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Transcript: Thom Hartmann & Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: Icelandic politics. January 9, 2012
Thom Hartmann: Welcome back, Thom Hartmann here with you live in Reykjavik, Iceland. And with me in the studio, Stefnir, and I know I’m mangling this, Kristjánsson? Do you want to say your name correctly?
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: Stefnir Kristjánsson.
Thom Hartmann: Thank you very much. Stefnir? Oh with a …
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: Yes with a little R.
Thom Hartmann: Stefnir. And you’re the chairman of Isafold, which is a libertarian party?
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: No. I’m actually, just libertarian, my personal views. But I’m a chair, I’m the president of a party which is, well it’s not a party, it’s just a group of young people who are fighting against the European Union membership.
Thom Hartmann: Aha. And well, why do you think that Iceland should not become a member of, you know, what about being in the EU spooks you?
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: Well it spooks me really much, just how it works. I mean if you look at the bureaucracy and you look how the laws affect individuals, individual member countries. I’m just afraid of this whole bureaucracy. I mean I have seen a lot of people, I mean both on the left and on the right, I’ve traveled up to Norway and there were a lot of people to the left who talk about that they thought the European Union was horrible because they attacked unions and stuff like that. And then there are people on the right that hate the EU. I mean there are many reasons why.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. It’s just, very much in the United States there is a coalition. I’m on the left. And I don’t think we should be part of the WTO, NAFTA, or any of these, basically EU type deals. And there’s many people on the right who strongly agree with that. As a libertarian, you live in a social democracy where people are basically, have a certain level of security, not just from cradle to grave, but from conception to grave, prenatal care is free. Healthcare is covered, everything. How would you reorganize Icelandic society, if you were king?
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: Well first of all, I wouldn’t want to be king. That’s kind of anti libertarian. But I think, well when you talk about should the country be run this way or that way, I mean people have to agree. I mean if people don’t want a libertarian government, it’s bad to have a libertarian government. If they don’t want to play. They have to play with the system, that’s just how it is.
Thom Hartmann: But what would it look like if there was a consensus?
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: It would probably look like, well first of all we have to privatize a lot of things. I think privatization is good because it brings competition. Well, let me be really clear on that because many people say well we privatize things, they will start to take more money from us and just put it in their own pockets. Well that’s, privatizing isn’t good exactly. What is good is competition. Because competition drives prices down and brings up the quality of services and we have seen this in many countries.
Thom Hartmann: So how do you ensure competition?
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: That’s the problem. The best way, I think, to ensure competition is to have a really free market. And a little regulation. Because if you have a lot of regulation, it benefits the big companies because they can hire lawyers to go through this and a small company cannot grow. So if you have a completely free market with a lot of regulation, you will have many big companies.
Thom Hartmann: And, but what we have seen in the United States with a far more free market than anything in Iceland or in Europe is that in virtually every industry, I mean pick an industry, we have ended up with monopolies or duopolies or triopolies or whatever. But basically every major industry in the Untied States that 50 years ago, before we started liberalizing, to use your word, becoming more conservative, becoming more libertarian, in 1981, Ronald Reagan stopped enforcing the antitrust laws, which kept companies from acquiring other companies and becoming very large. And as a result of that, you know, there’s very little competition in the United States, and just a couple of companies dominate every industry. How can this be a healthy thing?
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: For a long time in the United States there has been an increase in regulation. A lot. I mean government has grown every, it doesn’t matter if you voted republican or democrat, government has grown for a long time. I mean Bush was crazy with the spending. He grew government even though he told you he was a republican and…
Thom Hartmann: Well he grew government in as much as he expanded, the military budget right now is three times what it was in 1998. You know, with a couple of wars. But with regard to regulation, I don’t think the average person sees that in the United States. You know, people talk about it in the abstract, but, because you’ve got some billionaires who own oil companies who don’t like the fact that, in particular they’re concerned about carbon dioxide. You know, that there are rules that are going to be coming down the road that are going to make it more expensive for them to refine petroleum products. But you know, if that’s a social good, what’s wrong with that? I mean how do you capture, here’s the question. How do you capture externalities? You’ve got oil companies that are refining oil and in the United States, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of cancer deaths a year, as a consequence of the use of oil. And yet we’re paying for that. Tax payers, not the companies. And we spend, we have a huge military budget to protect the flow of oil, tax payers pay for that, not the oil companies.
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: I’m against that.
Thom Hartmann: So you’re opposed to that?
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: Yeah I am very opposed to the military complex.
Thom Hartmann: So, but, but then what you’re saying, how do you capture those externalities? How do you capture the cost that in a free market companies dump on the public?
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: I mean I’m not saying I have a perfect solution. I mean there isn’t any perfect solution to everything. What I’m saying, why I’m a libertarian is mostly because of economic issues. Because when the economy is free and when it grows, people become prosperous and that has led to the best societies, in my opinion, because when we have big government, a burden of regulations, the economy shrinks. And that makes everyone poorer, also the government. They can have less services. We saw it when Russia fell, I mean what happened, they had, the economy…
Thom Hartmann: Well, that’s kind of night and day but in the Untied States when we saw deregulation of our banks, what did our banks do? They went crazy and it brought us down.
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: Well, you have to understand when it comes to the financial system, it’s controlled by monetary policy. And what kind of monetary, we have a ridiculous monetary policy because bank creates money out of thin air, literally. Because they take money from the federal reserve, well, they get a loan from the federal reserve, and they can multiply that money. A lot.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. And okay. So this, and now we’re getting into the arcane of banking which… Stefnir Kristjánsson, thank you so much for being with us today.
Stefnir Húni Kristjánsson: Thank you.
Thom Hartmann: I appreciate your dropping by. Pleasure to meet you. We'll be right back from Iceland
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.