Thursday, September 17, 2015

Behavioural political economy in Catalonia

In the run-up to the regional election of September 27th we are being part in Catalonia of a live experiment in behavioural political economy. The Catalan government has called a snap election that is presented as a plebiscite on independence, although what the voters will be electing is a Parliament with a malapportionment system that benefits the rural, and more pro-independence, areas. As is typical in a plebiscitarian atmosphere, the population is deeply divided. Those in favour of independence are more mobilized and have in their favour the support of Catalan public broadcasters. This climate makes it impossible to democratically discuss about the legacy of the outgoing government, which is a democratic anomaly given that the current Catalan President wants to be President again after the election (and keep using the public resources in favour of his nationalist narrative). One of the arguments against secession is that an independent Catalonia lacks any foreign support, and according to all EU officials who have publicly spoken, it would be left out of the EU. Never mind: pro-secession leaders claim that Europe will find very quickly a way to accommodate the new member. No doubt affected by confirmation bias, many voters seem inclined to believe these leaders. If you try to speak rationally to some pro-secession citizens, in my case endorsing moderate ideas of federalism with important international support, they just do not listen, saying that we (the federalists)  "do not understand anything" or similar arguments. It is like evolutionists against creationists in the US: people have stopped listening to each other, it is gut intuitions first and reasoned arguments after. I believe that many people seem inclined to practice expressive voting. They rationally expect that they will not influence the final vote, and even that if they influenced it independence is not really possible, but they still vote for it because it is their team, like in a soccer game. Perhaps if they believed that there is some real chance of a serious democratic accident, the federalists would have some chance...

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