The Economist has just published an article where it develops almost the same arguments that I developed in my contribution to an on-line debate at the blog of the London School of Economics on June 26th. I don't make any claim of plagiarism, I just express my happiness that we have reached the same conclusions, because as I said in that contribution, "The Economist supported this idea (of a self-determination referendum) until they saw it implemented in Britain. Since then, they have backpedaled." Here is a brief comparison between the words of The Economist just yesterday and my words two weeks ago:
-The Economist (July 13th): "In a regional election in 2015, parties campaigning for independence
won, but only just: the ruling coalition got 48% of the vote but 53% of
the seats in the parliament."
-Real Progress Author (June 26th): "That is precisely what the leaders of the Catalan pro-independence
government want to do using their control of the autonomous executive
and their majority in the Catalan Parliament, which was produced via a
non-proportional electoral law that gives their coalition more than half
of the seats with less than half of the votes."
-The Economist (July 13th):"Mr Puigdemont invokes “the legitimate right to self-determination of a
thousand-year-old nation”. National and international law is against
him. (...) And the Council of Europe,
which Mr Puigdemont consulted, said in June that any referendum must be
carried out “in full compliance with the constitution”.
-Real Progress Author (June 26th): "a yes/no self-determination referendum could be the cause of great
division among Catalan citizens or in other similarly diverse societies.
That is why the Commission of the Council of Europe for Democracy
through Law (the Venice Commission) recommends to hold them only under
very strict conditions, including a strong legal framework and a neutral
democratic authority. Illegal self-determination referendums in
otherwise democratic societies are not at the frontier of best
-The Economist (July 13th): "Opinion polls show that around 40-44% of Catalans support independence,
depending on how the question is framed. That is not enough to make a
revolution. The march to illegality is prompting strains in Barcelona."
-Real Progress Author (June 26th): "One year later, the UK seems to know what 52% of voters did not
want on the day of the referendum (EU membership), but they still do
not know what the public or their leaders want for their future. It
seems that yes or no answers in entirely legal self-determination
referendums are decidedly inefficient tools for determining the real
will of the people.
Now imagine something similar, but without a legal framework, without a census, and without a neutral electoral authority."
-The Economist (July 13th): Mr Rajoy’s approach may be unimaginative, but it is effective. It is
politically profitable for him in the rest of Spain, where many are fed
up with what they see as Catalan whining. But it ignores Catalonia’s
unhappiness with Spain’s current constitutional arrangements. Keeping
the country together may require revisiting them.
-Real Progress Author (June 26th): "Spain needs a broad agreement for a federal reform that can be supported
by people who strongly believe in it and by people that may find a
common ground around it. Such a detailed agreement could then be voted
on in a referendum."
My only disagreement with The Economist is in the title of their article. This title ("Playing Chicken...") suggests that there is a game of Chicken between the Spanish government and the Catalan government. I don't think so, given the lack of cohesion of the pro-independence movement and the lack of international support (also acknowledged by The Economist). It is too unbalanced. The game of Chicken is being played inside the secessionist movement, between a more pragmatic wing that sees that this is going nowhere and a fanatic wing that has been living in the fringes of reality for some time.
The uncomfortable truths about populism
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