Iceland: Harbinger of Worldwide Collapse

Iceland is a mess.  Total mess.  Bankrupt and its currency, the krona, has been abandoned by most people in the world. In Iceland it’s lost two thirds of its former value and purchasing power.  Iceland is a nation that throughout its long 1100 history-year history has been extremely poor, depending on fishing for its only real source of income.  It also is extremely inbred, which isn’t too good for the gene pool.  Obviously, Iceland had no financial or investing experience.  It knows how to catch fish.  Looking at the Wall Street bubble, Iceland’s three biggest banks, with assets of a few billion dollars, made it grow to $140 billion in three and a half years.  It was called “The most rapid expansion of a banking system in the history of mankind.”

These three banks were following Wall Street like a shadow, and lending money to buy stocks and real estate.  While the US stock market was doubling, the Icelandic stock market went up 900%.  By 2006, Reykjavik real estate prices doubled, and the average Icelandic family was three times as wealthy as it was in 2003.  All this supposed ‘wealth’ was tied to the investment banking industry.  Sound familiar?  Naturally, the whole thing collapsed with a huge thud, when the three investment banks went bust last October.

Fishermen quit fishing, and the craze was to buy and sell stocks and real estate.  For the past few years, many Icelanders engaged themselves in speculation, and seeming to be successful, they did what Americans and the rest of the world did.  They bought things they couldn’t afford…on time.  Since interest on their krona was 15.5%, why not buy euros or yen at a 3% interest rate and clean up?  So they made huge loans of euros and yen.  Then their krona collapsed, and they still owe for the euros and yen they bought.  They now own $500,000 houses on which they owe $1.5 million, and $35,000 Range Rovers, on which they owe $100,000.    There have been lots of fires in Iceland recently, to pay the bills of course.  Lucky insurance companies.  It will happen here, and already has to a small degree.

Iceland has lots of wonderful glass and steel office towers and apartment buildings, which are unfinished and empty, with gobs of money owed on them.  Sort of like the rest of the world, I suspect, but it happened in Iceland far quicker.  The bomb went off in Iceland quickly, because it is so small, and its speculation went to such extreme heights.  Walking around Manhattan, the empty stores, streets, and taxis are quite evident I hear, and the same thing is obvious in big cities and small towns everywhere.  The bomb will explode later in these places outside of Iceland, but beware:  Iceland might be the prototype.

Icelanders discovered that trading bits of paper isn’t a productive enterprise.  A handful of guys, who fancied themselves as financial experts, were taking out tens of billions of dollars in short term loans from abroad.  They were then re-lending this money to themselves and their friends to buy assets, such as soccer teams, cars, homes, etc.  Since the entire world’s assets were rising; thanks to people of like mentality paying crazy prices for everything, the Icelanders appeared to be making money.  One non-Icelandic fund manager said that its like, “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.  They created fake capital by trading assets amongst themselves at inflated values.”  DOESN’T THAT SOUND LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLD’S FINANCIAL GENIUSES?

Iceland was and is, simply the extreme of what’s going on in the rest of the world, and it came home to roost in Iceland first.  When traders got a whiff of what was going to happen in Iceland, guess what they did?  They went short and made a lot of money.  Do we think that insiders at AIG, Citibank, and the rest of the bankruptcies, knew in advance of what troubles loomed ahead?  Of course they did!  Can we possibly imagine that they shorted their own companies in advance of the collapses and made tons of money?  And that such bonanzas are carefully guarded in the sacrosanct walnut-paneled boardrooms of these holies of holies?  I think there’s no doubt about it.

Iceland looked so good to the rest of the world…for a time anyway…just like Madoff. That they “invested” heavily in Iceland, with its 15.5% interest.  Germans banks put $21 billion into Iceland banks.  The Netherlands gave them $305 million. Sweden kicked in $400 million.  U.K. investors forked over $300 billion from various pension funds, hospitals, universities, and other public institutions.  Oxford University lost $30 million.  It’s all so sad that 99% of the world believes things to be true, which couldn’t possibly be true.  That “experts” can do no wrong, and are to be trusted with wealth and surplus assets.  A few years ago, and not in the current time frame at all, a local retired electrical contractor and his wife, who had bought gold eagles from me @ $301, and silver eagles @ $7.50, were lured by a fast talking Madoff type into “investing” $100,000 in his scheme with the promise of a ten percent annual return.  They tried to get me involved and even introduced him to me.  I said NO, and tried to tell them that it would cost them their $100,000.  It did.

See, gold and silver don’t require “trust” and expertise to own.  No degrees or licenses from experts are required to decide to buy gold and silver, which after all, are historic money throughout the ages.  They’re simply a way of protecting assets from the criminal inflating of the world’s currencies.  The dollar is not alone.  Don’t be fooled by the “strength” of the dollar.  It is strong only in comparison to other pieces of paper, which are all being printed with merry abandon by the world’s governments.  People who brag about their CD making 4% rather than 2% are essentially bragging that their boat has a smaller leak in it than their neighbor’s, and is sinking more slowly.

Hope you went to a Tea Party!  I went to two, and it was a blast.  We sang the National Anthem, God Bless America, America the Beautiful, My Country Tis of Thee, saluted the flag, and had a grand time. In this town of 17,000 we had over 400 at one of them.  People were driving by honking their horns and waving.  It made tears run down my face.  Sorry, I am a hopeless romantic, and I love America.  It’s the current government I hate, and both parties.  If the Republicans would listen to our music and pay attention, they could take both houses at the next election, but it’s doubtful they’ll wise up and think straight.  How sad!

Don Stott
Colorado Gold

April 17, 2009

The Daily Reckoning