Monday, March 9, 2009

Wall Street on the Tundra

Here's a fascinating Vanity Fair article by Michael Lewis. His look at the collapse of Icelands banks and currency is a notice as to how far we still have to go to find the bottom.
Iceland instantly became the only nation on earth that Americans could point to and say, “Well, at least we didn’t do that.” In the end, Icelanders amassed debts amounting to 850 percent of their G.D.P. (The debt-drowned United States has reached just 350 percent.) As absurdly big and important as Wall Street became in the U.S. economy, it never grew so large that the rest of the population could not, in a pinch, bail it out. Any one of the three Icelandic banks suffered losses too large for the nation to bear; taken together they were so ridiculously out of proportion that, within weeks of the collapse, a third of the population told pollsters that they were considering emigration.

Ugh. Derivatives.


  1. Size helps us. Iceland is around the population of Cincinnati - if everything goes crazy speculating on the way up, then when it comes does, it comes down hard.

    It's hard to diversify when you're that size.

  2. Howdy Ted - look at that - you're my first commenter. Thanks for stopping in.