THOSE ZANY ICELANDERS – Iceland’s major new industry is mining. Bitcoin mining:

Iceland is expected to use more energy “mining” bitcoins and other virtual currencies this year than it uses to power its homes.

With massive amounts of electricity needed to run the computers that create bitcoins, large virtual currency companies have established a base in the North Atlantic island nation blessed with an abundance of renewable energy.

The new industry’s relatively sudden growth prompted MP Smari McCarthy of Iceland’s Pirate Party to suggest taxing the profits of bitcoin mines. The initiative is likely to be well received by Icelanders, who are skeptical of speculative financial ventures after the country’s catastrophic 2008 banking crash.

Seems apt for a mini-country that more than a decade ago wanted to become a bank, with disastrous results. Iceland seems to be a nation in search of a mission or a niche of its own, having over the past few decades woken up from a millennium of stupor and isolation. The island now wants to catch up to and rejoin the world, but it’s yet to find a way. When I visited last year, it looked that tourism might finally provide a more practical and sustainable way forward, and no doubt it will, more so than playing with crypto-currencies.

Iceland is a charming place, and a quirky and weird one, which only adds to the charm. As the article above notes, Iceland is essentially one big volcano in the middle of the Atlantic, providing the nation of not even half a million people with virtually unlimited geo-thermal power to burn. Half the population believes in fairies and gnomes. Perhaps the same half seems to be hugely creative, producing an over-representation of world-class writers and musicians. The other half, meanwhile, is plugged into the net that vanquishes the distance, and chases after the almighty dollar, whether through financial markets or other get-rich quick schemes. What a place.

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