Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Catalonia

National Self-Determination is Overrated

I have a new piece out for Current Affairs about the importance of political unions in the 21st century. Here’s the link:

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/11/national-self-determination-is-overrated

The original title was “In Praise of Unionism: What the European Left Can Learn From America,” but we souped it up a bit. It’s a bit longer and more comprehensive than the stuff I usually do here. The folks at CA are delightful to work with. They’re putting out some really terrific long-form pieces that dig into things more deeply than a lot of what we see on the web these days.

Catalonia: Folks Don’t Understand How Serious the Debate Over Sovereignty Is

About 92% of Catalans who voted in the recent referendum backed independence, on a turnout of just 42%. The thing is, if you’re against Catalan independence, it would be odd to participate in this referendum because the Spanish state–the entity you recognize as sovereign–declared the referendum illegal. An independence referendum that has the backing of the regional authority but not the national authority can only deliver a divisive result. Much of the international media has put the blame for this on the Spanish–why wouldn’t Spain just recognize the right of the Catalans to self-determination and permit the referendum, like the UK did for Scotland? But these arguments make a lot of assumptions about self-determination that build in pro-independence biases. If Spain were to allow a Catalan independence referendum even though in the view of the Spanish government such a referendum is against the interests of the Spanish people as a whole, Spain would already be effectively conceding the question about which the referendum is meant to decide.

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The Left-Wing Case Against Catalan Independence

Catalonia is holding an independence referendum on October 1st. The referendum is not sanctioned by the Spanish government. Many are inclined to support the Catalan cause, particularly on the left. After all, the left tends to sympathize with minority and regional groups that seem culturally marginalized, and the Spanish government–led by the austerity-promoting Mariano Rajoy–feels icky. When Catalans portray themselves as plucky upstarts taking on a corrupt and indifferent Madrid bureaucracy, it’s easy to see the appeal. But this isn’t really about Catalonia versus Madrid–it’s about Catalonia versus Andalusia.

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A Critique of Independence Movements

Lately I’ve been thinking about national independence movements, like those in Catalonia, Scotland, Kurdistan, and other such places. I’ve also been hearing about separatist movements in some US states—in these cases, subsets of individual US state populations are petitioning the government for the right to carve out smaller states out of the currently existent bigger ones, in order to move their state governments’ policies to the right. These US state petitions will go nowhere, however, because federal law requires that separatist states get approval from the states they are seeking to leave in order to become independent. This got me thinking. Read the rest of this entry »