Controversy on the 1991–2004 Liberal Reforms

Jon Sigurdsson. Painting by Thorarinn B. Thorlaksson (uncle of Jon Thorlaksson).

In 2017, RNH Academic Director, Politics Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson, published two papers in the Econ Journal Watch in its series on (classical) liberalism in various countries. The first paper was on the history of liberalism in Iceland till late 20th century, with a discussion on the economic ideas of Jon Sigurdsson and Arnljotur Olafsson in the 19th century and Jon Thorlaksson, Benjamin Eiriksson and others in the 20th century. Olafsson, Thorlaksson and Eiriksson were the authors of the first economic treatises in Icelandic, Audfraedi [Theory of Wealth] (1880), Laggengid [Currency Depreciation] (1924) and Orsakir erfidleikanna i atvinnu- og gjaldeyrismalunum [Causes of the Current Problems in the Economy and Foreign Trade] (1938), respectively. The journal also interviewed Gissurarson (podcast). The second paper was about the 1991–2004 liberal reforms and different narratives on the 2008 bank collapse. As Gissurarson mentioned certain assertions by Sociology Professor Stefan Olafsson on poverty and income distribution in Iceland, the journal offered him a right of reply, of which Olafsson availed himself in the autumn of 2017.

Now the 2018 autumn issue of Econ Journal Watch has appeared with a rejoinder by Gissurarson to Olafsson’s composition. Gissurarson recalls that Olafsson asserted before the 2003 parliamentary elections that poverty was more widespread in Iceland than in the other Nordic countries, and that he asserted before the 2007 parliamentary elections that income distribution (based on figures from 2004) was less equal in Iceland than in the other Nordic countries. According to Gissurarson, the evidence shows both assertions to be wrong. Gissurarson also criticises some assertions by Olafsson on the 2008 bank collapse, which Olafsson would like to blame to a large extent on David Oddsson, Prime Minister in 1991–2004 and Governor of the Central Bank of Iceland in 2005–9.

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