Liberalism in Iceland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

Hannes H. Gissurarson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Economic liberalism has been articulated in Iceland by, first and foremost, Jon Sigurdsson, the leader of Iceland’s 19th century independence struggle, and by the authors of the first three books on economics in Icelandic, Arnljotur Olafsson, Jon Thorlaksson, and Benjamin Eiriksson. They all argued for free trade and market pricing. In mid-20th century, Professor Olafur Bjornsson was, with Eiriksson, a vocal opponent of the strict economic controls then imposed on the Icelandic economy. Visits in 1980s by Friedrich Hayek, James M. Buchanan, and Milton Friedman, and publications of several books setting out the case for voluntary exchange in place of commands from above, advanced economic liberalism in Iceland and helped along the development of Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQ) for Iceland’s fisheries. The present article is mainly the historiography of Icelandic liberalism in the period 1840-1991, leaving the recent decades, including the anti-liberal narrative about them, to a separate treatment to appear in a future issue of the present journal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-273
Number of pages33
JournalEcon Journal Watch
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2017

Bibliographical note

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Other keywords

  • Arnljotur olafsson
  • Benjamin eiriksson
  • Individual transferable quotas (ITQ)
  • Jon sigurdsson
  • Jon thorlaksson
  • Olafur bjornsson


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