Catalonia

If I lived in Catalonia, I would vote ‘remain in Spain’. I have looked at the debate about Catalonian independence, and I am left with my starting question: Why now, when all the usual suspects, the Basques, Scots, Irish, and even Belgian separatists appear to be quiescent? One possible reason does emerge, though the timing still seems odd: Catalonia is richer than the rest of Spain. There is of course little point in discussing rational arguments, as polarized emotions have taken complete control.

Nevertheless, now for something not as completely different as it may appear at first sight. When Housing Benefit was introduced here in Britain, local authorities were made responsible for its administration. That meant that the affluent (though no doubt hard-working) burghers of places like Surbiton did not have to share the burden with unemployed layabouts in places like Middlesbrough.

Even more relevant to Catalonia, the notion of London seceding from the rest of Britain is regarded as unthinkable precisely because it is the richest region, though something not dissimilar from such a process did occur in the USA.

No doubt I am unusual, but I have been advocating the Universal Basic (Citizens’) Income (UBI) for 44 years, when for most of those years I would have been slightly worse off, because I had a higher than average income.

Why? Not only would it have been (will it be) fair, but it will lead the way to a completely new mind-set, where although there will still be possibly wide income differentials, the notion that there should be limits to those differentials will begin to take root.

The neoliberal credo of austerity makes for polarization on both sides. This is obvious on the side of those already in financial straits, but as long as it is perceived in ‘class war’ terms, the better-off feel threatened, instead of willing to share. As I say, I am trying to make sense of the strength of Catalan feelings now.

As I often say, the UBI is a sine qua non, not a panacea. But I think it is a pity that it is not in the minds of the parties to this dispute. An  international Basic Income might (will?) take the steam out of what seems to be the main driver of Catalan independence, and it would reduce the need for Spain to prevent secession. The course being taken, and the understandable Spanish response will almost certainly be disastrous.

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