Iceland, the Financial Panic, and My Father-In-Law
I am a big Michael Lewis fan. I have read Moneyball twice, along with many of the essays he is famous for. One of those essays/articles is in this month’s Vanity Fair, and I can’t recommend it enough. It is a brutally funny critique of the rise and fall of investment banking in Iceland, with a nice side trip to the world of elves. (I got the link to the article from Freakonomics.) The moral of the story is that, believe it or not, people without any experience in investment banking who are suddenly given control of billions of dollars don’t always do a good job. Now, I realize that in America, people with lots of experience on Wall Street didn’t necessarily do such a good job either, but the Iceland story is funnier, so let’s run with it.
I am pleased to say that my father-in-law is loosely involved in this story, though not by name or specifics and not in a way that at all involves the financial collapse. There are really only two businesses in Iceland, aside from the now-killed financial industry: fishing and aluminum smelting. My father-in-law works for Alcoa as an engineer, and has spent a lot of time in Iceland working on the smelting plant discussed in the Vanity Fair story. So, now I have to ask him whether the men of Iceland are really as aggressive as the story says they are, and also whether he had to do any of the work certifying that no elves were being harmed. …
The best line in the whole, terrific essay:
It was a delicate corporate situation, an Alcoa spokesman told me, because they had to pay hard cash to declare the site elf-free but, as he put it, “we couldn’t as a company be in a position of acknowledging the existence of hidden people.”