Lincoln Battalion in the Bardo

I keep seeing the headline “Catalans declare independence.”

My understanding is, this is not quite right.

What’s happened so far is, representatives in the Catalan regional parliament had an informal vote which passed by a simple majority.

There are four big limiting statements there. 1) informal vote 2) simple majority 3) regional 4) representatives.

1) Informal vote. There is no mechanism in Spain for a region actually declaring independence. The people voting on this did not have the authority to vote on it. So it is dubious to say that anything was “declared.”

2) Simple majority. There is no agreement – in Spain, or even in Catalonia – that a simple majority would be sufficient for a declaration of independence. Is it sufficient for a change of this magnitude to be undertaken with 49 out of every 100 people disagreeing? Or is this something that requires a higher bar? So it’s dubious to say that “the Catalans” did anything.

3) Regional. This is not a “declaration of independence” in the sense of anti-colonialism; it is a matter of the dissolution of a union. Can this be done unilaterally? Maybe – but again, neither Spain nor even Catalonia has yet decided.

4) Representatives. Should such a vote be allowed through republicanism (i.e. a vote cast by representatives) or by democracy (i.e. plebiscite)? Again, there is no consensus on this subject, even within Catalonia – so saying that these officials speak on behalf of all Catalans is very very dubious.

It should be noted that the 52% of representatives who voted for independence are from districts that contain less than 50% of the Catalan population.

Also, the lack of agreed-upon mechanism also makes it hard to tell whether (or to what extent) these representatives were elected as an expression of a desire for independence. Awful hard to say that you were elected to do a thing when the election preceded any decision on how that thing could be done – a decision which still hasn’t occurred!

So the more accurate statement is a simple majority of local Catalonian politicians voted in favor of something that they are not authorized to vote on. The difference between that and Catalans declare independence is enorme.

N.B. saying that ‘Catalans declare independence’ is kind of like saying that the New York Knicks divided themselves into two teams, played football against each other, one of the teams won the football game (and not by very much), and as a result ‘Knicks declared winners of the World Series’.


~ by davekov on 27 October 2017.

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