Separatismagical Thinking

Catalonia flag in Llivia

Catalonia flag in Llivia (Photo credit: Xamonich)

The Catalan independence movement has taken off in recent months.  The elections are coming up on Sunday, and over the last year support for independence has risen dramatically.  The Times briefly touches on the pragmatic reasons not to – namely the advantages of EU membership and the greater clout that Catalonia derives from being part of Spain. It leaves out the likely crippling consequences of an immediate withdrawal or “Catalexit” – their equivalent of the Grexit.  This would have all the same consequences from suddenly leaving the Euro – bank runs, financial crisis, capital flight, and so on.  This is a very real potential consequence of independence – Catalonia wouldn’t be a Euro or EU member upon its separation from Spain.  These are not secrets.

The Catalan case, happening in the here and now, does a good job demonstrating the clear problems with a rationalist approach to politics.  People frequently act in rational ways – for example, as consumers deciding between competing products or as managers attempting to cut costs.  But when it comes to judging whether issues of principles such as “democracy” or independence, people frequently cease their ability to conduct cost-benefit analysis.  This isn’t a new notion – it is one the classical historians knew instinctively.  But sometimes whenever we get too caught up in sociology or political science or economics, it is good to remember that there are more important things to most people than dollars and cents.


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