Shaking the Kaleidoscope

by Andrew Stuttaford

The great euro-wrecking ball continues to swing.

The BBC reports:

Nationalists in the Spanish region of Catalonia are set to win in regional elections, partial results show. With more than 95% of the votes counted, the ruling CiU had 50 seats, short of an absolute majority. The separatist left-wing ERC had 21 seats. Both are nationalists keen to hold a referendum on whether the region should break away from the rest of Spain.

I suspect that we are still a very long way from an independent Catalonia, but The Economist has already uncorked a preemptive whine:

What could be wrong with 7.5m people with their own language and culture choosing to become a nation-state? At first blush, it is hard to object to what Catalan nationalists call the “right to decide”.

Indeed it is, but The Economist will give it a shot. 

 In fact, there are many reasons why Catalans should not waste their energy trying to break away from Spain. Start by recalling Orwell’s definition of nationalism as “power-hunger tempered by self-deception”.

Sure, but then recall that even the great Orwell was, when he put his mind to it, quite capable of writing absolute nonsense.

The paper’s writer goes on to observe:

 Under Spain’s constitution of 1978, Catalonia enjoys more self-government than almost any other corner of Europe. It runs its own schools, hospitals, police, prisons and cultural institutions.

True enough, if you exclude, you know, countries from the mix. And then comes this:

It lacks only tax-raising powers and the Ruritanian trappings of statehood, which nationalist politicians appear to be hungry for.

If you are looking for a good example of a supranationalist sneer, developed perhaps in Brussels or Turtle Bay and, doubtless, fine-tuned in Davos, the last two-thirds of that sentence will do very nicely. The rabble want their own country.  How vulgar. How passé. How frightful. How Ruritanian.

After all, haven’t they considered the consequences?

The argument that Catalans should not subsidise feckless Andalusians is a dangerous one: apply that more widely and the euro zone would fall apart.

As currently constituted, maybe. And that would not be a bad thing.