How Catalonia Can Help Itself and the Rest of Spain

In a Business Insider political piece, “Here’s why Catalonia should secede from Spain, and why it won’t” former Catalan MP Alfons López Tena argues in favor of Catalonia’s independence movement. In the article, he argues like many of his peers that the region deserves liberation from alleged Spanish tyranny. However, the claim that Catalonia should be its own nation is a moral affront to both democracy and equity as it is based on uncooperative and selfish values.

In the Spanish democratic system, there is room for minorities to hold power through cooperation, contrary to the arguments of Catalonian nationalists. Tena argues that the region does not have the right to self-determination because they are only 16% of Spain’s population and are overpowered by the other 84%. To Catalan nationalists, this means that they have no voice in the central government to affect change. While Catalan political parties have not made much successful change, that is not the fault of the Spanish governmental system. Spain has a proportional parliamentary system which means that politically speaking, no one is a majority; therefore, Catalonia, a minority, is more likely to have its voice heard. This is true because parliamentary systems often require coalition governments to run the country. This system induces cooperation between political parties because political parties often do not win outright majorities. Therefore, for Catalan to have more of a say, the parties need to cooperate and integrate into coalitions, an effort that would be aided by reducing hardline approaches to Catalonian nationalism.

Another reason Catalonia struggles in the national region is that the region itself is divided. In the general election of 2016, Catalonia’s urban center Barcelona did not vote along the same lines as the rest of the region. In fact,  Barcelona voted for the U. Podemos party, whose leader called the recent referendum illegal, while most of the region voted for the ERC, a Catalonian nationalist party. This has two major implications. First, the voice of the Catalonian people in the Spanish parliament is divided, effectively limiting the region’s power. Second, if the region were to have independence, there still would be a political minority in favor of Spanish rule that would be ostracised by the newly independent regime.

The Catalan independence movement fails to recognize its own shortcomings that led to its minimized voice in parliament which could lead to, upon independence, an even more divided state. It is not that Spain has a bad democracy; the democracy is failing Catalonia because Catalonia is failing it.

Another failure on behalf of Catalonian nationalist is the moral failure of avarice. In Tena’s article, he points out that Catalonia accounts for a disproportionately high amount of Spain’s GDP, and therefore the union between Spain and Catalonia prevents the region from reaching its full potential. This line of thinking is a surprisingly anti-equity stance coming from the people who, Tena concedes, think of themselves as a “paramount good.” Spain’s taxation of Catalonia takes some of the wealth from the region and redistributes it to other poorer parts of the country. This redistribution is an overall positive because, since Catalonia has the most money, it needs it the least. It is not exploitative for the Spanish government to tax the wealthy minority of Catalonia because a wealthy minority should contribute more to national welfare, not because they are a minority, but because they are wealthy. The idea that Catalonia needs independence because Spain is hindering the region is uncharitable and detracts from the overall economic well being of the Iberian peninsula.

Tena and the movement he aligns with are misguided in their drive for independence. And as the independence movement grows, their unfounded arguments only get louder. If they become loud enough to convince enough people that the movement has a legitimate claim to independence, it will show the degradation of the values of democracy, cooperation, and generosity in Catalonia. Catalonian independence will not result in two happier nations, it will only divide Spain’s public, purse, and politics leading to less collaboration and more inequality.

Featured Image Source: Donfiore