Dealing With Those Damned Elves
Michael Lewis has a terrific and terrifically fascinating article in the new Vanity Fair about the collapse of Iceland's economy, but it was this that really got my attention:
"Alcoa, the biggest aluminum company in the country, encountered two problems peculiar to Iceland when, in 2004, it set about erecting its giant smelting plant. The first was the so-called 'hidden people' -- or, to put it more plainly, elves -- in whom some large number of Icelanders, steeped long and thoroughly in their rich folkloric culture, sincerely believe. Before Alcoa could build its smelter it had to defer to a government expert to scour the enclosed plant site and certify that no elves were on or under it. It was a delicate corporate situation, an Alcoa spokesman told me, because they had to pay hard cash to declare the site elf-free but, as he put it, 'we couldn’t as a company be in a position of acknowledging the existence of hidden people.' "