Sunday, September 28, 2014

A better way to decide

Mr Carles Suarez questioned in a letter to the FT on September 27th the democratic credibility of those who do not think that a secession referendum, in this case in Catalonia, is the best instrument to democratically decide about institutional architecture.
However, Catalonia should find a better way than a secession referendum to democratically decide about its future constitutional status, in a world of overlapping and shared sovereignties where the nation-state is becoming obsolete, especially in Europe and the euro-zone. If and only if, over an extended period of time, a very large and stable majority in elections show an unambiguous support for a detailed “independent” constitutional project within a clear international framework, then some democratic procedure accepted by all relevant actors should be established to peacefully negotiate and finally take a final decision about it. These conditions clearly do not apply today. It would be much better to create incentives for political leaders to reach a broad new federal agreement that is then submitted to the electorate.
Philip Stevens has warned in the FT that there is a thin line between the democracy of a plebiscite and the mob rule. This is so, especially when the independence drive is supported by an obscene use of public resources, as it happens in Catalonia, where the regional government is full time devoted to this issue, which is instrumental to hide dramatic budget cuts and very disturbing corruption scandals.
I do not believe that those who doubt that a 2017 referendum in the UK to exit the EU is a good idea, are any less democrats than those who support it. The same logic applies in other latitudes. There are better ways to decide, and these better ways are those used by the most important democracies in the world, which take the form of federations.

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