereign nations is a sure sign of economic ignorance.

    Those who do not understand Monetary Sovereignty do not understand economics.

    Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

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