The unlikely and awesome rise of punk, anarchist, and hacker
February 7, 2016 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Birgitta Jónsdóttir May Be Iceland's Next Prime Minister - "Poetry told Birgitta that she is alive. The internet taught her that she belongs in this world. The crisis showed her that she has a role to play, and politics showed her that everything needs to change." (Jónsdóttir, WikiLeaks & Iceland, previously)
She has never been mild, but her solitude radicalizes her. “I want to be the mosquito in the tent,” she says, “so they cannot get any sleep.” Stubbornly, Birgitta follows the Pirate Party guidelines: horizontal leadership, power rotation, liquid democracy. She votes in Parliament according to the majority will collected on the Píratar web platform. Birgitta is a captain with no title or privileges. Yet she leads.

With only three parliamentarians, Pirates have surged into first place for the next legislative elections. (With 38 percent of voter intention, they are ahead of both traditional parties combined.) “People are really fed up,” she comments. Birgitta could become prime minister. She rolls her big eyes and says, “That is my worst nightmare.”

Birgitta isn’t a rebel but a hacker. Complaining and pointing fingers is a waste of time. She has a goal, a plan: Birgitta wants democracy to work again. Being in charge is the price to pay. Yet she imposes her conditions: She wants her hands free. If in power, Birgitta’s action plan is clear: apply the new constitution; implement IMMI to make Iceland a safe haven for freedom of expression and data; hold a proper debate on joining the European Union, followed by a referendum; conduct a six-month policy assessment of every ministry; and turn the recommendation into a government plan. After that, Birgitta would step down to force new elections to have this plan supported across the board. A true pirate, she would leave her seat as soon as she is done. Power destroys souls. It has worn her out already.

“NSA recording device,” reads another sticker on the back of her laptop. “I couldn’t care less about them spying on me,” Birgitta says. “Actually, no, I hope they are listening to me and that I make them change their minds.”
also btw...
-The miraculous story of Iceland
-The Complete Sagas of Icelanders
-What lies ahead for Iceland in 2016?
-Iceland's recovery: myths and reality
-Forget Icesave, Iceland's Next Scare Is the Pirate Party
-Hacking Politics: An In-Depth Look At Iceland's Pirate Party
-Iceland central bank preparing new weapons to fight capital rush
-The Pirate Party Is Now More Popular in Iceland than the Government
-Pirate Party Support Exceeds 40 Percent - The pirate party favors a universal basic income and may very well be the first country to adopt it as policy
posted by kliuless (36 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
i want to go to there.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:02 PM on February 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Independent: Iceland has jailed 26 bankers, why won't we?
posted by bukvich at 2:21 PM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Iceland is literally smaller population wise than Bakersfield CA and incredibly ethnically homogeneous. Not to say this isn't cool, but it always irks me when people hold Iceland up as a model for other countries.
posted by Ferreous at 2:37 PM on February 7, 2016 [16 favorites]


basically a city on an island, yes -- 1/3 the population of Oahu, actually -- on a bigger island.

the important story of Iceland is the incredibly stimulative effect "Mortgage Keynesianism" has on an economy.

Japan in the late 80s, the nordic states around then, Boston and LA in the late 80s too, and of course the late Bush-era housing boom/bubble, evident wherever dodgy mortgages were available, like Ireland.

Housing & real estate as its own special sector has been explicitly elided from the study of mainstream economics, casting it off to the heterodox schools to explore.

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=3nQr -- frogs in the pot of water, I tells ya.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 3:03 PM on February 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


The ethnic homogeny argument always bothers me: What, exactly do you mean? Why does ethnic homogeny make it easier to have pro-social policy and institutions?

Additionally, most social problems get *easier* when you start to deal with larger populations: health insurance, infrastructure investment, poverty mitigation. It would seem to me that having a smaller population would make such endeavors substantially more difficult...
posted by Freen at 3:10 PM on February 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


Why does ethnic homogeny make it easier to have pro-social policy and institutions?

FDR ran into this buzzsaw in the 30s, southern conservatives blocking his social programs like SSA.

Our crappy efforts at public housing later on were also due to the racial divides in this country -- it's 12 miles from Pruitt–Igoe to Ferguson.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 3:16 PM on February 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's a lot easier to sell social welfare programs when there's not a "those people" who will benefit from it, just people who look like you.
posted by Ferreous at 3:18 PM on February 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


And we have the unfortunate example of the other scandinavian countries, where there is a resurgence in right-wing sentiment and attacks on social programs now that there are more refugees and immigrants. Sterling pro-social policies, as long as no Others are benefiting; but it's "seize their jewelry" and beating people up in the small towns as soon as there's any non-white people around. Denmark in particular depresses me - one of few nations to make real reforms in the 1848 revolutions and even relatively bloodlessly , the rescue of most of the Jewish population from the Nazis, and now to founder in this disgraceful way.
posted by Frowner at 3:29 PM on February 7, 2016 [11 favorites]


"Additionally, most social problems get *easier* when you start to deal with larger populations: health insurance, infrastruct..."

Well, we and dare say Iceland are not just "starting to deal" with social problems. Grant you, new ones arise and priorities shift.
It is not easier, for example, post WWII industrial psychology. A whole new set of problems arose but one was not addressing the veterans return to society. Many Corporations were eager for information about veterans returning to work and industrial education as a whole.
Another example is the difficult situations S.E. Asian immigrants faced when coming to the US. Take Dallas with a small to mid-sized population of immigrants from that area. The difficulties in getting social programs let alone translation services was difficult (circa 1990). The problem became worse with the rise of gang violence and other problems communities experience.
One solution is to have immigrants become valued members of police, fire and other services that offer help. Education is of the utmost importance.
posted by clavdivs at 3:39 PM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I dunno, Iceland certainty has unique circumstances, but so does every other country. It's worth remembering that Iceland was a colony, a possession of the King of Denmark to be ruthlessly exploited until they got their freedom in WWII -- the country has come a very long way since the 1940s. They've had some pretty spectacular failures, but I think their small size makes it easier for them to "change course" than larger countries; you need to convince fewer people to support you to get a majority. That can be good and bad, obviously, but the fact that Iceland prosecuted their bankers is a pretty big deal.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:46 PM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


People everywhere are ethnically chauvinistic; they trust their own ethnicity more than others. So, the more homogeneous your population, the easier it is to apply social-democratic policy. That's basically half of the leftist argument against high levels of immigration.

That said, I think for Iceland, scale is a much more relevant factor than ethnic homogeneity! I very much disagree that healthcare etcetera is more difficult to take care of in a smaller society - after you've hit a population sufficient to float the wealth for on-demand health care (surely much less than a few hundred thousand) then any increase in population size demands an increase in administrative complexity without any increase in standard of care.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 4:12 PM on February 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Why does ethnic homogeny make it easier to have pro-social policy and institutions?

Isn't it funny how many people notice that effect and go straight to "welp, white nationalism then" instead of "welp, better fight racism then"?
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:44 PM on February 7, 2016 [21 favorites]


So homogeny is a euphemism for racism. Got it. On Preview: yup, that's what I was thinking Pope Guilty.

Generally speaking, health insurance works better as your insured population grows. Almost definitionally.
Obligatory Wolfram Alpha Link to per capita health expenditure / population. (If someone can figure out how to index this by per capita GPD as well, I'd be mighty grateful.)

Infrastructure works similarly: larger populations mean smaller per capita costs and larger net benefit.

Economies of scale should enable more effective pro-social policies and programs, yet it's always argued otherwise.
posted by Freen at 4:53 PM on February 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


after you've hit a population sufficient to float the wealth for on-demand health care (surely much less than a few hundred thousand) then any increase in population size demands an increase in administrative complexity without any increase in standard of care.

I'm not convinced this is true for anything other than the most basic services. Much of medicine is intensely specialised, and the major advantage in scale is being able to actually have a wide variety of specialisms adequately covered, both in terms of expertise and infrastructure.
posted by Dysk at 5:04 PM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


How about we move on from "Iceland is a special unicorn because of reasons" and instead focus on how awesome Birgitta is?
posted by Freen at 5:07 PM on February 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


"...then any increase in population size demands an increase in administrative complexity without any increase in standard of care."

Precisely why the Ford Escort was soooooo much more expensive than the Maserati Bora.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:12 PM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well, Freen, going by that criteria, it's not a matter of scale as it is time. If a population has a social problem, it will be addressed at some point or another regardless. Having a better plan, based on past study and evaluation is generally what will take place regardless of scale though a smaller population is more likely to address a subject like healthcare then a larger one and wealth is a difficult issue as it is stratified when municipalities are concerned.

Perhaps the next leader of the free world was just 4 miles away today speaking on the subject of failure in municipal planning.
posted by clavdivs at 5:15 PM on February 7, 2016


Oh, Google up her 'Fool Poem'
She is awesome, hopes she wins.

(Someone page Mr. K.)

Great post!
posted by clavdivs at 5:17 PM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Infrastructure works similarly: larger populations mean smaller per capita costs and larger net benefit.

A large population can easily afford a beautiful, meticulously maintained public toilet. But there'll be a line...
posted by spacewrench at 6:07 PM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty, I guess it depends what you're prioritising. Has anywhere in the world successfully ended racism? Not really. So what do you prefer, a thus-far quixotic battle against man's base instinct for tribalism, or efficient provision of social security and health care? I think a lot of countries have sort of made up their minds. While ethno-nationalism is obviously unpalatable - at least in the West - countries definitely split the difference and exercise serious back-room control over immigrant demographics. In Australia for instance, we talk a big game about our vast immigrant population but more than half of that is Anglos from New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Broaden the scope to East Asia or Eastern Europe and it's even more evident.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 6:24 PM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Regarding immigration controls and homogeneaity, maybe it's the nation state that is the problem, and we should look for alternatives. I suspect that's Jonsdottir's stance, given that she spoke at the New World Summit last week in Utrecht.
posted by wuwei at 8:10 PM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


nicolas léonard sadi carnot: Arguably, an efficient provision of social security would go a long way towards ending racism... That said, there are a multitude of countries that are both relatively heterogeneous and have substantially more functional social safety nets than the US. Particularly Canada, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg come to mind.
Moreover, we have fought many seemingly quixotic battles against "man's base instincts" and won. I see no reason to stop at tribalism. It is crucial to our overall wellbeing and success as a species to consider such battles winnable.

Defeatism is self-sabotage.

cladivis: Why should a smaller society address health/infrastructure/social security sooner than a larger one? Seems like it might be, though please correct me if I'm wrong, tribalism of proximity rather than skin tone or language?
posted by Freen at 8:25 PM on February 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Back on topic: Liquid Democracy is amazing and I'm incredibly excited that it may get put to use on a national stage. A friend of mine is working on an opensource platform to make it easy for any group of people to use it to make decisions.
posted by Freen at 8:29 PM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


So what do you prefer, a thus-far quixotic battle against man's base instinct for tribalism, or efficient provision of social security and health care? I think a lot of countries have sort of made up their minds.

"Tribalism and racism, oh well, what're you gonna do" is possibly the laziest platitude available to apply to issues of global interdependency, migration, polarization, and geographic mobility, all of which are going to affect all of us more and more deeply as the century proceeds.
posted by blucevalo at 8:42 PM on February 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


A bit off-topic, but... ugh, this journalist brings up Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man. So many issues with that book and it's shamanic-workshop-selling New Age author...
posted by girl Mark at 9:19 PM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


more on topic, though...

It was my impression while reading John Perkins' Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man that he was mostly rehashing stuff that was widely covered in other books popular with liberals (like the Iran stories, which sounded to me wayyy too much like a rehash of All The Shah's Men).

It's been a while since I read his book- does anyone know if the Iceland case study section that this article mentions sound like it might come from any previously-published books on Iceland's economic issues? Is there something simjilar to All The Shah's Men for that section of Economic Hitman?
posted by girl Mark at 9:29 PM on February 7, 2016


"Tribalism and racism, oh well, what're you gonna do" is possibly the laziest platitude available to apply to issues of global interdependency, migration, polarization, and geographic mobility, all of which are going to affect all of us more and more deeply as the century proceeds.

We're not equipped to be much better, without careful management, and that will always depend on fast-moving particulars, and the health of any government. We think in categories & heuristics, so we stereotype and thin-slice; we're inclined to think about things and agents and causality, so we essentialize, universalize, project; we love, so we have allegiances. Competition between perceived ingroup and outgroup members for limited resources is always going to be a problem for governments to manage. (I guess as long as we have governments.) Media/art/discourse people can do a bit about what goes into the categorizing part.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:14 PM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I very much disagree that healthcare etcetera is more difficult to take care of in a smaller society - after you've hit a population sufficient to float the wealth for on-demand health care (surely much less than a few hundred thousand) then any increase in population size demands an increase in administrative complexity without any increase in standard of care.

That's not really true. Organisations can get bigger without getting significantly more complex if the various parts aren't tightly coupled. If you're doing something like a major engineering project with lots of parts that depend intimately on each other then every time you add another person to it you're creating additional co-ordination overhead for everyone else. In software engineering the most famous text describing this is The Mythical Man-Month.

You can reduce this problem by decoupling parts of the project from each other, but that may not be possible when building software, medical services are inherently highly decoupled.

Doubling the number of GPs does not create a huge amount of additional coordination overhead because the main work of GPs is 1-1 with patients. They've got a weak link back to an admin layer for practice management. Then there's a link from that layer to whatever organisation handles payment.

Even within a practice, doubling the number of GPs does not create a lot of additional GP-GP communications. 20 GPs might need twice as many admin people as 10 (although I suspect that the scaling is slower than that) but they do not need to constantly coordinate decisions because 90% of their time is with patients, the only decisions that need to be taken as a group are ones about practice management that just don't take up much of their time.

Compare the organisational complexity of Walmart and their supply chain vs Apple and theirs. One of those can be scaled more easily than the other.
posted by atrazine at 3:15 AM on February 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't like Assange very much, for a whole host of reasons, but this lady is a bit more intriguing. I think there's something I personally find curious about people utterly unaffected by the prospect of power. (I see something similar in Bernie Sanders, but to a smaller extent.)

My impression of Brigitta is the same as my impression of Iceland recently, in microcosm: a mixture of good impulses with bad. Great to see accountability for the leaders responsible for severe economic mismanagement. Terrible to see the nation collectively decide to give a big fuck-you to hundreds of thousands of foreigners who were apparently acting in good faith (it's possible I'm not aware of nuances of the Icesave controversy, but I can't think of anything I would find mitigating). Similarly, Brigitta has a genuine desire to empower others. Yet she associates with a guy I severely dislike.

Maybe it's that I'm not Scandinavian or something.
posted by iffthen at 7:12 AM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, up here in Canada we have both multiculturalism and a social safety net.

Neither one is perfect, but both are possible together.
posted by clawsoon at 9:06 AM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


People everywhere are ethnically chauvinistic; they trust their own ethnicity more than others. So, the more homogeneous your population, the easier it is to apply social-democratic policy. That's basically half of the leftist argument against high levels of immigration.

Robert Putnam detailed in a 2007 study the downsides of diversity (or more positively, the upsides of homogeneity). The cost of diversity is reduced social capital and increased atomization of individuals and families. As a social scientist with universalist and liberal leanings, it was, needless to say, not the result he was hoping to observe.
posted by theorique at 10:25 AM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]




Maybe it's that I'm not Scandinavian or something.

Neither are Icelanders. The word you're looking for is "Nordic".
posted by Dysk at 10:43 AM on February 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Why should a smaller society address health/infrastructure/social security sooner than a larger one"

i don't why they should.
Thats a question that is dependent on the answer or example. I gave two examples of a larger society having social problems and the fallout that results.
I could give a smaller municipal social problem. How long did it take Iceland to recover from the devestating housing debacle, quicker then the U.S.?

If anyone is reading 'Confessions of an Economic hitman' should read this.
posted by clavdivs at 2:28 PM on February 8, 2016


theorique: Its called a sub-optimal local maxima. In order to get to a better place, we may, in the short run, have to suffer losses. See antebellum southern USA, post-apartheid South Africa, France after the revolution, etc.

Just because it's difficult, doesn't mean we should give up.

clavdivs: Generally speaking, the larger a population, the broader the distribution of potential outcomes, thus the easier it becomes to identify problems. Think about how you'd be able to discern how big of a problem cancer is if you only had a population of 100 people, versus millions? The same is true for a wide variety of problems: social security, transit, etc.

True, while population size does increase the quantity of stakeholders, the resources you can bring to bear increase almost logarithmically. My point is that all things being equal (and I know they aren't) more people should mean that it's technically easier and per capita cheaper to solve social problems.

The argument that because a nation is small, their social problems are somehow more tractable than those of larger nations, is, in my humble opinion, a fallacy and allows politicians and policy makers off the hook for their failures.
posted by Freen at 3:52 PM on February 8, 2016


Ferreous: "Iceland is literally smaller population wise than Bakersfield CA ..."

Hell, Iceland's population is smaller than Wyoming or Omaha. It's not a country; it's a county. The other thing that such small populations give you is the cohesion of simply knowing more people and being related to them. Just as it's easier for people to vote against things when some other is taking advantage of those things, it's harder for people to vote against things when they know first-hand people that need those things to live. This is part of why increasing social inequality causes increased social inequality -- it's easier to say "fuck you, got mine" when you don't care about anyone you're saying "fuck you" to.
posted by barnacles at 5:45 AM on February 9, 2016


« Older triplets+toddler   |   The House That Built Cam Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments