The long history of Catalonia, dating back to the 9th century B.C., is filled with some of the most eventful and historically significant moments in the western world.
From its formation under Charlemagne to its annexing by Napoleon, down to the despotic rule of Francisco Franco, Catalonia has felt both the sting of tyranny and the luxury of freedom. And on October 27th 2017, Catalonia added to that long history when it passed a landmark referendum and declared independence from Spain.
The reason for this revolutionary move is still up for debate, but the general consensus is that preceding the Spanish economic crisis of 2008, Barcelona has been the financial watering-hole for the rest of the country, seeing massive increases in taxes to be redistributed to the poorer regions. “Pro-separatists are fighting for independence to escape Spain’s economic woes and to stop paying billions of euros in taxes to Madrid.” Furthermore, this and the social uprising that followed have led to an increased police presence, where the militant “Civil Guard” has used “executive force” on the often violent protesters. This all came to a climax when the ballots were read and Catalonia decided to leave Spain.
Back in 2006, Catalonia formed the “Generalitat of Catalonia,” “which explicitly recognizes Catalonia as a nation… and which defines the Catalan political institutions, its powers and its relations with Spain…” This “Statute of Autonomy,” which establishes “the Parliament, the Presidency of the Generalitat and the Government,” was approved by the Spanish Parliament and was ratified later in Catalonia. It was this government, under the leadership of Carles Puigdemont, that was dissolved by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on the day of independence.
But besides all this, Catalonia is a one of the more unique regions of Spain. They have their own vibrant culture, their own distinctive language, and “is one of Spain’s wealthiest and most productive regions and is home to the proud city of Barcelona and a population of 7.5 million people.” The economic, political and social structure of Catalonia makes it almost ideal for independence.
So what does the future look like for the Catalan people? It’s hard to say with so much uncertainty and unrest, but here are some suggestions for those who support a free and independent Catalonia:
- After years of toiling under an authoritarian Social-Democracy, the Catalan public should utterly reject the tendencies towards a highly centralized government and embrace a freer and more liberated Constitutional Republic.
- Reestablish the Generalitat of Catalonia, complete with limitations on and checks-and-balances of the powers of the Executive, Parliamentary and Judiciary branches, to be ratified through democratic means by the general electorate.
- Provide for the common defense against all enemies foreign and domestic via a National Defense Force to be carried out by Catalan citizens on a strictly voluntary measure.
- Insure that the “negative” rights of citizens (i.e. the freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, of self-defense, of property, etc.) will not be infringed, and to all an equal protection of the laws, and impunity to those seeking a redress of grievances.
- Allow for free and open trade with all nations, void of tariffs, quotas and other forms of protectionist regulations, as well as providing a welcoming environment for business and industry to grow through a strictly supply-and-demand (or price-coordinated) economy.
- Establish a national currency to be monitored by the Treasury of Catalonia and to be steadily printed at a rate that allows for damaged tender to flow out of circulation and keeps the inflation rate as close to zero as possible.
- Institute a flat-tax for all Catalan citizens regardless of class or income level.
- Establish strong international relations with all neighboring countries (Spain in particular) by forming alliances, contracting minor debts, and allowing for free and open trade.
- Establish strong immigration policies centered on a strictly merit based system.
- Insure regular elections for the people and fixed term limits on the government.
This is in no way a comprehensive view of the course of action Catalonia should take if they are to establish total independence. It is merely a starting point to be expanded upon by the Catalan Government at the consent of the governed, as the situation continues to unfold.
If an independence movement is to be successful, some of the weight must fall on the shoulders of other independent nations such as the United States, Canada and the U.K. to support and defend the Catalans in their search for autonomy. It may be well in the interest of the U.S. to back this move for independence for the formation of a bold trade alliance with the increasingly wealthy Catalonia. It appears that with a similar commercial spirit as the U.S., both nations could see a growth in the scale of their economies and increased dominance in the world market.
But the alliance should only be contracted on the premise that Catalonia remains a free state. The risk of Catalonia falling into socialism and authoritarianism is quite possible. In fact, many of the pro-separatists are members of the far-left “PSC” (Socialists’ Party of Catalonia) and tend towards a Democratic-Socialist state. And with this looming specter, many would suggest the United States must remain on its guard and warn the Catalan people not to fall into the same fate as Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba and others.
One could argue the United States should take the lead by recognizing Catalonia as a free and independent state and proceed to contract an alliance with the Catalan government, establishing exchange rates and proclaiming non-militant support for the same.
I do not imagine this will happen overnight – or possibly not at all. But I am certain that should Catalonia, bearing in mind its long eventful history, be able to maintain autonomy, establish a liberal state, and (with America’s help) take a giant leap forward on the world stage, may be one of the great free and industrious nations of the future.