Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Independence

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Scottish Independence is a Terrible Idea

On September 18, Scotland is set to have a referendum for independence from the United Kingdom. This is a really bad idea. Here’s why.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why States Commit Genocide

We have a very poor understanding of genocide. Genocide is the sort of thing we typically associate with chaotically evil people, people who “just want to watch the world burn” and have no respect or regard for human life. Those who commit genocide are viewed as irrational, irredeemably bad people. I am not convinced by this. This is not to say that I think genocide is defensible or morally justifiable, but I think there are rational, logical reasons that motivate states to commit genocide. I enjoy attempting to theorize rational explanations of seemingly wholly malevolent phenomenon–back in September, I offered a theory of why states sometimes deliberately target civilians in war. Today I’d like to offer a theory of genocide, one that I hope will help us to make better sense of the circumstances that promote genocide and understand how those circumstances might be avoided.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »