Viking Finance

April 1, 2008

As the saying goes, all Vikings were Scandavians but not all Scandinavians were Vikings. About a thousand years ago, farmer, scions of important families and chieftains would wait for the winter storms to clear and then “go viking” by forming bands that would range the seas and rivers of Europe and even parts of Asia to engage in raiding or trading. If the locals looked like they could take care of themselves, the bands would come to trade; if the locals looked vulnerable, the bands would come for plunder and slaves. Sometimes a trade visit would serve as the scouting party for a subsequent raid.

As Paul Krugman explains, it appears some financiers decided to go viking and stage a raid on the entire economy of Iceland. That Bear Stearns seems to have played a role adds another layer of Nordic lore, but I’ll leave it to enterprising readers to track down the debated etymology of “berserker.”    

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