by Peter H. Salus
Editor’s Note: With this issue, LR welcomes a new writer, Peter H. Salus, who hales from the Great White North, or, at least, from Canada. Peter was born in Vienna and educated in New York, Aberystwyth, Leiden, and Reykjavik. He has taught and lectured in the US, Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, England, Finland, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Russia, Scotland, and Sweden. He has written or edited over a dozen books and published translations from Danish, German and Old Norse
The other day, I saw an article about the growing reluctance of the American Blue (i.e., Democratic) States to continue supporting the economies of the American Red (i.e., Trump-supporting) States. The Blue States, like California, are doing relatively well. But the Red States…no.
So there’s talk of the Blue States withholding funds from the Federal government. You even hear the word “Secession.”
I gather American commentators, particularly on the right, regard this as rather a joke. But, I wonder if they should.
Although I live in Canada now, I spent a lot of years in Europe. I was born there, in fact, before my family had to depart rather hurriedly after the rise of Hitler. But, I wonder, given my perspective, if I couldn’t offer a few words of advice to my American cousins, particularly when it comes to things like secession.
On 20 May 1937, Eric Blair (aka George Orwell) was shot in the throat by a sniper while fighting fascism. The next year, his Homage to Catalonia, the most important work in English on the Spanish Civil War, was published. In The Tempest, Sebastian says, “what’s past is prologue.” Perhaps it is, but in a few weeks, Catalonia will attempt to hold a plebiscite on its relationship with Spain.
There is good linguistic evidence that Catalan was different from Iberian Spanish as early as the second century AD. Despite Franco’s attempts at derogating it to a mere dialect of a small area (1939-1975), it has flourished. Catalonia was (forcibly) joined to Aragon in the 12th century and incorporated into Spain when Ferdinand of Aragon married Isabella of Castile.
Post-Franco, the region was granted a degree of autonomy once more in 1977, when democracy returned to the country. But calls for complete independence grew steadily until July 2010, when the Constitutional Court in Madrid overruled part of the 2006 autonomy statute, stating that there is no legal basis for recognising Catalonia as a nation within Spain. The economic crisis in Spain has only served to magnify calls for Catalan independence – as the wealthy Barcelona region is seen as propping up the poorer rest of Spain.
Catalonia is currently the most prosperous and economically profitable region of Spain. It accounts for nearly 19% of Spanish GDP (Madrid accounts for 17.6). . Madrid, however, has a higher per capita GDP.
Secession would therefore cost Spain almost 20 per cent of its economic output (and trigger a row about how to carve up the sovereign’s 836 billion euros of debt).
It would have a gross domestic product of $314 billion (£195bn), according to calculations by the OECD, which would make it the 34th largest economy in the world. That would make it bigger than Portugal or Hong Kong.
Its GDP per capita would be $35,000, which would make it wealthier than South Korea, Israel or Italy.
And Catalonia’s contribution to the Spanish economy is twice that of Scotland’s to the UK.
Catalonia is ‘READY!’