Andreu Mas-Collel calls for Catalonian secession

by on October 31, 2012 at 5:12 pm in Current Affairs, History, Law, Political Science | Permalink

The article, in Spanish, is here.  He refers to staying in Spain as “el camino de la decadencia.”  By the way, he is now the finance minister of Catalonia.

He taught me Ph.d Micro I at Harvard, so it’s too bad he wants to wreck both Spain and Europe, and for so little in return.  Didn’t one of his theorems suggest this was a bad idea?  It’s not as if Catalonia is treated like Tibet.  (Haven’t I spent a few nice days walking around Barcelona in my time?  Didn’t Air Genius Gary Leff get a decent meal at El Bulli?  Didn’t they once make a young people’s movie about the place in which no one has to do any work?)  Don’t we have bigger problems to worry about?  How easily does he think negotiations for separation can go, especially with entire eurozone deals at stake and a Spanish history of sending in troops?  He mentions that the territory is subjected to «humillación constante» de España.  Maybe he’s been misquoted, but from what I see I take this as a paradigm example of how a really smart person can be taken in by rather primitive tribal arguments.

The only way to defend this move is a kind of Leninist “things must get worse before they get better” approach to the eurozone.  Even if that is true, this hardly seems like the smoothest way of traversing that path.

For the pointer I thank @AlexFont.

KenF October 31, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Bluster is bluster.

prior_approval November 1, 2012 at 12:20 am

It sure is – where was the notice about the scheduled Scottish referendum to become an independent nation destroying the UK and the EU?

‘The Scottish Government intends to hold a referendum of the Scottish electorate on the issue of independence from the United Kingdom in the autumn of 2014[1] using powers granted by Westminster using a Section 30 Order.[2] The Referendum Bill is a proposed parliamentary bill to set out the arrangements for this referendum which is likely to be put forward in 2013.[3]

The Scottish National Party (SNP) became the minority government of the devolved Scottish Parliament after winning a plurality of seats in the 2007 Scottish election. A white paper for the bill, setting out four possible options ranging from no change to full independence, was published by the Scottish Government on 30 November 2009. A draft bill for public consultation was published on 25 February 2010, setting out a two question yes/no referendum, proposing both further devolution or full independence. The SNP failed to obtain support from other parties and withdrew the draft bill.

The SNP again pledged to hold an independence referendum and won an overall majority in the 2011 Scottish election. On 10 January 2012, the Scottish Government announced that they intend to hold the referendum in the autumn of 2014. An agreement was signed on 15 October 2012 by David Cameron and Alex Salmond which provides a legal framework for the referendum to be held. The principal issues in the referendum are economic policy, defence arrangements, continued relations with the UK and membership of supranational organisations, particularly the European Union.’,_2014

Cliff November 1, 2012 at 9:57 am

That’s two years from now

BLUECHIP November 3, 2012 at 12:48 am

I am catalan and I am deeply troubled by some of the comments on this page. As it seems we as a nation still have lots of explaining to do to the world, so that our project is understood…not MISunderstood. Financially, socially and culturally, Catalonia has a lot to gain from freedom. And yes, I say freedom because I do not feel this freedom in the current situation; with Catalonia, being in the hands of some Spaniards from Madrid. I do not feel free. And like me, there are millions of people (not hundreds, or thousands or hundreds of thousands) who feel the same. I am 32 and I have wanted Catalonia to be recognized in the world ever since I can remember (that is at least since I am a litlle girl). Catalonia is different from Spain, there is no doubt about it. We have different ways of doing things, we have a different language, different culture, and we also have a different history up until 1714, that is when we lost a war against “Castilla-Madrid” that unified the Peninsula, banned our language, our parliament, our universities and most catalan laws (all except civil law, which still today is different from spanish civil law). See one must first understand history to see what is going on here. Over 300 years, we have seen our nation attacked again and again by the Spanish: they have banned our culture, in the early 1900s they killed our democratically elected president because he wanted Catalonia to be free, Gaudi (the architect that designed the Sagrada Familia) went to jail for speaking catalan by the way. Now, the Spanish themselves dont even consider us to be Spanish. We are like a colony (like Cuba and South America used to be), we pay high taxes to the central government, only to see little investments in our land. We have to pay to support the Spanish National Project (and what Spanish leaders want for their country), which differs a lot from the Catalan National Project (what our leaders want): in infrastructures, in the law, in medicine, in the way we want our universities or function, even in the way we think. We tried in democracy for 40 years to make this work and it is just not working. We want the right to vote for a different relationship with Spain, because we want to be free, the Catalans are not and cannot be owned by the Spanish any more.

Filipides November 3, 2012 at 7:42 am

You have the perception you are not free, but this doesn´t mean this is true. It is far from clear that most Catalans would favor independence, although after 35 years of an education that has had as its first goal to brainwash children they could be close to that goal.
The war lost in 1714 was not a war of Spain against Catalonia. Many Catalans supported the Bourbons and many non Catalans the Austrians, and support your argumentations on facts that happened 300 years ago is quite weak.
Why is Catalonia so different?, Catalan is not only spoken in Catalonia. When has Catalonia been attacked again and again: when all Spain supported the Barcelona games?, when the state is supporting your economy that would be bankrupt thanks to el tripartito?, when you are allowed to have what you call embassies -something countries such as the US, France or Germany would never allow-
You pay as high taxes as any other Spaniard, taxes are paid for by individuals not by territories. You have all the right to complain about investments, and probably you are right there but this is not a reason for independentism as infrastructures are poor not only in your land.
The comment about being a colony doesn´t deserve an answer, it is just ridiculous

BLUECHIP November 3, 2012 at 8:39 am

Well, are you Catalan? If you are then let’s vote democratically and then you will see what people want. You cannot make such statements as “the majority of Catalans don’t want independence” when more than 2/3 of the democratically elected Catalan parliament are pro independence. Lets do a referendum and ask people. That is the democratic thing to do. And then I can vote YES and you can vote NO if you are Catalan. If you are not Catalan then you will just have to respect our decision.

Filipides November 3, 2012 at 10:47 am

Sorry that wouldn´t be democratic for 2 reasons:
1. Why should you have this right and not give it to for example people from Besos?, would you allow them to separate from Catalonia or only Spain can be divided?, why should you have this right and not people from Val d´Aran or people from Majadahonda who also suffer fiscal deficit
2. Such a decision would impact Catalans and the rest of Spaniards, so it is for all Spaniards to vote about something that affect them all

The rules are the rules and must be followed, by the way Catalonia supported these rules creation in 1978

Bill October 31, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Spanish central government has taken on a whole lot of bank debt and guarantees and imposed austerity measures on the provinces. This is not a case where the central government is taking on the debt of the provinces, like the federal government took on the war debt of the states following the American revolution. This is a case where the center is taking on debt of private financial institutions, and using its authority to reign in the provinces.

What would you do if this were a bargaining situtation between the center and the periphery.

Of course you would threaten to secede.

Ask Sarah Palin.

Bill October 31, 2012 at 5:48 pm

by the way, I realize that some of the provinces have debt too. But, they are not threatening to secede.

Brian Donohue October 31, 2012 at 5:59 pm

‘reign in the provinces’ or ‘rein in the provinces’? either way works, but…

Bill October 31, 2012 at 6:33 pm

+1 Got me.

Norman Pfyster October 31, 2012 at 7:13 pm

The rain in Spain…

Iggy November 18, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Actually, the initial asertion is wrong. The state is taking on the debt of way-ward regions like Catalunya. Catalunya issued “patriotic bonds” in a crazy race where they tripled their regional debt from EU10 billion to EUR40 billion in under 4 years. That debt is now due and the regional catalan government has no money to pay it back. The Spanish “federal” government had to step in and give the catalan government over EUR12billion to repay maturing debt.

More significantly, per capital sub-national government debt in Catalonia is the highest in Spain at EUR5,500, compared to a median of EUR2,900 for Spain as a whole or EUR2,200 for Madrid. Local authorities, in an attempt to side-step their accountability for misfeasance and mismanagement of resources are now embarking on an uncertain and dangerous journey, using tribal and mythical affiliations in a race to nowhere. Unfortunately, the control they have exerted during the last 35 years over the educational system allows them to control the long term strategy of creating a “nation” which has never existed and the tenets of which are upheld by myths and fallacies that emanate from a 19th century romanticist ideology long surpassed in developed areas of the world.

As a mere example of the inconsistencies of the ideology is the fact that they deny the the same right to self-determination that they claim for themselves to other, smaller communities in their midst (Vall d’aran). For those of you who understand Spanish or Catalan, this video might be instructive:

Super Man October 31, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I agree with Tyler completely. I too find it puzzling to see super-smart Catalans “being taken in by primitive tribal arguments”. Sala-i-Martin is the other example that comes to mind. A super-smart guy that I saw object to being called Spanish in an interview about Economics (the interviewer wasn’t even asking about Spain, simply introduced him as a Spanish economist in asking about macro questions).

8 October 31, 2012 at 11:04 pm

There are a lot of grumpy Marxists who say the same thing, just change tribalism to greed.

Culture, tribalism, call it whatever you want, but it is making a big comeback because this is what happens during periods of negative social mood. It was the fools who ignored human nature and assumed the destruction of cultures and nations would pass without objection who are to blame for the mess. The problem in the EU is not a debt problem! This is why almost all economists are blind—it’s about culture, the nation, the tribe (whatever happened to political economy?). Debt is just the fault line, it is the spot where the conflict has burst forth onto the scene because it is the point of greatest weakness. Had there been no debt crisis, there would be some other crisis that would put pressure on the EU to break apart. The same forces will be at work in the United States eventually, as multi-culturalism eventually leads to multi-nationalism. Just because these forces are subdued during peak social mood doesn’t mean they are gone, but like with every other bubble, people assume “this time it’s different.”

IVV November 1, 2012 at 10:03 am

I claim no tribal belonging. Maybe “American,” but I don’t see that as the same sort of badge. Destruction of tribalism is a net positive for me. So, I will advocate it. But I can understand why others would want to keep it–they feel benefits from it. Sometimes, I envy them, too. But in the end, I don’t think I could ever truly identify myself by tribal identity. So, better that we do away with it.

lords of lies November 1, 2012 at 11:30 am

“Destruction of tribalism is a net positive for me.”

why? if the consequences of tribalism makes people feel happier, better, calmer, less anxious, more trusting, (and there is growing scientific evidence emerging that all these things are true), then why is its destruction necessarily a positive?

contra cheap chalupas, love is also a very primitive feeling, just like tribalism, but you don’t hear any haughty economists (well, except for a handful of outlandish spergtards) excoriating people for being taken in by primitive love arguments.

seriously, people, it’s time for you multicultists to start thinking outside the box.

IVV November 1, 2012 at 12:27 pm

I’m not saying it’s a net positive for everyone, I’m saying it’s a net positive for me.

The other side of tribalism is that those who are left outside the tribe are worse off. Destruction of tribalism is a net positive for me because I am not enjoying the fruits of tribalism, and risk being targeted as prey (or at least exclusion of economic opportunities) by other tribes in the process. Destruction of tribalism leads to a happier, better, calmer, less anxious, more trusting me.

Ultimately, I recognize it’s a personal psychology component. I suspect there’s a genetic component to it; my family tree is filled with draft dodgers, emigrants, religious conversions, histories in lands of ambiguous nationality. You learn that the Germans in my family were actually English, the English were actually Irish, the Irish were actually Scottish, the French were actually German, the Mexicans were actually Spanish (except for that one Frenchman), the Spaniards were actually Moorish, the Moors were actually Jewish. My family’s survival depended on being able to ignore tribal affiliation time and again. Yeah, my position’s selfish. I know it, I admit it.

But in any case, I really don’t mind tribal fractioning of larger states. In many ways, the fractioning helps prevent power centralization, and gives rise to small enough units that the nontribal (or “multicultist” as you put it) can compete, or can potentially found their own tribes.

“You multicultists”… Yeah, I said I don’t feel like part of a tribe, and you’re demonstrating that. Is it any mystery I hold my position? Or that multiculturalism is not necessarily a touchy-feely, kumbaya let’s-all-get-along emotion, but a survival tactic?

lords of lies November 1, 2012 at 12:47 pm

“The other side of tribalism is that those who are left outside the tribe are worse off.”

no one said life was fair.
though, to be precise, tribalism has left the outside the boxers better off in some notable instances. a 1950s 90% white quasi-tribalistic america was, all things considered, a much better place to live for the average person of african descent than that of his native homeland.

“Destruction of tribalism is a net positive for me because I am not enjoying the fruits of tribalism.”

you always have the option to move to where your kind are the numerical majority to enjoy tribalism’s fruits. admittance should not be a problem.

IVV November 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm

But what is “my kind”?

The closest as I can figure, it’s “white(ish) American” or “educated Western” or something like that. But even then I am left with the impression of a lack of true belonging; there are plenty of nonwhite non-Latino non-Westerners I get along better with than my “fellow” tribesmates. In addition, true tribal belonging requires adopting habits I’m not interested in; following a sports team, for example.

In the end, I have concluded that there is no “my kind” to be had. I’m better off in America than in most other places; I have the right language, I’m familiar with the culture, I don’t stick out like a sore thumb as quickly. So, yeah, my tribe is quasi-American. But certainly not to the point that I see value in being anti-non-America.

A society that considers the merits of the individual independently of tribal affiliation is better for me than a society that expects me to don markers of tribal membership. So I advocate it.

msgkings November 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm

One of the best things about America is it being the least tribal (based on national origin) of all the world’s nations, especially large ones. It’s perhaps the American killer app, or one of two (the other being entrepreneurial optimism).

And of course old lol isn’t a fan. Because he hates America.

DocMerlin October 31, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I disagree. I think what is best for catalonia is to stay in the Eurozone but split from Spain.

CC October 31, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Stay in the Eurozone but leave spain? Why? They’ll still suffer under the insane ECB.

mulp November 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm

That’s basically what Rhode Island said, after its intransigence forced the writing and ratification of the Constitution.

The United States threat to treat RI as a foreign nation with its exports to the US taxed provided the crucial votes to bring RI into the USA.

Threaten Catalonia with being treated like Tunisia or Libya on trade and migration restrictions, and they will stay part of Spain.

londenio November 1, 2012 at 9:58 am

They would first need to apply for membership to the EU and it would need to be accepted.

Sigivald October 31, 2012 at 5:56 pm

He wants to wreck Europe?

The Eurozone is arguably moribund, and good riddance.

Its collapse won’t destroy “Europe”.

It might end the EU, but that might be a benefit more than a cost.

(Note that this is not addressing the issue of whether Catalan independence is economically or morally justified, or a wise position, or the “tribal argument” issue at any level; those are completely separate issues from the wisdom of the Eurozone and desires to maintain or end it, or withdraw from it leaving it to its own ends.)

In and case, I’m not sure Catalan secession would wreck Spain, and I don’t see how it’d wreck Europe, or even the Eurozone. [I can see arguments for why it might wreck Catalonia!]

France leaving the Eurozone would be fatal to the project. Ditto Germany. I’m not sure who else is absolutely vital, though I’m sure there might be a momentum/domino effect from any defections at all.

I’m just not sure that that might not be “getting the inevitable painful realignment over with” rather than anything else…

DocMerlin October 31, 2012 at 6:01 pm


Go Kings, Go! November 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Why should we listen to what your primitive brain has instructed your primitive fingers to type? I place all my faith in modern nationalism, modern AI and modern robotics.

mulp November 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm

You have failed to explain how Catalonia being treated like Tunisia and Libya would benefit Catalonia.

If you self deported to Somalia or Afghanistan, your present nation would not suffer, but would you be better off?

Catalonia wants all the benefits of the EU without the cost of being in the EU. Sorta like Gov Christie not wanting the burden of the USA, but now wanting all the benefits of the USA to provide aid to NJ.

Careless November 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm

And mulp just got caught not reading past the second sentence.

Daniel Dostal November 1, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Catalonia wants all the benefits of the EU without the cost of being in Spain. FTFY

Joe November 18, 2012 at 12:20 am

Photo booth Atlanta, at one time looked at lgeraly being getaway-instance uniqueness, are experiencing a resurgence in popularity nowadays. However Vintage Photo Booths really are no longer relegated to boardwalks and game facilities; instead, they’re turning out to be a good increasingly conspicuous fixture at public festivals, which range from wedding parties and First Holy Communions to marriage ceremonies and corporate celebrations.

King Cynic October 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm

“Maybe he’s been misquoted, but from what I see I take this as a paradigm example of how a really smart person can be taken in by rather primitive tribal arguments.”

Knowing Tyler as I do, I find it entirely credible that he dismisses a culture as a whole as some “primitive tribal” thing.

Maybe consider for just a second that people are not Homo Econs and that cultural identity can be a value and absolute good in itself.

DocMerlin November 2, 2012 at 12:23 am

Something most “cultured” people miss is that culture isn’t foods and clothing, its values and worldview.

Alejandro Salazar October 31, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Xavier Sala-i-Martin is also supporting the independence of Catalonia, he has made some benefit-cost based remarks and I think it makes sense for catalans to separate from Spain. Therefore, I dont think this position is based on “primitive tribal arguments”.

Super Man October 31, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Cost-benefit statements are fine–that is economics. But the way I heard Sala-i-Martin talk about it in that interview was not about economics; it was some kind of animus that makes me think of tribalism. You generally think lots of education and smarts moves you towards science rather than animus. But here some sort of emotion seems to drive things. Nationalism/jingoism happens everywhere. You just expect it less among academics.

lords of lies November 1, 2012 at 11:34 am

“But here some sort of emotion seems to drive things.”

stop the presses! an academic turns out to be an actual human being instead of a rational actor borg!

Mr. Voegelin November 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm

“You generally think lots of education and smarts moves you towards science rather than animus.”

Science and philosophy bring no values to the table. It might be able to smash value systems up (by undermining their various empirical pillars), but they can not contribute to valuation in a positive sense.

So, if one gets utility from tribalism (as most people do) or familism (as most people do), why not just swim with the current?

Rahul October 31, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Maybe it’s merely a threat to improve their position at the negotiation table (Schelling?). They have no desire to really separate; but meanwhile this might get some sweet deals for the Catalonians. Publicity just makes it a more credible threat.

Nylund October 31, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Given the ubiquity of Mas-Collel, Whinston, and Green, didn’t he (in a sense) teach everyone under a certain age Ph.D. micro? (My copy is actually only about 4 feet from me as I write this, even all these years later.)

derek October 31, 2012 at 9:14 pm

I hated his textbook. I am not at all surprised that he is stupid now. Grrrr.

Thor October 31, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Perhaps Canadians can chime in, re: Quebec and separatism.

Why bring economics into it? As I understand it, economic arguments aren’t that relevant: it’s a matter of nationalist / ethnic emotion and sentiment, rather than the balance sheet.

Do the separatist mandarins really care what the GNP of Quebec will be? No, their tribalism clouds their vision: “Oui, we might suffer but at least we’ll suffer as one [pure] people!” (Or, at the very least, the threat of separation can get us more attention and autonomy, which we will then use as a means of getting more attention and autonomy, and perhaps ultimately separation.)

Have NONE of these “thinkers” been through a divorce? Do they really think it’s going to be easy, clean and cheap?

Ian Lippert October 31, 2012 at 10:33 pm

So when a small province wants to leave its vulgar tribalism but when Spain argues for a shared cultural heritage it’s not? Hey economists, it’s ok for people to have differences of opinion to which government organization they want to be ruled under, we don’t have to resort to name calling and hysterical counter factuals.

Vanya November 1, 2012 at 5:25 am

Tribalism seems far more rational to me than attempts to impose abstract supertribal identities like Panslavism, Homo Sovieticus, Grossdeutschland or “European”.

Mr. Voegelin November 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm

…not to mention the ultimate fantasy utopian anti-Hayekian supertribal entity: The Brotherhood of Man (TM)…

Pensans October 31, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Another profile in courage from TC. Even the UN recogonizes a human right to national self-determination but to the eunuch its just tribalism. Not
Surprising from someone who thinks that a woman’s assertion of a right to kill her unborn babies should be unimportant in choosing a bride. Progeny, nation, courage are not things economists say we can afford.

TuringTest October 31, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Substitute “California” for “Catalonia” and the US for Spain …

dcdrone October 31, 2012 at 7:01 pm

except catalonia is not submerging fast into the third world? analogy fail.

Nyongesa November 1, 2012 at 3:03 am

Third world?, like Catalonia we have massive wealth transfer to the central government for redistribution to poorer and more rural states, who in turn complain about government subsidies on the poor.

Cliff November 1, 2012 at 10:02 am

You think California will vote for independence at the same time it is clamoring for a government bailout?

IVV November 1, 2012 at 10:07 am

If the case is made that freedom from supporting other states is a de facto government bailout, then yes, both will be possible.

Mark Thorson October 31, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Yes, I can see this succeeding as a California proposition. Not quite yet, though. But with the right timing, you bet. I’d vote for it.

dcdrone October 31, 2012 at 7:00 pm

In the end, there is only the tribe. Call it primitive, or foundational. And why would this wreck Europe? Doesn’t the EU provide an umbrella for “sub-nationalism”? Tyler, you are coming across here as very “inside-the-box.”

Oriol October 31, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Spanish history of sending in troops?

Here you have a very good reason to secede

somethingblue October 31, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Tyler’s “Spanish” has already conceded the whole argument.

Filipides November 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm

When did Spain send troop to Catalonia?. Do not confuse civil wars in XVIII or XX centuries where there were Catalonians and not catalonians in both sides

Andrew M October 31, 2012 at 7:43 pm

But what if it is economically rational for Catalonia to secede? It’s a prosperous region of Spain. Assuming that they are net contributors to the national budget, independence would directly translate to lower taxes.

An extreme comparison could be made with the ex-Soviet states. In 1989-91, fifteen countries broke away from the Soviet Union. Moscow was deprived of much of its tax revenue and the government shriveled, but the outcome for the breakaway states was (ultimately) very positive. Catalonia may just be like Poland: the first to break away but certainly not the last.

Ed October 31, 2012 at 9:48 pm

This is a nitpick, since it doesn’t affect your overall point at all, but Poland “broke away” from the Warsaw Pact (technically the signatories agreed to dissolve the pact), not the Soviet Union, nor was it the first chunk of the East Bloc to break away.

Patrick R. Sullivan October 31, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Considering how California is developing I think the rest of us would be better off if it did become a separate country. Mitt Romney would if it could secede before next Tuesday.

GiT October 31, 2012 at 10:42 pm

at 78 cents on the dollar, California is 43rd in a ranking of federal money received per dollar of taxes paid. Good riddance to the red-state leeches, if they were to secede. The extra tens of billions of dollars a year recovered from supporting the benighted states would take care of the state budget and the state public debt rather easily.

Paul October 31, 2012 at 11:03 pm

I understand that these comments aren’t serious, but I would like to point out; how much tax money saved from supporting red states would just be spent on a military for California to defend itself against red states?

GiT November 1, 2012 at 12:18 am

Presumably that would come out of the 200 billion+ that goes up to the federal government in the form of federal taxes and comes back in the form of federal benefits, supporting, for example, the 32+ military bases located within the state.

Go Kings, Go! November 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm

How are you factoring in the deductbility of California income and property taxes against Federal income tax?

GiT November 1, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I’m afraid I’m not taking the thought experiment quite that seriously.

Brian Donohue November 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Interesting stat. I’d like to understand what goes into these numbers, which appear to be taken for granted. Do you have a good link for this?

Right off the bat, for example, the deduction of state income taxes on federal returns would seem to tilt this against California and towards, e.g., Texas.

GiT November 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I was looking at a link that had details on the methodology, can’t find it right now. Historical data to 2005 here, I was looking at something that went up to 2009, however…

Here’s 2009 numbers,

Apparently, in its infinite wisdom, Congress has abolished the census study which tracked the size of transfers to each state. But historical data is linked to here. The methodology is, hopefully, covered in more detail within…

Brian Donohue November 2, 2012 at 11:54 am

Thanks. The story is more complicated than you suggest. Using the Tax Foundation’s 2005 numbers, for example, the total ‘deficit’ (taxes paid minus spending received) was $122,730. Virginia accounts for $34,912, DC $31,124, Maryland $17,542, Louisiana $19,065, and Alabama $17,386.

There’s your story there. Not sure why Alabama is perenially adept at working the teat (I’m guessing there’s a simple explanation), but this doesn’t strike me as a Red/Blue issue at all, especially when you consider that there are plenty of red staters living in blue states and vice versa.

Gene Callahan October 31, 2012 at 7:56 pm

“He taught me Ph.d Micro I at Harvard, so it’s too bad he wants to wreck both Spain and Europe, and for so little in return.”

Good God man, untwist your knickers and get a grip! Spain and Europe will be just fine if Catalonia is independent. And what the heck does the level of badness of the suggestion have to do with *you*? If he hadn’t taught you, would this be not nearly so bad?

revver October 31, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Its called a “bad precedent”. Other ethnic groups will look to this event as an example, and will push for separation as well. How will the new map look? Where will it end?

maguro October 31, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Why would it necessarily be bad? Would the world be a better place if Czechoslovakia was still intact?

doctorpat October 31, 2012 at 9:41 pm

But the maps. The maps! Won’t somebody think of the maps?
How much money and time will be wasted redrawing all the maps? Changing all the lesson plans in European geography? New flags?

GiT October 31, 2012 at 10:43 pm

‘The menu-costs argument against national self-determination’

mofo November 1, 2012 at 9:44 am

“But the maps. The maps! Won’t somebody think of the maps?”

You more or less just described the basis for our foreign policy, too.

Steve M October 31, 2012 at 9:56 pm

It is actually a good precedent: small countries based on a hard working, entrepreneurial culture are as close as we get to the ideal social organization. Large countries are nothing but a magnet for a rent-seeking, corrupt politicial class. If Europe is split into lots of competing small states, it will likely outcompete the rest of the world within a generation or two.

NAMEREDACTED November 1, 2012 at 1:45 am

Someone must think of the mapmakers! OH NO! WHAT WILL THEY DO!
This post from Tyler has made me chortle with glee. I am glad I read it.

IVV November 1, 2012 at 10:13 am

Slovenia! Croatia! Bosnia! Macedonia! Montenegro!!!
East Timor! South Sudan!

The world doesn’t want to recognize Kosovo, Somaliland, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia… (not saying that they all should be considered independent, but why not? Let’s have some defined standards here.)

lords of lies November 1, 2012 at 11:49 am

“Other ethnic groups will look to this event as an example, and will push for separation as well.”

if separation manifesting from tribal spirits was so evidently bad, why do so many ethnic groups embrace it when the opportunity arises? might it be because, on a subconscious level, people know that living predominantly with their own kind makes for a generally happy existence? (c.f., noted anti-white rabble rouser tim wise, who lives in a neighborhood that is 97% white). that perhaps evolution has guided most of us in the tribal direction because it afforded fitness benefits?

Anon. October 31, 2012 at 9:31 pm

First Catalonia, then Scotland and Belgium…that’s 3 new countries, and who knows who else will want to secede after they’ve shown it’s possible. The Sami, the Cretans, the Basques, the Welsh? It’s a potential shit-storm at an inopportune time.

DocMerlin October 31, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Let them. If they can do better on their own, everyone wins.

dcdrone October 31, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Free Cyprus! Turk interlopers out!
And while we’re at it, free Anatolia! West to Turks, east to Armenians.
Happy days are here again.

affenkopf November 1, 2012 at 5:50 am

Giving Northern Cyprus (or anything for that matter) to Greeks is a horrible idea.

dcdrone November 1, 2012 at 5:59 am

Yeah, bc the Greeks do so much worse than the Turks. Only if you measure the Turks as on the short-bus (which, to be fair, they are on!).

Brim October 31, 2012 at 8:28 pm

‘The only way to defend this move is a kind of Leninist “things must get worse before they get better” approach to the eurozone.’

That is exactly my reasoning why I will elect the socialist party in Germany’s next federal election. Is it really a Leninist thing? Shame…

But still true though: The faster Europe goes down, the easier it will be to rebuild.

ThomasH October 31, 2012 at 8:29 pm

The advantages of getting out of the Euro are pretty evident for a egion that does not receive net transfers from Madrid. If Catlunia remains in the EU, it would still have access to the Spanish market. Negotiating it’s part of the national debt would be tricky.

dead serious November 1, 2012 at 9:48 am

I have a feeling that Spaniards would boycott Catalunyan products out of principle were they to secede.

Randy McDonald October 31, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Catalan tribalism is apparent, yes, but only because it’s the challenger to a Spanish tribalism. Like a commenter above, I’d suggest that a propensity to apply military force against Catalans would be a positive incentive for Catalonia to leave.

Turpentine October 31, 2012 at 8:58 pm

I’m an economist. I teach economics. I love economics. But I sometimes get really annoyed by my fellow economists, in particular by their innate tendency to reduce any issue or problem to an economic analysis. A few seconds of serious introspection should make anyone realize that this is laughable: humans and nations are not only moved by basic economic motives, as annoying as it may seem to our profession. And this is even more true when we are talking about dimensions such as culture, language, etc. The fact Mas-Collel is pro-independence does not mean he is a bad economist, it just means he is a normal human being. Similarly, I believe quite a few politicians who were actively involved in promoting the secession of Quebec were economists.
Get over it Tyler, people are not machines, and their cost-benefit analyses may include elements that are very difficult to value in a monetary sense.

Claudia October 31, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Preferences are primitive in economics, so these seemingly ‘non economic’ motives are easily woven in our models and analysis. That said, economists often downplay differences in preferences…the way we value the stuff and the state of the world. I’ve heard diminished ‘trust’ pushed here as a reason for the slow U.S. recovery so this is not exactly the fortress of plain vanilla economics. And yet having read Mas-Collel’s textbook, I can understand the shock at emotional rhetoric coming from him. I suspect that economists get more in touch with preferences when they assume greater policy roles. Imagine if Mas-Collel would have issued the linked technical paper instead of giving his interview? Context matters even for the economist giving advice.

lords of lies November 1, 2012 at 11:52 am

i have yet to see or hear of a mainstream economic model that accounts for robert putnam’s findings that racial and ethnic diversity reduces intergroup and intragroup trust.

revver October 31, 2012 at 9:10 pm

As a personal conjecture: expect to see more of this kind of thing in the near future , contrary to the best of intentions put forth by progressives. Race, religion, culture, ethnicity, gender, and language will become even more contentious issues in the years to come.

In a world thats rapidly changing, those things that remain the same become incerasingly more valuable.

James Bailey October 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm

What is the optimal size of countries? Do you have any reason to think the size is bigger than Catalonia?

Jordan S. November 1, 2012 at 9:51 am

Is there any reason to think there is such a thing as the optimal size of countries?

chuck martel November 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm

According to Leopold Kohr and James Tainter many countries are too big now.

Ape Man October 31, 2012 at 9:18 pm

I agree that the EU is toast. I agree that Cowen sometimes places dollars and cents a little to high up on the scale of values. I agree that the current Spanish economic policies leave a lot to be desired. I agree that Catalonia pays more than its fair share to the center and that this something they are justified at feeling angry about in at least one set of reasonable values.

Having conceded all those points, I don’t understand how it is possible to construct an argument where it is remotely rational for Catalonia to try to leave Spain and stay in the EU under any value system that does not accept having your cake and eating it to as being a valid choice to strive for. In the first place, most the policies that Spain is pursuing are being forced on it by its desire to stay in the EU and the EU’s (Germany’s) idea of what Spain needs to do. A truly independent country would have devalued a long time ago.

More importantly, everything that Catalonia claims to hate about being part of Spain are things that the EU must do in order to survive. Transfers from the rich wealthy areas to the poor mis-governed areas? EU must do this if it wants to continue in its current form. Loss of historical sovereignty to a collection of other cultural groups? The EU must do this if it wants to survive. Furthermore, if the EU wants to survive it must nip in bud any attempt to breakup Spain as that will destroy the EU if it happens during the current crisis.

I find it hard to sympathize with any group of people who want all the benefits of being part of a super state with out any of the costs. And that is what Catalonia’s are saying they want when they say they want out of Spain but the want to stay in the EU.

Oriol October 31, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Redistribution to poor regions is fine, but thats a simplified vision of what’s happening. To me there is a latent dislike of catalans in Spain, which they rarely recognize, and that manifests itself in different ways, from how the industrial policy is conducted to how the legal and social system in Spain has been planned in the past and present.
Why is it so difficult to accept the promotion of catalan, even in the current light version? Why if Catalonia has to be a part of Spain its representation is so limited in its central public administration? Why is catalan not official in Spain? I think that’s a natural question, but a debate on that is impossible.

Ape Man October 31, 2012 at 10:10 pm


I might have an easier time believing that Catalonia was motivated by hurt feeling instead of money issues if they where threatening to leave during good times. And don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with countries breaking up in the abstract. It is just the hypocrisy of wanting out of Spain and yet wanting to still be part of the EU that gets me. I thought everyone (and by everyone I mean those that hate the EU and those that support it) understood that the EU must become more like a nation state if it is to survive. Among other things, that means that Catalonia is going to have to pay for Spain no matter what. It also means that Spanish voters will have a lot of control over Catlonia no matter what (the bigger countries have more pull then the small ones in current EU governance and EU regs often overrule local ones). Again, that is assuming that the rest of the EU is inclined to take Catalonia just because they think they ought to be included. For some reason, I find it very hard to believe that this will be the case seeing as it is in Germany’s economic self interest to see Spain stay together.

And I do understand that the desire for independence has long been there in Catalonia. It was just that in the past the very real cost of such actions held them in check. And now I think they are fooling themselves by thinking that remaining in the EU is somehow a way to avoid the very real costs that the break up of Spain will bring about. The EU represents nothing more than a cost free way of being small country while having the benefits of being a superpower. And I think the recent problems that the EU is undergoing are showing that there is no such thing as a free lunch. The Catalonias just have not realized that yet.

wiki October 31, 2012 at 10:32 pm


ThomasH November 1, 2012 at 8:46 am

I fail to see what is hypocritical about Catalans wanting the benefits of a free trade area like the EU without the costs of a currency union like the Euro zone which they are itched into by being part of Spain. I do not agree that the EU “must become more like a nation state if it is to survive.” That may be true of the Euro Zone, but not the EU

Roy October 31, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Honestly I totally understand why most other Spaniards, and honestly most Spanish speakers, dislike Catalonians, they are quite obnoxious, but since this is such a universal view AND they have never been very enthusiastic about Spain in the first place AND the Spanish state has a tradition of using force to crush their national aspirations, they have a very good case for independence. That they are quite prosperous in the Spanish context only means they have less excuse for not seeking it than the more beknighted Galicians and the Basques.

The Austrian Empire was a pretty good deal economically, but only The Economist seems to question whether the slavs were wrong to want out of it.

georgesdelatour November 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm

“The Austrian Empire was a pretty good deal economically, but only The Economist seems to question whether the slavs were wrong to want out of it.”

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the horrific subsequent 50 years were the predictable, automatic consequence of them leaving it.

Many Poles who live in the former Austrian areas of Galicia feel a sentimental attachment to their Habsburg heritage. No one from the former Prussian or Russian areas feels any comparable sentiment.

bob November 2, 2012 at 11:42 am

As opposed to the not so latent dislike the independentists have of any Spaniard that doesn’t speak Catalan? How about those beautiful laws of theirs that make sure public schools don’t teach regular classes in Spanish, regardless of what the parents might want? It’s easier to take high school Geography in Spanish in a Texas public school than it is in Catalonia.

What this is all about is the same “caciquismo” that has has been the core of peninsular culture for centuries. The only reason we don’t see the same movement from Andalusians is that they have a weaker regional economy.

The whole of Spain needs a big cultural shock, Catalonia included.

BLUECHIP November 3, 2012 at 1:24 am

Dear Bob,
Catalans, on comparative exams, have a higher level of written and spoken Spanish that the average of the traditional Spanish speaking regions in Spain. Spain is nation, but Catalonia is too. I did go to school (through medical school) in Barcelona and I can tell you we have PLENTY of classes in Spanish. I have absolute proficiency in Spanish despite being a Catalan, educated in an educational system that favors catalan, just because it is the weakest language and because we (contrary to the Spanish) do not have a STATE behind it to promote it. 10 million Spanish people speak Catalan but I yet have to hear a president from Spain speaking a few words in Catalan when talking to us. Indeed, President Obama and the United States of America have much higher and better respect for Spanish that Spain and any of the Spanish presidents until today have for Catalan. For your information, only 3 families in 40 years of democracy have complained about wanting their kids educated in ONLY SPANISH. What would you think of a Spanish family that came to live in Boston, MA and requested to have their children educated in Spanish, but no English at all. Wouldnt you think that is insane? Well, in Catalonia we have laws made democratically and supported by an ample majority about this issue. If 3 families dont want that, they can take their kids to private schools, they dont have to go to public schools if they think CATALAN EDUCATION is TERRIBLE.

Filipides November 3, 2012 at 7:30 am

I agree that Catalan is important and should be taught so that all people in Catalonia is proficient in it. But I also think that Spanish must have the same approach, as it is the mother tongue of a majority of Catalans and has been commonly used there since XIV century if not before -it is not an alien language-. Unfortunately the nationalists have secluded Spanish and only 2 hours a week are used in primary school to teach it. Even the UN has complained about this situation.
I know this first hand as I have young relatives there and their command of Spanish is quite poor. Up to you, but you are limiting their future. By the way, the US would never allow a situation like this, there English is the only language used at school -I also know it first hand- .
You can live in Catalan, use it everywhere- Spanish cannot be used everywhere-, what are you complaining about. You do have a state to promote Catalan: zillions of subsidies, press as La Vanguardia that publishes in Catalan because the Generalitat pays for it -without those subsidies, the Catalan edition of this paper would be financialy impossible-
Enough of victimism. So many years of nationalistic education takes a toll, it is called brainwash

FE October 31, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I have no problem with this critique except for the part about wrecking Europe and the Eurozone. Catalonians are obliged to subordinate their desire for independence, because they’re morally obliged to the Greeks and the Irish to perpetuate a currency union?

marcus nunes October 31, 2012 at 9:32 pm

On the “humillación constante”, I thought it was the Barcelona soccer team that was constantly humiliating the rest of Spain´s teams!

Ricardo November 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm

In all seriousness, I think you’ve found the answer. La Liga wouldn’t tolerate FC Barcelona post-secession, and no other top-flight league would accept them. If FCB wouldn’t be viable post-secession, there will be no secession.

Ed October 31, 2012 at 10:09 pm

There are alot of contradictory political forces at work here:

1. Political legitimacy to some extent depends on a government being able to “deliver the goods” to its citizens or subjects (eg security, some degree of prosperity and freedom to pursue happiness), and this has probably increased in the late twentieth century as people at both the top and the bottom have become more materialistic and secular in their values. Introduce a long term declining economy and falling standard of living, and its not that governments start falling like ninepins but they become more fragile. People are more willing to look for other arrangements during a crisis.

2. Linguistic or ethnic nationalism, eg the idea that all the Catalan speakers should be in one country and all the Castillian Spanish in another, is a product of the growth of democracy. It emerged after the French Revolution. If the public has no say in choosing the ruler, it doesn’t really matter that the ruler doesn’t speak the same language as most of his subjects, and in fact that was almost the norm in the old days. Multiculturalism historically has been a better fit with despotism. As democracy recedes, these sort of nationalist movements will start to seem quaint.

3. Separatist movements in Europe got a big boost from the European Community and European Union. Separatist politicians could argue that the new, smaller, countries would remain within the EU and that the pan-Europe institutions would provide the services that the old governments of the big nations provided, where the governments of the new fracture states couldn’t provide them (a big one being defense. Since at least World War II, small states have been literally indefensible outside of supranational or collective security arrangements). Weakening the EU logically should weaken separatism in places like Catalonia, Flanders, Scotland, and the Italian regions.

4. Of course one of the grievances against the big national governments might be their continued support of EU institutions! Incidentally, I think Anglophone and particularly American commentators exaggerate the likelihood of European institutions failing. But the insistence by the European elite that no country can even leave the eurozone without the whole thing falling apart is making overall failure more likely.

Also, separatist movements within Europe are very much a matter of the well-off areas wanting to stop tranfer payments to the poorer areas. OK Scotland, but Scotland is not that badly off compared to the rest of the UK and its difficult to have a separatist movement in the Home Counties for obvious reasons. But Flanders, Catalonia, and the Lega certainly fit. Even Bavaria has the strongest regional sentiment within Germany.

Ed October 31, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Also, I think independence for Catalonia will affect Castile about as much as the Portuguese independence did. Probably less, since the Portuguese immediately allied with Madrid’s enemies and presumably that won’t be a factor with Catalonia.

DocMerlin November 1, 2012 at 1:47 am

I agree.

dcdrone October 31, 2012 at 10:15 pm

As democracy recedes, these sort of nationalist movements will start to seem quaint.

Yes, the despotic Ottoman Empire really put the kibosh on Greek, Serb, Armenian, etc. nationalism.
Learn some history.

Ranjit Suresh October 31, 2012 at 10:36 pm

An inane comment since Greek, Serb, Armenian nationalism et al. only achieved independence from the Turks after the French Revolution and the influence of 19th century nationalism. Learn some history.

Roy October 31, 2012 at 10:55 pm


The rise of Liberalism is completely tied up with national awakening in every country on earth. The pre liberal polity is incapable of true nationalism.

Find me a single example to contradict this.

richard November 1, 2012 at 12:19 am

dude, are you kidding me? here’s one. there are numerous others.

Dismalist October 31, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Let’s not forget that present day European nation states were cobbled together by varying degrees of force, unsurprisingly most pronounced in the over-centralized states of France, Britain, and Spain. What’s wrong with desiring a peaceful devolution to a more decentralized federalism?

A Europe of Catalonia, Burgundy, Bavaria, Scotland, and Piedmont doesn’t seem at all unnatural to me, and it would surely be more efficient than at present. Could still have a common currency, and must have a common market and a common foreign and defense policy, of course. Free migration would be great. Everything else is secondary.

Filipides November 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Spain is one of the most, if not the most, decentralized country of the world. Nothing to do with France. In Spain regions own the health and education system, they use 66% of the taxes gathered by the country, much more than in the US.
Nationalists don´t want independence, they want more money to keep applying their policies.

Anna Sanz de Galdeano October 31, 2012 at 11:15 pm

You could have included this in one of your “The culture that are (at least partially) Catalonia and Spain” posts.
Not surprisingly, this chain of events benefits both Convergència i Unió & Partido Popular. Whether it also benefits Catalonia and/or Spain is of course a different matter.
Another exceptional economist, Jordi Galí, recently wrote a piece (in Catalan, here: for La Vanguardia (you can find a Spanish translation in Nada es Gratis, here: about the marvelous things Catalonia (and, for that matter, any other region, I would add) could do if it were magically given the chance to start from scratch and get things right. As if independence implied they/we could really start from scracth (the article does not explicitly say whether this is a good justification for independence though, it is more of a “independence for what?” kind of piece and Galí only states explicitly that the possibility of starting from scratch is what he likes the most about independence). And we are also given the “and everything would depend on us and we would no longer be able to put the blame on the rest of Spain” classical addendum, which is “the best gift independence could possibly give us”.
It is also worth noting that Tyler’s link comes from ABC. I am not saying they are misquoting Mas-Colelll, but that newspaper is what it is.
In any case… we need way more than luck.

Andrey October 31, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Merging “Microeconomic Theory” with “The Art of Rhetoric”. There is no Great Stagnation in Catalonia.

Jonathan October 31, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Cosmopolitanism vs. tribalism — is it easier to get cosmopolitanism with small homogeneous polities or with large disparate ones? I think there are important historical examples that run in each direction.

DocMerlin November 1, 2012 at 1:49 am

Neither. Cosmopolitanism actually doesn’t exist. Go to any very “cosmopolitan” place and you will find the people either extremely parochial, or completely clueless.

Nyongesa November 1, 2012 at 3:05 am

Tyler, look no further than the comments section here for an exposition of the very concept of intelligent well educated people displaying tribal attitudes over rational argument.

Vanya November 1, 2012 at 4:56 am

Why are “tribal attitudes” a priori irrational?

Mr.Voegelin November 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Haven´t you heard? Economics is all about dictating people´s preferences to them.

dcdrone November 1, 2012 at 6:03 am

Yup, tyler’s just try’in to look cool for his tribal masters!

Chris November 1, 2012 at 8:28 am

Sala-i-Martin has been on this beat for a long time:

Walt G November 1, 2012 at 9:16 am

I’d send you all to a free pdf version of George Alec Effinger’s short story “All the Last Wars at Once,” but it’s a scary long link and easy to find.

charlie November 1, 2012 at 9:18 am

Is there an intelligent Catalan? They are among the most tribal people on earth.

A good chunk of Barecelon’s energy is immigrants — who, by the way, learn Spainish and not catalan. I’d say the real winner is English — if Catalonia breaks away I suspect it will be forced to adopt English to survive.

axa November 1, 2012 at 10:13 am

ok, catalonians want independence, let them be =)

but, if the reason they want to be independent is because they fell entitled to be rich cause they’re so intelligent and hard working. independence is not the way. at least not in the short-medium term.

“The 10-year-Catalonia bond has a risk premium –spread– to Spain of almost 600 basis points and 1,100 basis points over Germany. This difference is not because of Catalonia’s dependency on Spain, or the alleged fiscal deficit. It is caused by the massive deterioration of expenditure and revenues, and the accumulation of debt maturities far beyond institutional demand.”

right now, they got massive debt. if they secede from Spain they can forget about being rescued. if they really want to be independent right now. they should prepare for an ugly default, and start from the bottom. they can do it, but it is really stupid story what politician say “if we secede we’re going to better, instantly”.

if not, wait a few years, be fiscally responsible, pay all debts and secede in nicer conditions =)

axa November 1, 2012 at 10:17 am

i couldn’t find a really good FT article. it puts things on perspective. right now Bilbao is in a better position to secede: bond yields lower than Spain. But they are more intelligent, instead of playing with seceding, they just contribute with less tax money to Spain government.

Mario November 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

Tribalism, really? At least we dont sacrifice bulls in public rituals.

Kieran November 1, 2012 at 11:23 am

Normally, I enjoy this blog, because the authors do not resort to condescending or ad hominem arguments. Inasmuch as you dislike it when Krugman dismisses your arguments with flippant or irrelevant attacks, so might Mas-Collel and Sala-i-Martins feel similarly aggrieved here.

Spain is one generation removed from fascism and a couple of generations removed from wholesale oppression and slaughter. None of which is lost on the parties in this debate. Yes, Catalonia has enjoyed an excellent quality of life and considerable autonomy lately, but that is historically anomalous, and things are shaky now. There is a deep fear in Catalonia that when things get bad, they’ll become the punching bags once again.

It is not tribalism to consider the possibility that a central government that is culturally and politically distinct from a regional government — and one that has a long history of oppressing the regional government — might not be looking out for the regional government’s best interests. That’s what Sala-i-Martin and Mas-Collel have concluded.

Perhaps more fundamentally, what they appear to be advocating is the right of Catalans to vote on whether to separate from Spain.

You might be right that even if 60% of Catalans want independence, that seceding will ultimately harm Europe, Spain, and Catalonia. But I don’t think your dismissive comments about coming-of-age movies and primitive tribalism prove your point.

Floccina November 1, 2012 at 11:27 am

I don’t know anything about this particular case but it seems to me like smaller countries are generally better. Perhaps the Basque should go also and Italy should undo it consolidation. Most libertarians like more local government why not in this case. I kind of think the USA would also be better off with more federalism.

Filipides November 1, 2012 at 11:51 am

This proves that nationalism is not a political idea but a religion.
Why should Catalonia have the right to secede and not Madrid whose contribution is higher than the return they get?
This is all nonsense.
In Catalonia we have been educated for too many years in the hate of the common history and bonds that we have with the rest of Spain. Now we get the result of that policy.
Emotional, historical, financial and cultural bonds are too strong to be destroyed by shortsighted politicians

Ed November 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Ironically, John Michael Grier has been running a series of weekly blog posts on U.S. secession ( (its the fifth post in the series, the scenario is that most of the states want out after the U.S. loses a war to China).

Joandegirona November 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Most folks here write without knowledge of Spanish politics. Let alone that this discourse about tribalism is typical of enlightened colonialism; it is the Spanish government that has acted, both culturally and economically, as a rabid nationalist elite. And this is why industrial and bourgeois Catalonia, almost unwillingly, has had top start checking the account books in search of a viable alternative in a globalized world.

Filipides November 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm

1. There is not, and never has been, colonialism in Catalonia
2. There is not Spanish nationalism. Nationalists describe themselves by not being something -catalans by not being Spanish-, whereas Spanish are willing to englobe those who are or feel Catalans
3. Catalan autonomy is unparalelled in western world
4. After decades of being told that Spain is evil, many people believe it, but there is much more in common than things that make us different

Germa November 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm

1) Do you know the content of the Decreto de Nueva Planta (s)? I am not in favour of paying too much attention to history, but you asked for it.
2) The guys that won the Civil War in Spain called themselves ‘Los Nacionales’. Franco ruled 37 years in Spain, until 1975. Oh I see..we have ‘NO-nacionalismo’ in Spain…indeed, a nasty word.
3) And being this post based in the US, as it is….comparing autonomy of Catalonia with that of US states is just ludicrous: Full taxing powers, own penal code, no more federal bureacracy than immigration and FBI, own driving code, own regulations on retailing and insurances, ownregulation and supervision in energy, local and metropolitan power on airports and port facilities, own management of motorwas, own regulation of education..Do you really know what you are talking about?
4) Do you really buy this bullshit about the evil and Spain? or is just rhetoric?

Filipides November 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm

You know that Felip V was accepted as the true king by Catalonian courts before secession war and that some parts of Catalonia supported him during the war?, I agree history is not that important now, but facts are facts and that war was not Spain against Catalonia, it was also fought in Valencia, La Mancha, etc.

Many Catalans supported Franco and those who opposed him during the civil war were mostly communists and anarchists, again it was not a war of Spain against Catalonia

The US states although have some fields for self rule and legislation have much less ability to spend taxes, the federal control is much tighter about their economies than that of Spain towards their autonomies. The US would never accept that their citizens are not taught the common language of the country or would never fine a shop in NYork cause their signs are not in English while in Catalonia shops must use Catalan or be subjected to penalties

I do know that education (100% controled by Catalan government) has been a tool to divide Catalonia from the rest, I have relatives living there

Germà November 1, 2012 at 9:59 pm

1) Yes, and then took side with the Austrias when Felipe V began dismantling the pre-existing institutions and agreements.

2) Yes. It was not a war of Spain against Catalonia. It was a war in which the Castilian Crown supported (almost) unanimously with the Borbon, and the territories of the Aragonese Crown supported (almost) unanimously the Austrian-Anglo-Dutch alliance.
As a result of the war, three Decretos de Nueva Planta were issued: one in 1707 for Valencia and Aragon; one in 1715 for Balearic Islands, and one in 1716 for Catalonia. Please read them: are available online.

3) Yes, My own hometown, Alcanar, sided with the Bourbons. Another town that did the same was Cervera. This last received the University (that was moved out from Barcelona as a punishment). My town received the ‘title’ of very loyal city’. That’s all.

4) Yes, a non negligible part of population in Catalonia, perhaps around 20%, supported Franco in the Civil War. And yes, a non trivial part of the Population and officials in France in the Second World War supported the Nazi Regime and Occupation. And yes, a non trivial part of Belgium population and officials…you know what i mean? And NO, Anarchists and Communists were not the only opposition to Franco in Catalonia. Although strong from the military point of view, they were not even the larger fraction of the opposition.
Indeed, Franco did not just wage a war against Catalonia. It was much wider thing. But it is undeniable that he suppressed Catalan institutions and strived hard to suppres the Catalan culture and identity. Perhaps it is not trivial to remember that naming the newborns with Catalan names was forbidden until 1980. I do not remember this happening in most of Spain, did it? I mean, it was not forbidden to name newborns in Spanish. Was it?
And remember: the Francoists called themselves ‘the Nationals’. Everybody knows, that, and they were proud of it.

5) The US States have much larger fiscal authonomy than Spanish regions. These used to have authonomy to spend, but not rellevant authonomy to tax (besides Basque Country and Navarre). This is one of the main funtional problems. Comparisons with the US are blatant in this respect. Please ask somebody who is taxing consumption in the states, and how Income tax is regulated at state level,..and ask anybody around about federal restriction to property taxing in cities and towns. I am afraid you do not understand the US ‘home based’ system.

6) The notion of Common language is not a filological concept, but an idelogical construct. This takes us very far from here. Of course, in Souther California instruction in public schools is in English, even in latin inmigration can be big and even a majority in some places. Contrary to the Catalan education system, US educational system does not warrant knowledge of Spanish. Anyway, you do not know how the US educational system works. Instead, I do, because I have a kid in US middle school during the present year, and I had him in a Child Care center 8 years ago.

7) Yes, in Spain you can be fined if costumer information is not available in Spanish (Castilian). Actually, dozens of shops have been fined because of this..even in Catalonia!!!! You should be aware of the Spanish regulation, my friend. BTW,, Barcelona is plenty of shops with Spanish signs (and no Catalan). Visit BCN, my friend.

8) In the years when my kid is not schooled in the US, he attends public school in Barcelona. Let us be clear. Filipides, you don’t know the working of the educational system in Catalonia. And you do not have relatives with children in the Catalan educational system. Please don’t tell lies about this. It is so sensitive. You make big statements of something that you ignore. Too bad.

Germa November 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Yes..Andreu Mas-Culell, Xavier Sala-Martin, Jordi Gali, Pol Antras, Jaume Ventura…As everybody knows, they are the worst Economists in Catalonia, such a basically local profiles…. …Now, no kidding: If the main reason to object to secession is “Didn’t Air Genius Gary Leff get a decent meal at El Bulli?” need to know that almost nobody in Catalonia had that experience (so, not a pervasive rationale) , and -furthermore- El Bulli did close long time ago (so, no way to improve the rationale). Oh, yes, one mention to the movie: these European guys enjoyed Barcelona ….and they did not need eating in El Bulli :) All in all, I agree with you that you should not worry much about Catalonia, because there are more important things to worry about in the USA. For instance, the next US debt default, likely under Obama, and 100% sure under Rommey. Want to waste 16% GDP in Health (and increasing), of which more than 7% GDP coming from government funds? Go ahead. That’s something you should really be paying attention now, rather then making uneducated and uninformed guesses about Catalonia and Spain.

Filipides November 2, 2012 at 3:18 am

My last comments, my friends -as you use this with me-,
About history, it is plenty of books to get it, I think it is meaningless to support one’s ideas by what happened 300 or 70 years ago. No discussion dictatorship was outrageous for Catalonia and for all Spain, but what does it have to do with what we live today?.
For your information I have lived in the US and do know that states gather taxes -I paid them- but also the federal government gather a bigger portion of them -I also paid them- and the % of taxes that a state recollects and spends is by far LOWER than the amount of taxes that the Spanish central government gathers and later DISTRIBUTES to the autonomies -not only Catalonia-, in Spain about 66% of total taxes are spent by autonomous regions.
You can agree with my opinions or not, but they are fact based, I visit BCN regularly and know about the language in the shops and about the educational system, I do have young relatives who study there, believe it or not, and know that their understanding of Spanish is far from good, even, as you should know Selectividad examinations are much easier for Spanish so that the average of students get a decent mark.
I’m afraid, no lies here, my friend

Germà November 2, 2012 at 4:43 am

Let us saty with facts:
1) Who then has more taxing authonomy (so power), US states and municipalities, or those in Spain? Who sets consumption taxes in the US? What limits have the states on their income tax? What limits have municipalities on their property tax? Still want to compare with Spain?
BTW, no further word on regulatory powers and legal powers by the US States. That’s set.
By the way, Sapanis CCAA spend aabout 66% of total atxes? Please, have a look. It’s info for 2009.
Now, you can go to check Federal and Subfederal spending, delete federal transfers, and compare.

2) You should try to visit PISA reports on languages abilities in Catalonia, By the way, PISA report is OECD wide and is administered by an Australian organization.
These are the facts. Then we can go on with our opinions.

Gerardo November 4, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I think you should learn to read professor as you are missing the points and are focusing on the trivial: Catalonia is neither in state of oppression or a colony like Tibet and has been a prosperous society until the housing bubble burst. Will Catalonia’s move for independence wreck Spain’s efforts to gain credibility and stability in the eyes of investors and lenders? YES. Does wrecking Spain wreck the UE as we know it today? YES. Also, with your background you would think you’d be able to address or refute “theorem” quoted on the post.

Roger Evans November 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm

It is essential to take into account that Catalonia has been seething for three hundred years under a yoke that they have never consented to. A fine new video lays out the roots of this — roots that are at the bottom of Madrid’s incurably centralizing ways:

Superwoman November 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm

A yoke that has allowed Catalonia to become one of the richest areas of the country, a yoke that fully supported Barcelona olimpics, a yoke that has granted Catalonia an unmatched autonomy in Europe, a yoke that buys 50% of what Catalonia products, a yoke that Catalans voted for when supported Spanish constitution in 1978, a yoke that allows shops to be fined if they dare putting signs other than in Catalan, a yoke that has allowed that many Catalan children -particularly from rural areas- have difficulties to speak Spanish.
It is kind of a particular yoke many would like to enjoy, a yoke for 300 years- you say- starting in a war that was not a war of Spain against Catalonia as the nationalists have made most people believe but that was a civil war fought all over the peninsula

Roger Evans November 1, 2012 at 10:49 pm

“A yoke that has allowed Catalonia to become one of the richest areas of the country”

And one that would be much richer but for policies inherited from the dictatorship that systematically hobble its economy.

“a yoke that buys 50% of what Catalonia products”

Your figures are drastically off. It’s 30 percent. And if Spain buys what Catalonia produces, it’s because they need what Catalonia produces. They don’t do it out of kindness to Catalonia.

“a yoke that allows shops to be fined if they dare putting signs other than in Catalan”

Can you then explain why there are signs everywhere in Castilian? Or that a tourist in Barcelona can be almost completely sheltered from any encounter with Catalan?

“a yoke that has allowed that many Catalan children -particularly from rural areas- have difficulties to speak Spanish”

This is something the right wing constantly trots out. Catalans are overwhelmingly perfectly bilingual, unlike the monolingual majority in Spain. If children in the countryside speak their native tongue better than they do a foreign language, how is this different from people anywhere in the world? And they are saturated with Castilian media every day of their lives and couldn’t possibly function in current conditions without a command of Castilian. You are evidently trying to deceive people reading here who might not have the opportunity to know better.

“a war that was not a war of Spain against Catalonia as the nationalists have made most people believe but that was a civil war fought all over the peninsula”

It was, as any reputable history relates, a European war in which Catalonia held off the combined armies of Spain and France for more than a year but had to surrender when they were deserted by their sworn allies, England and the Netherlands, abandoned them after the Treaty of Utrecht. How you can try to impose on people by calling it a civil war boggles the mind.

Can you refute a single fact in this video?

Superwoman November 2, 2012 at 3:41 am

Roger, the dictatorship was over 40 years ago, it seems quite difficult to understand that even today it prevents Catalonia from full financial development. By the way, Franco’s autarchy meant a significant advantage for Catalonian industry which had to supply goods for all Spain without competition.
Sales of Catalonian industry to the rest of Spain are around 50%, data given by president Mas who was very happy to see this figure sliding down slightly below 50%. Obviously, as you point out, these purchases are not out of kindness, but it’s not a clever policy to scorn your main customer.
About education, sorry, many kids in Catalonia have a poor knowledge of Spanish, I know it first hand. Examinations of Spanish are far easier than those of Catalan so that the marks in Spanish match the average of the whole country. Up to you, but I think it is sad that many youngsters will have less opportunities in a globalized world in which Spanish is a key language. And about the media, local TV as well as local press are absolutely biased and highly subsidized. I’m not aware of any other democratic society where the local press gets millions of €, do you really believe you have there an independent press?, that would be unacceptable in any other country than this Spain that poses a huge yoke on you.
Spain is a democracy that right or wrong treats all territories with the same rules, and in fact Catalonia has several advantages over the rest. You may like it the way it is or not, but don’t tell the world that this is a yoke or that it has anything to do with dictatorial time….it sounds like a joke, doesn’t it?

Andew Condon November 1, 2012 at 3:12 pm

This is an extraordinary glib, superficial posting, Tyler. And the comments are worse! It’s not surprising to me that the Catalan situation is poorly understood outside its borders but if you’re going to dismiss something in such strong terms you might at least start from a more open-minded position, or else acquire more familiarity with the facts. Or, even, if you prefer to think of it this way “the facts as Catalans see them”.

(I’m not Catalan but I live here and speak and read the language)

Superwoman November 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Here we come with the Catalan situation being poorly understood outside there….it is like out of Catalonia people have mentally impaired abilities to understand. I really understand cause I live there, and all this nationalism and victimism is lack of understanding of where the world is heading at

Taips November 1, 2012 at 8:13 pm

“This is an extraordinary glib, superficial posting, Tyler.”

Completely agree. I can’t think of a worse post in MR’s history, and I’m an avid reader. It’s a perfect storm of
(can somebody explain to me what “L’auberge espagnole” and “El Bulli” have to do with any of this? If we are listing things, Catalonia would be a pretty good competitor in soccer, too.)
***stoner’s level historical analysis
(“Spanish history of sending in troops”)
***total inadequation between the actual arguments provided (none) and the level of confidence displayed
(“for so little in return”; “The only way to defend this move”) ->
How about you throw in a “the only way I can see this move can be defended”, or something to that effect? Apparently they didn’t teach intellectual modesty @ Harvard.
***pure rambling
(read that second paragraph again)

This post could have read
“Hey, remember AMC, the first author from MWG95, and my former micro instructor? He’s a bigshot in Catalonia now, and here is an article. Here are economic references on the optimal size of nations, partnership dissolution, Tiebout/local public goods & taxation theory to put this in perspective. My own take on this is that the timing is very unfortunate (euro crisis) and that I don’t think that Catalonians would benefit a lot from secession. Maybe AMC disagrees, or maybe this is strategic posturing in a time of bitter budgetary disputes.”

BLUECHIP November 3, 2012 at 1:41 am

Anyone that calls herself SUPER WOMAN has a problem….

Anyway, yes we do have to educate people about what we want as catalans…Spain has prevented the world from knowing Catalonia for a long time, but this is ending now.

Now we have the internet, and we can talk and be heard. And we have cameras that do not lie when people go out to the streets shouting independence.

And we have democracy, and we can vote…AND WE WILL VOTE!!!!!!!!

Superwoman November 3, 2012 at 7:14 am

You have had democracy for more than 30 years now. You have voted for the Constitution, the Estatut and so on….Oh sorry, not all of you are free, as shops cannot use signs other than in Catalan or your press is heavily subsidized.
By the way your nickname is very realistic, if this is as far as your argumentations can go….

Guilherme November 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Let’s get real, the serious question is whether FC Barcelona will still in La Liga or not. If they don’t spain would probably lose a position in the champions league and Barcelona would have to play in the pre-Champions. =|

jordi monroig November 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I am a catalan.
Forgive me for wanting a country for me and my children.

It’s funny. A coleage at work coming from switzerland three years ago could have signed your post back then. Three years later he was in the march for independence on last sept. 11th.
It must be the water…and most catalans are going insane…
If you respect Mas Collel as you say, read more about catalonia to understand what is going on…I am sure you will eventually…it’s a question of time and information. Cheers.

Dr No November 1, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Here it goes again, outside Catalonia, no one understands you, sorry we are thick.
You have all the right to aspire to a country or to independence but the same right should be granted to let´s say Badalona if they wanted to remain in Spain, would you allow them?.
A decision like this would have an effect on Catalans and the rest of the Spaniards so it is for all the country to take such a decision. That´s the law that also Catalans approved in 1978, whether you like it or not.
And please, when talking about information, let´s assume the information provided by the Catalan educational system and massively subsidized media is at least heavily biased

Germà November 1, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Dr. No: Did you hear anybody in England wondering what is going to happen if Aberdeen says no while Scotland as a whole says yes. You ask this because you do not recognize Catalonia as a political entity. That’s fine, and legitimate. But nobody in UK or in Canada would think this way about, respectively, Scotland and Quebec. With respect to the Catalan educational system, I am afraid you do not know it. Not the first one here speaking about something not known.

Dr No November 2, 2012 at 3:06 am

So, help me understand, Spain can be divided but Catalonia cannot, right?, so you consider you have the right to secede it by means of a referendum but this same right shouldn’t be granted to citizens of smaller areas such as Val d’Aran or Badalona.
Believe me I truly know the educational system of Catalonia, that’s why I criticize it, it seems obvious that you brought up in it
All the best

Germa November 2, 2012 at 4:29 am

Dr. NO:
Of course, I will try to help you to understand. You will be able to find an authoritative criterium on your question in this article by Francisco Rubio Llorente, former member of the Spanish Constitutional Court (and not Catalan, by the way)..Besides, you should read a bit more about International Law.
On my educational background: I am 49 years old, and had my primary education under the Francoist Regime, in a small town in southern Catalonia. Democracy found me in high school, and I had my secundary education in the Comunidad Valenciana (Vinaròs, Castelló), And I completed my superior education in the US. What a coctel, isn’t it? Indeed, you do not know what you are talking about.when making statements about the Catalan educational system.

Germà November 2, 2012 at 4:44 am
Gerardo November 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm

“But nobody in UK or in Canada would think this way about, respectively, Scotland and Quebec.” Really? who’s uninformed?

Everyone who disagrees with you is uneducated and uninformed and they don’t know what they are talking about, including Tyler Cowen- One of the top U.S. economists. I guess that is why you are so preocuppied with his Web Site.

Well, talking about ignorance, you said that nobody in Canada would consider Qubec divisible. Here is what Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister, said in the 1980 referendum: “Si le Canada est divisible, le Québec doit être aussi divisible.”= “If Canada is divisible, Quebec must also be divisible.” La partition du Québec: De Lord Durham a Stéphane Dion. (Montreal: vlb éditeur), 1996, p. 167.

Here is Stephan Dion, former former Inter-Governmental Affairs Minister and author of the Clarity Act also stating that If Canada is divisible so is Quebec:

If you are interested in the subjected you can also read “Partition: The Price of Quebec’s Independence” by Lionel Albert.

Mirco Romanato November 26, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I’m from Venice (Italy).
I understand, as many others, your wanting a functional country for your children.
I want the same for me and mine.

What some people don’t understand is the governments in the majority of the national states of Europe are destroying the social cohesion.
They simply take the wealth produced by one or more regions (by the hard work of the people there) and use it to buy the votes from underdeveloped regions.
This could be bearable in a sound economy and in good times, but the economies are not sound and the good times are gone. The tax burden is so high and the regulations so insane that the entrepreneurs, the working class in the private sector, is unable to make ends meets. They are overtaxed to the extreme and they are not able to obtain any profit at all.

The tragedy is reforming is impossible, because the system (electoral systems, economic incentives to vote, the language barriers) are so warped that they assure only the continuations of the current mess. At this point, the only solution, for many, is to secede or die (economically). it is like an hard working husband married to a wife with holed hands. If he is unable to rein her spending the only solutions are to resign to become and stay poor or divorce from her (the other is to kill her).

This is true for Catalonia, Veneto, Lombardy and many others. All of these want out of their nation state because they are only net tribute payers. Like vassal states.
Work ethics in Lombardy, Veneto, Catalonia, Slovenia, is the same like in the South of Germany (the economic heart of Germany).
What have we in common with Naples or Sicily where they have the habit to sell and buy votes for favors at the taxpayers expenses?
To spend and default on their obligations forcing the Northern to pay for their lavish checks?

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