A Spanish Libertarian's View of Catalonian Independence
[Editor's Note: Last week, Mises Institute President Jeff Deist took a pro-secessionist, decentralist position in regards to the current secession movement in Catalonia. See "Let Catalonia Decide" from September 19. In response, many of our of alumni and supporters have claimed that the current secession movement should be blocked. Below we present a column by one alumnus, without modification. We have not edited it for content, and, like all articles, the article should not be interpreted as an official position of the Mises Institute.]
Unfortunately, the nationalists approach history in another temper. For them the past is not a source of information and instruction but an arsenal of weapons for the conduct of war. They search for facts which can be used as pretexts and excuses for their drives for aggression and oppression. If the documents available do not provide such facts, they do not shrink from distorting truth and from falsifying documents.
~ Mises, 1944. Omnipotent Government
The Catalan nationalist movement in favour of independence is not driven by an urgent need of freedom to establish a libertarian paradise of free market and low taxes. It does not look for the creation of a smaller and more decentralized government. It is the creation of powerful special interests in the region for the purposes of getting even more power, concessions, grants and money from the rest of Spain, while they control Catalonians even more though indoctrination and the creation of an evil foreign oppressor. Independence is not an end for them, it is a political tool. Independence is not an end for them, it is a political tool.
Spain is divided into Autonomous Communities and today each one has an Estatuto, similar to a constitution, which has given Catalonia, among others, regional autonomy. Catalonia controls its education and healthcare systems and it can impose taxes over events that are not already taxed by the central government or the councils, with some exceptions. Through this, Catalonia currently imposes 17 different taxes, and has one of the communities with the highest income taxes in the country.
Recent attempts at independence have been sough via changes to Catalonia's estatuto — it's constitution. The region's first estatuto was voted on in 1979 by 59.7% of the population with 88.15% voting for approval. After years of claiming separate nationhood, and poor treatment at the hands of Madrid, Cataloinian leaders presented a new estatuto to increase regional independence in 2006. 49.42% of the voters turned out, with 73.9% voting for approval. In 2014, the first illegal referendum on independence took place, paid with taxpayers' money from all of Spain. 37% of voters turned out, with 80% voting to approve. This means only 30% if potential voters voted for independence.
The Origins of the Separatist Movement
During the time of the ever-growing Spanish Empire, Spain was made up of kingdoms, but Catalonia was not one of them. It was made up of counties and there was a figure called the Count of Barcelona. The first time there is a mention of the term Cataluña is in the 12th century, when the King Alfonso II acknowledges it in a donation document to his wife. In 1714, the Bourbons and the House of Austria fought for the throne of Spain. Catalonians sided with the Austrians. There was no such thing as an invasion from Castilla; it was a Succession war, not a Secession War. In fact, one of the nationalist heroes, Rafael Casanova, famously called Barcelona to fight against the Bourbons for their honour, their nation and the freedom of all of Spain.
The Catalonian nationalist movement that rules today in the region started in the 19th century, at the time of the Romantic Era, and received the name of Reinaxença. It was a movement that focused on land and tradition, and its main goal was reviving the Catalan language. One of the founders of this movement, Francisco Cambó, became the leader of the Lliga Regionalista, a political party that existed from 1901 to 1936. After the death of Prat de la Riba in 1917. Cambó was part of the government of Spain in 1918 as Minister. In Cambó's memoirs, he explained that the nationalist movement was of ridiculously small size when he started, almost like a cult. He explained that, as with all big collective movements, the quick expansion of Catalonian nationalism was due to propaganda based on some exaggerations and some injustices.
The Current Movement
In 2012, something called Liquidity Fund for Autonomies was created to give communities access to grants and debt at almost 0% interest. Around 33% of this money has gone to Catalonia, even when they claim to be one of the richest, most innovative, civilised, and cosmopolitan regions of Spain.
One of the biggest cases of political corruption is that of the Pujol family. Jordi Pujol was the president of the Catalan government for 23 years and considered one of the fathers of the Catalan nation. It has been discovered that his family and he have a fortune of about 3.3 billion euros in tax havens. This money was hidden from the taxing authorities, and its origin is being investigated. The court exposed it came from political activities, mainly from illegal payments from business owners in search of a public contracts. Sadly, it is not the only case of this kind.
The idea that the Catalan language is being endangered, continues to be spread by the nationalist movement. The reality is only half of Catalonians have Spanish (i.e., Castilian) as a mother tongue, a fact that has been fought through the immersion system. The law says parents can choose the language they want their children to study in, but it is not being applied, even after favourable rulings from the Supreme Court. Moreover, it is required by law in Catalonia that the name of your business must be in Catalan, or you risk a fine, and that you must speak it if you want a public job as policeman or doctor, even when 98% of the population speaks Spanish.
I want freedom for Catalonia, and if it means they are out of Spain, so be it. But it must be done legally. The Spanish constitution established the country is a democratic and constitutional monarchy, and sovereignty resides in the Spanish people. More than 90% of Catalonians voted yes to the Spanish constitution. To change the current political system, a referendum should start in the national Congress, with a law approved by the absolute majority in Parliament. Via this system, it would be possible to call a referendum in Catalonia to check the reality of the secessionist claims among the people, but this possibility is not entertained by the nationalists. The Constitution, and the opinion of those who are not in favour of secession, who feel both Spanish and Catalonian, who don't get involved in the political agenda of Catalonian nationalists as we saw in 2014, must be respected too. But if nationalists carry out that referendum, they might lose; propaganda only gets you so far.