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Yes to Catalan Independence

PRINCETON – Catalonia’s regional election this weekend amounts to an indirect referendum on independence. Of course, Catalans would have preferred to have a direct vote on the question of whether to secede from Spain. But the Spanish government’s staunch refusal to authorize such a referendum has left Catalans with only one option: to demonstrate their will by filling their parliament with candidates who will push for sovereignty.

The de facto referendum, while imperfect, will send a clear message. I hope that the message it sends is one of support for independence, delivered through a victory for the “Together for Yes” slate of candidates. Indeed, there is no shortage of good reasons to support Catalonia’s independence drive.

For starters, independence would advance the cause of cultural preservation, by ensuring, for example, the use of Catalan in mass media, customer-service support lines, and product labeling. It would also enable Catalonia to take steps – impossible under the Spanish government, which collects more taxes from the region than it returns in spending – to protect those who have been worst hit by the crisis. And it would facilitate an effective response to the structural and technological challenges that characterize the twenty-first-century globalized economy, including by giving Catalonia control over investment in infrastructure and research and development.

But the most important reason to support Catalonia’s independence is strictly political: within Spain, Catalan autonomy is far from guaranteed. The Spanish government’s continuous interventions have proved that, at the end of the day, Catalonia is not really autonomous at all.