My old college roommate used to be amazed at my complete and utter ignorance with regard to money. Then again, he liked BOYZ II MEN. So, you know. Yeah.

Nevertheless for some time now I’ve been following the story about the near-collapse of Iceland’s banks with avid interest. Global politics fascinates me and when put into the perspective of something I’m interested in, money and math start to make sense. That’s why I put Icelandic chicks in bikinis up there. It really helps the bitter medicine go down, you dig?

“Iceland’s finance minister said on Sunday a dispute with Britain and the Netherlands over repaying debts would take at least a year to solve in court.

“My estimate is that the process will take a year, a year and a half at least,” Finance Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson told a news conference. Icelanders rejected in a referendum a plan to repay $5 billion to Britain and the Netherlands after the countries reimbursed savers who lost deposits in “Icesave” accounts operated by an Icelandic bank that collapsed in 2008.” – REUTERS

Here’s what happened as best as I understand it:

In 2008 Iceland’s banking institutions were on the verge of collapse. Branches both in Iceland and abroad (primarily in Britain) were at risk of not being able to give their customers their money. So, Britain forked over a hefty sum of cash to bail out the Icelandic banks. Iceland used the loan to cover the branches in Iceland but not in Britain, leaving thousands of British banking customers without their money.

Britain responded by making use of emergency anti-terrorism powers to freeze the assets of the Icelandic banks in Britain. This move so inflamed Iceland (a fellow NATO member) that, in an unprecedented move, the people of Iceland essentially voted to not pay back the loan.

Whew. That was pretty intense. Confused? So am I. On any number of levels. Going back to my college roommate, I thought it would be fun to put this situation in terms that a college student could understand.

BRITAIN: “Like, hey man, so you remember all that money I loaned you when you were defaulting on all your bills and shit?”

ICELAND: “Sure do. Thanks a ton, buddy.”

BRITAIN: “Well, uh, I couldn’t help but notice that you used the loan to pay off all your personal debts. But, you didn’t use it to pay off any of the common debts we share like the electric bill, cable, rent, etc.”

ICELAND: “I know. You’re awesome, buddy. Now that I have my credit cards paid off, let’s go hit the bars. First round is on me.”

BRITAIN: “Um, no dude, like, I’m kinda’ hurtin’ for cash right now. See, I had to pay the rent and all the common bills on my own. In addition to loaning you all that money.”

ICELAND: “Whoa. Bummer.”

BRITAIN: “Like, yeah. It is. And I really don’t have any choice except to bar you from watching the TV or eating the food in the fridge or using hot water or electricity because, like, I paid for all that stuff myself this month.”

ICELAND: “What, you saying I’m a criminal or something? That’s fucked up, man. We’re supposed to be roomies and shit.”

BRITAIN: “Don’t take it personally. It’s just that-“

ICELAND: “You loaned me some cash, dude, but you never told me what I had to spend it on.”

BRITAIN: “Uh, like, I thought it was pretty clear that you would use it to take care of your financial responsibilities.”

ICELAND: “I did take care of my financial responsibilities. If I don’t take care of my personal debt, how the fuck am I supposed to pay the rent or the electric bill?”

BRITAIN: “Dude, I’m broke now.”

ICELAND: “Well, that’s a shame and all, man. But, you’re really harshing the vibe over here with these actions you’re taking. You know what? Until you take them back I’m not repaying the debt, bro.”

BRITAIN: “Are you fucking kidding me? You know how much scratch I loaned you?”

ICELAND: “When you loan someone money you can’t tell them what to do with it.”

BRITAIN: “When someone loans you money you can’t choose whether or not to pay it back, asshole.”

ICELAND: “Fuck you, man!”

BRITAIN: “No, fuck you!”

ICELAND: “No, fuck you!”

BRITAIN: “No, fuck you!”

A fistfight then erupts. But, once tempers have cooled, Britain and Iceland go drinking. Later that night, in a moment of drunken male bonding they declare “I love you, man. You’re like a brother to me”. Then they go and write obscenities on the door of the dorm’s housing director, further driving an already lonely and depressed man to take his own life.

But that’s another story for another time…


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