Friday, October 27, 2017

ESCALATION: Catalonia Declares Independence as Spanish Government Moves to Seize Control of Region

Is Spain headed toward a civil war?

The Catalan Parliament and the Spanish national Parliament have invoked their respective “nuclear options.” In Barcelona, lawmakers voted to unilaterally declare independence from Spain. In Madrid, lawmakers invoked a never-before-used article of the Constitution that will allow the central government to assume direct rule over the autonomous region. Under Article 155 Madrid can dismiss the regional president and his ministers, and take control of the region’s police, finances, and public media.

From a libertarian perspective, there is not much good going on.

Catalonian secessionists are mostly hardcore leftists, who would push for an oppressive leftist government in a separate Catalonia. On the other hand, Spain is putting on display its iron fist and its desire to rule.

 As Alvaro Vargas Llosa has put it,:
Perhaps the day will come when individual self-determination will be feasible (and Mises’s “technical” problems can be overcome). But for the moment it is unrealistic to think that the Catalan nationalist movement will turn into a Misesian movement in favor of individual self-determination. For now, a better cause for libertarians to rally around than Catalan nationalism is replacement of the Spanish welfare state with a liberal order and decentralizing the financial system underpinning the system of autonomous communities much more.


  1. The Catalans are exercising the Jeffersonian principle (self-determination, declaration of independence), while the Spanish the Lincolnian principle (Hell no, you're not leaving shit.)

    There need not be libertarian litmus test to support self-determination. There wasn't for the American colonies, they were considered free and independent states, Massachusetts being different than Virginia etc.

    Llosa pines for the day when Nirvana will suddenly descend upon man and we will all wake up and be individual self determiners, bypassing what may be the essential steps of regional secessions first. I say you support the regionals and continue to work further and further down the line to the individual.

    Jeff Deist in Self-Determination, not Universalism, is the Goal, notes:

    "...self-determination is the ultimate political goal. It is the path to liberty, however imperfect. A world of seven billion self-governing individuals is the ideal, but short of that we should prefer the Liechtensteins to the Germanys and the Luxembourgs to the Englands. We should prefer states’ rights to federalization in the US, and cheer for the breakup of EU. We should support breakaway movements in places like Catalonia and Scotland (provided they are organic and not engineered by states and their spy agencies). We should admire the Swiss federalist system, where localism is a governing principle. We should favor local control over faraway legislatures and administrative bodies, and thus reject multilateral trade deals. We should, in sum, prefer small to large when it comes to government.

    Can a small local state be equally or more illiberal than a large distant one? Of course, although history often demonstrates otherwise. But the Misesian principle remains: the best chance for liberty occurs under rules made by the smallest and closest possible administrative unit to the individual. Each higher level of government attenuates the individual’s ability to effect (or affect) such rules.

    Decentralization, secession, subsidiarity, localism, and nullification are the tools for greater self-determination, and thus greater liberty. These tools, not universalist platitudes, should be the stock in trade of libertarians trying to make the case for a freer world."

    1. @SB Financial costs of the American Revolutionary War

      As the war went on however, America's economic prosperity began to fall. British warships began to prey on American shipping, and the increasing upkeep costs of the Continental Army meant that wealth from merchant ships decreased. As cashflow declined, the United States of America had to rely on European loans to maintain the war effort; France, Spain and the Netherlands lent the United States over $10 million during the war, causing major debt problems for the fledgling nation. Coin circulation had also begun to wane. Because of this, the United States began to print paper money and bills of credit to raise income. This proved unsuccessful, inflation skyrocketed, and the new paper money's value diminished. A popular saying circulated the colonies because of this: anything of little value became "not worth a continental."[24]...

      By 1780, the United States Congress had issued over $400 million in paper money to troops. Eventually, Congress tried to stop the inflation by imposing economic reforms. These failed, and only further devalued the American currency.[26]...
      Between 1775 and 1783 the colonies experienced an average annual inflation rate of approximately 4.3%. The rate of inflation peaked at 29.78% in 1778.[28][29] Numerous food riots were recorded as discontent grew over rapidly rising prices.[30] The destruction of property and the continued issuing of Continentals by the Congress was another cause of currency devaluation. In addition, counterfeiting of American dollars was carried out by the British Government as an intentional means of sabotaging the war effort.[31]...

      When the war ended, the United States had spent $37 million at the national level and $114 million at the state level. The United States finally solved its debt problems in the 1790s when Alexander Hamilton founded the First Bank of the United States in order to pay off ear debts and establish good national credit.[32]

    2. But when assessing fault for consequences, it's important to distinguish between a peaceful declaration of secession and the war that the former ruling power launches to prevent secession. The latter doesn't necessarily follow from the former. The decision to start a war, with all of its awful effects, is generally an independent act of the former ruling power. The secessionist region cannot be blamed for the subsequent war or its impacts, for if it were, that would amount to a statement that peacefully seeking liberty and defending one's territory from invasion are invalidated by the former ruling power initiating violence. That would be an odd moral hierarchy.

  2. "But for the moment it is unrealistic to think that the Catalan nationalist movement will turn into a Misesian movement in favor of individual self-determination."

    Literally NO ONE thinks this.

  3. “On the other hand, Spain is putting on display its iron fist and its desire to rule.”

    But isn’t Spain just protecting Catalonians from the evil leftist secessionists?

  4. One benefit of Catalonia secession is legitimizing secession. While it may not wind up increasing liberty in Catalonia, it could help legitimize future secessions.

  5. Robert, this would be as mislabeled a "civil war" as was the War to Prevent Southern Secession. The Catalan secessionists are not looking to invade Madrid and take over Spain; to the contrary, they are looking to metaphorically move as far away from Madrid as possible.