Professor Hannes H. Gissurarson, RNH’s academic director, will give three lectures in April and attend two events in April and May 2015, in connection with two ongoing RNH-AECR projects. The first lecture is at a morning seminar at the Swedish think tank Ratio in Stockholm Thursday 9 April 2015 at 10 am, Sveavägen 59, 4th floor. Its title is “Sweden, Iceland and the 2008 Bank Collapse”. There, Professor Gissurarson mentions three little-known facts about Swedish-Icelandic relations: In the 14th Century, Iceland was for a while in a personal union with Sweden, neither with Norway or Denmark. In 1814, when Sweden acquired Norway by the Kiel Treaty, as a compensation for losing Finland, it did not want to include Iceland and the two other North Atlantic Norwegian dependencies, probably for strategic reasons. And the first leader of Iceland’s liberal-conservative party, the Independence Party, engineer Jon Thorlaksson, was much influenced by Swedish economist Gustav Cassel. Professor Gissurarson submits that during the bank collapse, Swedish authorities were more helpful than their counterparts in Norway and Finland (that assisted local businessmen in snatching Icelandic assets for a pittance), while unfortunately Sweden supported the United Kingdom against Iceland in the Icesave dispute. Professor Gissurarson will argue that it is time for Iceland to return to the arrangements of the Kiel Treaty whereby it was correctly identified by the Swedes as a North Atlantic rather than a continental country. This lecture forms a part of the joint RNH-AECR project on “Europe, Iceland and the Future of Capitalism”.
The second lecture is at the annual conference of the European Students for Liberty om the Kinosaal at the Humboldt University in Berlin Friday 11 April 2015 at 10 am. Its title is “Three Modern Masters: Hayek, Popper and Friedman. Personal Recollections.” There, Professor Gissurarson recalls these three liberal thinkers, two of whom he knew quite well, Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman, while Karl Popper he visited at his home in Penn, Buckinghamshire, spending a whole day with him in January 1985 discussing philosophy. Professor Gissurarson will quote some comments on both ideas and current affairs made to him by these three thinkers and not previously known or published. He will also compare them, Hayek being in his opinion the most profound thinker, Friedman being a very effective defender of liberty as well as a true academic, and Popper being very reasonable and moderate, trying to minimize identifiable evil instead of maximizing contestable ideals. Other speakers at the conference include English MEP Daniel Hannan, author of the recent book Inventing Freedom, French Professor Pierre Garello, Dr. Tom G. Palmer of the Cato Institute and Danish Flemming Rose, Editor of Jyllandsposten and internationally acknowledged as a champion of press freedom. Professor Gissurarson’s lecture forms a part of the joint RNH-AECR project on “Europe, Iceland and the Future of Capitalism”.
The third lecture will be at the Spring Conference of the Institute of Business Research at the University of Iceland Tuesday 21 April 2015, 13–14.30 in the University Centre, Haskolatorg, meeting room HT-101. It will be in Icelandic, and the title is: “Icelandic Assets Abroad after the Bank Collapse.” Professor Gissurarson will argue that Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and British authorities were responsible for heavy and unnecessary financial losses of the Icelandic banks during and after the 2008 collapse. The Norwegian and the Finnish authorities refused all liquidity assistance to Norwegian and Finnish banks owned by Icelanders and practically forced their fire sale to local businessmen. A similar thing happened in effect two years later in Denmark, with the FIH Bank, while the buyers also outwitted the Central Bank of Iceland which held the bank as a collateral. In October 2008, the British Labour government closed down the two British banks owned by Icelanders—Heritable Bank and KSF—at the same time as it helped all other British banks with a generous liquidity and recapitalisation programme. These two banks have now been wound up, and were seemingly sound and solvent at the time they were closed down. Professor Gissurarson estimates that the total financial loss in these cases in four countries amounts to about 270 billion Icelandic kronur, or about £1.4 billion. Some, or perhaps all, of this loss could have been used towards covering the enormous expenses of the Icelandic taxpayers incurred by the bank collapse. Professor Gissurarson’s lecture forms a part of the joint RNH-AECR project on “Europe, Iceland and the Future of Capitalism”.
In 24–25 April 2015, Professor Gissurarson will attend the annual Lennart Meri conference on international affairs in Tallinn, Estonia. Professor Gissurarson was one of the guests at a dinner party which Prime Minister David Oddsson gave for Meri, then Estonian Foreign Minister, and the two other Baltic Foreign Ministers in Reykjavik 26 August 1991, after Iceland had become the first state to reaffirm its recognition of the three Baltic countries as sovereign states. Professor Gissurarson has also given lectures and written about Baltic-Icelandic relations. In 4–6 May, Professor Gissurarson will attend a conference on memory and conscience in Tallinn. His participation in the two Tallinn conferences forms a part of the joint RNH-AECR project on “Europe of the Victims: Remembering Communism”. Professor Gissurarson translated and edited the Black Book of Communism in 2009 and published a history of the Icelandic communist movement in 2011. In May 2015, Professor Gissurarson will also lecture at several conferences in Brazil organised by the Estudantes pela liberdade, the Brazilian Students for Liberty. His topics there will include a critique of recent demands for redistributing income by force coming from French economist Thomas Piketty.