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Secession Update: Catalonia and Veneto

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On Sunday, the Catalonia region of Spain held an “informal” or “symbolic” referendum on Catalonian independence.  It was “symbolic” because Madrid politicians have declared it to be illegal, and  ”a sterile and useless sham.” The Guardian concludes that a legal one is now inevitable.

Catalonia is one of the most industrialized (and consequently) most lucrative areas of the country from which to extract tax revenue that can subsidize poorer and less-productive regions of Spain.  Naturally, those who benefit from such coerced largesse are enthusiastically opposed to Catalonian independence. (The centralists claim that Catalonia agitates for more government spending in Catalonia, and is thus living off the Spanish taxpayer, although it appears fairly clear that the region is simply attempting to get the central government to spend more of Catalonia’s money in Catalonia.)

As a political tactic, the Catalonian vote appears to have been at least moderately effective. More than 1.8 million people appear to have voted for independence (80 percent of those who voted) . Such numbers are hardly the last word (there are 5.4 million voters total), but if Madrid continues its current stance, it will become more and more difficult to describe as a position that amounts to anything other than “might makes right.”

According to Reuters, the Madrid government has now decided that maybe it should actually negotiate with the separatists, rather than merely dismiss them as sterile and useless.

Italy is currently using a similar tactic with the recent independence vote in Veneto. PressTV reported last week on the latest moves from the pro-independence movement in the region:

“The Veneto is self-governed as an independent state – it was called La Serenissima, an organization that has a distinguished history, and that had nothing to do with Italy for 1,100 years. Meanwhile our attachment to the Italian state is no more than 148 years. It’s absurd compared with our history,” [Alessio Morosin] added.

Morosin said Venetian officials are concerned that Italy’s paralyzing economic crisis would also affect Veneto, adding that the region’s independence from Rome will improve its economic situation.

We’ve noted some of the details of the Veneto referendum here at Mises.org.


Contact Ryan McMaken

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for the Mises Wire and Power and Market, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's degree in public policy and international relations from the University of Colorado. He was a housing economist for the State of Colorado. He is the author of Breaking Away: The Case of Secession, Radical Decentralization, and Smaller Polities and Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.