I’m still mad as hell

Peter
Peter Jackson
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“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.”

— George Orwell, “Nineteen-eighty-four”

Physical oppression is one thing, but it is the unchecked indulgence of human greed that is at the root of most of the world’s woes.

And that includes the relentless lobby of wealthy financiers to protect their reckless ways, even in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown.

Feels like a constant kick in the head, sometimes.

First, the problem, best exemplified not by the notorious shenanigans of American banks and investment firms, but by those on the tiny island nation of Iceland.

Iceland was doing quite well during the 1990s. It had built a comfortable economy based primarily on resources, and it was living within its means. It was touted as a model of success, particularly by former premier Danny Williams, who felt Newfoundland could learn from Iceland in its own efforts to gain more economic self-sufficiency.

When Iceland’s banking sector went up in smoke in 2008, Williams’ critics wasted no time rubbing it in his face. It didn’t help that Williams, like Iceland’s politicians, was exceptionally boastful about the ability of such small economies to thrive in an era of radical globalization.

But Iceland’s woes were not caused by its core economic policies prior to 2001. They were caused by the abandonment of government control over financial investment when banks were deregulated in that year.

To read the glowing reviews of Iceland’s subsequent boom, you’d think the new banking structure was a raving success. In fact, it was a ticking time bomb.

Free of restrictions and full of hubris, the country’s banks took advantage of low interest rates to borrow billions from foreign sources, artificially bloating the nation’s wealth and creating a new generation of young fat cats who felt they were invincible.

When the house of cards tumbled down in 2008, Iceland’s collapse would become the most dramatic in history for an industrialized nation.

Iceland, therefore, is like a microcosm of the world’s economic woes. It’s like a passion play, spelling out in two short acts how an unregulated financial system can literally destroy a country.

In the U.S., despite being plunged into its own major recession and still foundering in a sea of debt, that lesson still escapes many of those in power. And the forces of resistance against stricter controls are stronger than ever.

Last month was the first anniversary of the so-called Dodd-Frank bill being passed into law. The lengthy act was supposed to implement wide-ranging restrictions to protect consumers from irresponsible investment practices.

As it turns out, the wording of the act is plagued with vague language and regulators have missed countless deadlines for setting up watchdog agencies and establishing rules.

According to the New York Times, 90 per cent of the regulations remain incomplete.

To complicate matters, banks and investment firms are still fiercely lobbying Washington insiders in an attempt to water down any new regulations.

And Republican lawmakers have been pushing to keep the Securities and Exchange Commission on a shoestring budget, further hindering its efforts to keep up with the vast requirements of Dodd-Frank.

To concerned citizens, it must surely feel like yet another boot to the face.

And, as the debt ceiling showdown last week demonstrated, it’s not only U.S. citizens that should be concerned. The sabre-rattling in Washington caused markets to ripple the world over.

The perils of greed come in all shapes and sizes, from island nations to world superpowers. But the solution is always the same: don’t give it free rein.

If we do, we have only ourselves to blame.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor, email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: New York Times, Securities and Exchange Commission

Geographic location: Iceland, Newfoundland, U.S. Washington

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  • Peter You STILL have a right to be mad as hell, nothing has changed
    August 04, 2011 - 14:55

    Today two of the World's biggest casinos, the DOW and the TSX are down 400 points, the short sellers and manipulators of stocks and currenciess are still out in full force doing their dirty work, I see the Swiss tried to control matters today by reducing their interest rate, yet the Swiss Franc still continues to escalate. So, then what has changed over 2008? NOTHING HAS! The deregulation of everything that controls our lives is still in effect, therefore the corruptors can continue to do their deceitfulness. Some of the largest Financial Institutions, Insurance Companies, and even countries have gone bankrupt from all the CORRUPTION, and some are still teetering on the edge of bankruptcy about to fall into the abyss. Nobody seems to be doing anything about it, other than talk. Who takes control of this situation to stamp out corruption... you would think it would be the governments of the World, but, of course, the politicians and their bureaucrats are as involved in the scams as are the ordinary investors. Is it not time for all the ordinary people of the World to stand up against the corruption and make a Revolution to stop this insanity?

  • Cyril Rogers
    August 03, 2011 - 08:46

    Peter, this is one more reason why state-regulated banking is so critical. The Canadian government of HArper wanted to move in the direction of less regulation but, luckily for them, the 2008 crash happened before they could get around to it. Of course, they took all the credit for Canada's weathering the rescession well but they simply got lucky. Left to their own devices, and we still are to at risk from some of their policies, this country will lose it's financial leverage over the next few years.

    • Paul
      August 04, 2011 - 07:51

      Capitalism is OK.....unfettered capitalism is a scourge on the planet and corporate rule is not democracy.