Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thomas Piketty and Simon Kuper write about Catalonia

Two authors I follow have recently written interesting pieces about Catalonia. Simon Kuper, the sports (and more) journalist of the Financial Times, writes about "Us and them: Catalonia and the problem with separatism." I am afraid it is not always easy to access an article at the FT, so here it goes an extensive quote (I hope this is not illegal...): "I’m a fan of Catalonia but Catalan separatists are separating people. Their slogans say, “Spain steals from us!” or “Catalonia is not Spain”. Rhetoric like this divides people into opposite groups, each with a single identity: us (Catalans) and them (Spaniards). You must be one thing or the other. The government in Madrid unintentionally sharpens this divide by imposing direct rule on Catalonia.Someone else who thinks in terms of single identity is Donald Trump. As he tells it, you’re American or Muslim; you’re a real American or a liberal elitist. There’s an uncomplicated joy to single identity: find your essence, then taunt an enemy who doesn’t share it. And along with your identity comes a free set of opinions that you never need to test against reality (...)." After arguing in favour of the diversity of identities promoted by economist Amartya Sen in his book on this topic, Kuper finishes his article like this: "If you want to persuade people who don’t share your one particular identity, you need to appeal to some of our shared identities. Lilla writes: “I am not a black male motorist . . . All the more reason, then, that I need some way to identify with one if I am going to be affected by his experience . . . The more the differences between us are emphasised, the less likely I will be to feel outrage at his mistreatment.”The economist Branko Milanovic recently described what he learnt from the bloody break-up of his native Yugoslavia: “Be considerate. Think of people as persons. And do not impute to them opinions just because of their nationality.” It’s handy advice for today’s fragile societies such as India, the US and Spain." Thomas Piketty has a blog post where he brilliantly addresses the taxation implications of separatism in the context of the process of European integration: "Europe also bears a great deal of responsibility in this crisis. Apart from the catastrophic management of the crisis in the Euro zone, in particular at the expense of Spain, for decades now Europe has been promoting a model of civilisation based on the idea that it is possible to have everything at the same time: integration in a large European and world market, without any real obligation for ensuring fiscal solidarity and the financing of the public good. In these circumstances, why not try one’s luck by making Catalonia a tax haven along the lines of Luxembourg? To be sure, there is a federal European budget but it is very small. Above all, it should logically be based on those who benefit most from economic integration, with a common European tax on corporate profits and the highest incomes, as is the case in the United States (one could also endeavour to do better, but we are far from this). It is only by ensuring that solidarity and fiscal justice are at long last central to its practices that Europe will successfully tackle separatisms."

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