You know Modern Spain is in danger

You know the Modern Spain you love is in danger. Thankfully, you can still eat abundant amounts of tasty Spanish ham whilst drinking a decent Rioja, and the Spanish national football team is still beating all-comers at international level—a truly world class achievement—but in your heart of hearts, you know a cataclysmic future outcome is a plausible option for a Spanish society that is struggling to adapt to a new world economically, politically and constitutionally.

What happens to a society when tens or hundreds of thousands of its own citizens abandon the country to go and live and work abroad, with the approval of parents, government ministers and even the king? When record numbers of citizens—25%, nearly 6 million Spaniards—are unemployed, with no economic recovery or new jobs visible anywhere on the horizon? When the 12th largest economy in the world is ranked 136 for ease of starting a new business, behind Burundi, Afghanistan or Yemen?

What happens when Spain’s existing national institutions aren’t capable of offering all of its citizens and residents a prosperous existence, or when political leaders steadfastly refuse to listen to their voters’ repeated cries for change and prefer instead to repeatedly lie to the nation, ignoring their own electoral programmes?

The Spanish King has said that thinking about Spain makes him want to cry.

How are the king’s subjects supposed to respond to that pathetic statement? What exactly are you supposed to do? What hope is there for your future, and for that of your children? How should you respond as a citizen, a resident, a taxpayer, a parent, a friend, a businessman or an investor?

You see, I bet that if you’re reading this blog you are one of the millions of people around the world who really care about Spain for some reason, just like I do.

Maybe you’re a patriotic Spanish citizen, worried about your own economic future and the direction your country has taken. Maybe you’re the parent of children in Spain, aghast at the dismal prospects the country’s outlook seems to suggest for their future education and opportunities in life. Maybe you’re a foreign resident who has invested your life savings and years of your life here. Maybe you’re a foreign investor who is thinking about investing, or has already invested, millions of dollars, pounds or renminbis in a business interest somewhere in the country. Maybe you’re learning or teaching Spanish at school, university or night classes. Or perhaps you’re working at a Spanish-speaking or foreign newspaper or TV station somewhere on the planet, trying to work out what on earth is going on in Spain and what consequences that might have for the global economy.

You really would like the country to work well again, to get better, but it’s sick right now and it needs help.

What we call Modern Spain is based on the 1978 Constitution that Spaniards agreed upon following the death of Franco. It was a wonderful, successful, historic agreement that responded effectively, at that time, to some of Spain’s recurring historical challenges. No more coups, takeovers, revolts, anarchy, civil war or dictatorship. Spain was going to be a modern constitutional monarchy, a modern European democracy with a market economy. Spain’s seventies-era big cheeses were able to knock heads together for the greater good of all Spaniards and set aside their differences.. By 2007, with their modern Carta Magna tucked under their arms and King Juan Carlos I watching constitutionally over his subjects, Spain had become the 8th largest economy in the world and developed first-class abilities in—at least—tourism healthcare, banking, football (how many trophies are there now?) and gastronomy (…that tasty ham!).

It worked for about three decades, until the Great Spanish Construction Hangover.

For a few years, it seemed like everyone here wanted to buy and sell houses. Immigrant workers did the heavy lifting and served beers, and the new properties were sold off at very handsome profits to Northern Europeans called Sven and Susan. Estate-agents sprouted like mushrooms in empty corner-premises in every town and city in the country. “Shhhh, pssst, come over here, I’ll sell you a few houses on the costa. Great value. Prices are just going up and up, mate. You really can’t lose. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Don’t miss the boat!” And that, basically, was Spain’s national business model—the Iberian get-rich-quick scheme—for about eight years, until 2007.

It wasn’t a good long-term investment, was it?

In 2012, five years after it all came crashing down, Spain is awash with empty, unfinished and unsold flats, houses, villas, office blocks and plots of land. Almost 6 million unemployed people now wander around Spain wondering how to feed their children and pay the rent each month. That’s an impressive 25% of the active population. Tens of thousands of Spanish citizens, and hundreds of thousands of immigrants, some of the smartest young people in the kingdom, have already emigrated to find work and a life abroad, in other countries. Hundreds of billions of euros of investment capital has fled the country over the past 12 months, according to the ECB’s Target 2 bank transfer estimates. The Spanish legal system is clogged to choking point with regional legislation and overdue cases: initial trial dates well out into 2014 or 2015 are already common. A host of respected charity organisations—the Red Cross, UNICEF and Cáritas—are now warning that millions of Spaniards are slipping below the poverty line and in need of regular charity assistance just to survive, and that record numbers of children in Spain are now malnourished and living in relative or chronic poverty. The EU estimates that social inequality, the distance between the richest and the poorest people in Spain, has rocketed to the highest level anywhere on the continent in 2012. The Spanish government is currently trying to decide whether or not to ask Europe for a €100 billion bailout to plug a hole in the national finances. But what’s the plan after that? (Answer: there isn’t one)

And Catalan nationalists have just played one of history’s great Spanish joker cards: Catalan independence, which would imply the geographic, political and economic secession of a whole chunk of Spain. They are seriously suggesting lopping off a fifth of Spain’s economy. So weakened is the Spanish national project at the moment that an increasing number of Catalans wish to leave the country altogether and are willing to try and do something serious about it this time. The Basques might not be far behind them. We would be talking plausibly in that case about a literal redrawing of the map of Spain. The stakes are that high right now, loyal reader.

As harsh as this is going to sound, the enormous set of complex systems and institutions we call Modern Spain has somehow transformed itself—as if by magic at the start of this 21st Century—into an increasingly unattractive, indeed repellent, national project. Literally. Its own citizens are emigrating again in droves or are unemployed, while investment capital and ideas flee the country because other national projects in other countries appear more attractive. Its own regions are setting in motion new independence projects. People are making long-term, life-changing decisions away from Spain. No-one knows if or when those citizens and that investment capital will come back. Maybe they’ll be back next year, maybe in five–years time or maybe never.

The wonderful institutional solutions invented by conscientious Spaniards at the end of the 1970s following the death of Franco have not been able to cope in their current form with the vagaries of globalisation and a hyper-connected, overpopulated, digital world facing a host of serious existential challenges itself, from climate change to feeding 8 billion human beings and the explosive growth of mega–cities.

Spain’s current generation of politicians, many of whom entered politics in the 1970 or 1980s, have so far shown little willingness to adapt those institutions with anything like the celerity needed to stop current trends from getting much worse, and—for now—the multiple disorganised protest movements, citizen organisations and general strikes have achieved very little in practical terms and do not represent a serious governing alternative.

Spain still has everything to play for, though. Our uncertain future is not necessarily grim. Spaniards could in theory still come together once more and design a new national project, better adapted to the 21st Century. But I fear we need to be quick now. And sooner or later, Spain will need to articulate some kind of response as a nation to all of these changes, whether it plans and prepares for them or not. Historical changes imply historical opportunities, and it is Spain’s privilege to try and make the most of them if it wishes to do so.

So Spain needs you and your ideas right now, loyal reader. And my blog is all about thinking better about the future of Spain, so keep reading.

     
  • http://www.spain-football.org Simon Harris

    My personal opinion is that Spain has great food, nice beaches, terrific music and warm and friendly people, but it has always been run by inept and corrupt politicians from a capital city that was only created to impose an unpopular government on many of its peoples. I’m definitely looking forward to Catalonia breaking free from the Spanish straitjacket, which should never have existed in the first place. Obviously, it won’t be a complete break – many Catalans will continue to have their holidays in Spain quite possibly at bargain prices!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=556716393 Matthew Hirtes

    You know Spain is in danger when writers start capitalizing words they ordinarily wouldn’t. Great post, Matthew Bennett.

  • Casslar

    Excellent if inevitably rather depressing read…

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Thank you Cassiar. It’s still a first draft, but that’s the general direction, it seems…

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Yes, things must be getting serious now…!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/fionafw Fiona Flores Watson

    Great article, thoughtful and balanced. The whole idea of what will happen to such a desperate society as Spain’s is really worrying. Many are predicting civil unrest. I don’t think the politicians give a monkey’s arse about normal working people, who are so fed up – they feel powerless and voiceless.

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Thank you, Fiona. It seems Spanish society is far from boiling point at the moment, which is surprising given what’s at stake.

    I think one of the key questions in Spain’s medium-term future is if they’ll be able to change all this without rebellion or some level of violent unrest. We might start to see some movement in that sense by the 2015 general election, and almost certainly afterwards as the fifth generation since the civil war starts coming of age.

    Social collapse theorists have unresponsive, exractive elites near the top of their lists of the historical causes of failure.

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Thanks, Simon. You know I don’t agree with that completely :-) but there will certainly be a challenge to the status quo now, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch and try and make sense of.

  • http://www.facebook.com/siriocl Sirio Busybee

    Why are capital cities are created? Why does any polity exist? Has any polity always been unpopular? Why? The answer is almost always the same; polities and their capitals are projects created to impose governance on people living somewhere, ideally people who will accept that they are bound by some sort of social contract. Sometimes the governments have legitimacy, sometimes they don’t, political systems which focus on accountability can help with that, responsive politicians can too. A well developed civic consciousness is also very useful.

    Spain is what it is, not because of its history or the motivations that created it, but because of phenomena which define current events. Catalonia is just the same. So, although over the last couple of centuries it might have been socially, politically and economically ahead of much of Spain, one should not assume that it is now, or that will continue to be.

    Obviously there are certain areas in which Catalonia does well, the economy being one of them, but I have been keeping an eye on events in the area and there are several issues which are not going so well.

    For example, along with the rise of nationalism, there has also been a rise in racism. In fact, it is the only part of Spain where openly racist parties (like PxC) have enough popular backing to gain representation. It is only the ugliest of several symptoms that point towards a surge in intolerant attitudes, which are supposedly at odds with the traditional, tolerant, open.minded Catalan liberalism.

    The institutions are actually going through a process of distancing from Catalan society, this can be seen in the behaviour and use of the Mossos (Catalan Police) by the existing regional government. If the police forces continue to show themselves to be more repressive than police forces over other parts of Spain we know there is a problem.

    The city of Barcelona has also implemented a set of local laws which regulate dress (or lack thereof), the decoration of shop shutters. This is far from a liberal approach to social policy. Meanwhile the social (and image) problems which they were supposed to solve continue unabated.

    At one point the local council even censored an official bookshop for selling satirical products which rubbed salt in the wound by identifying some of those social problems. When I say censored I mean that the bookshop was forced to withdraw the offending items from sale.

    These small examples are just symptoms of the political malaise caused by nationalism, which always allows some problems to be swept under the carpet of unity against the perceived enemy. It can be assumed that an independent Catalonia would have to deal with these problems alone, economically weakened, socially polarised, and exacerbated by the inevitable the process of political rebalancing post (hypothetical) independence.

    In other words, (nationalism aside) Catalonia is heading in the wrong direction. It is hard to imagine that independence would be painless, so we must assume that its existing problems would worsen. Just on those few issues: tolerance, racism, social freedoms, political accountability.

    God, that’s a long response. I told myself to stop doing this, but Matthew’s hard work always merits a bit of participation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.mclean1 Brian McLean

    Thanks for the reflections in a great article. We will probably never see eye-to-eye as far as Catalonia/Spain is concerned and Simon has summed up my feelings perfectly.

    However, I feel that your moderate optimism for the future might be a little misplaced. (That is, of course, one of the reasons we want out) During the golden (sic) years of riches flowing abundantly from SA, the Castilians thought there was nothing better to so than financing wars all over the world. There was absolutely no thought of modernising the country as was happening in Catalunya and, by the way, Euskal Herria.

    It is worth remembering that Catalan merchants were forbidden from trading with the SA Colonies so they expanded into Europe and the Mediterranean thus importing, together with the goods, the forward looking ideas that Castilla was avoiding at all costs. They were consolidating their feudal system. The Duchess of Alba still owns 34000 hectares of land directly.

    his really id too long to be a “comment” but, time permitting, I’ll try to “correct the mistakes” that a Castilla-centred viewpoint induce. LOL.

    A bit of “blowing my own trumpet”

    http://www.culturespain.com/2012/10/30/letter-from-catalonia-the-debate-for-independence/

    Cheers

  • http://www.facebook.com/siriocl Sirio Busybee

    You base your ‘lack of optimism’ on events which took place in the 1600s and 1700s… LOL

    Obviously a referendum needs to be allowed to take place, in the meantime Spain must make contingency plans to make sure that all jobs and services currently in Spain stay within a post-Catalonia Spain. In the meantime Catalonia should be left to thrash this debate out alone.

    Meanwhile Spain needs to do everything it can to free up the self-employed sector, changes on social security payments would probably help, although income tax reform would also make sense. Those twomeasures should be balanced out with a more strict tax-collection system.

    Regulating prostitution and the cannabis industry would make sense, but nobody has the nerve for those. Basically, if Spain starts focusing on anti-recession policy making all this will blow over. Later, not sooner, but blow over it shall.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Bramwell/530421610 Alex Bramwell

    Great stuff! One of the best breakdowns of the problem that I have seen anywhere, in any language. Can’t help feeling that the Spanish will find the solution, just as they did in the 1970s. Nobody expected the Transition to work and yet it did.

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Goodness me, praise indeed, praise indeed. Thanks, Alex.

    Yeah, I don’t know about the optimistic outcome at the moment. It’s theoretically possible but none of the people I’ve spoken to over the past few months seem to believe Spain has the requisite caliber of politicians for that kind of unified change of direction right now. Certainly not the same desire to put grievances aside for the common good. There seems to be no common fear or common cause or common enemy to pull together around…

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Thanks Sirio. Great comment. You know you enjoy it really…

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Thanks, Brian. I don’t have any particular feelings towards the Catalan issue, personally, but I’m fascinated by it from a political or analytical point of view. It would be a massive historical event for Spain.

    I think perhaps ‘moderate optimism’ would be the very best Spain could hope for right now, but even that would require a huge collective effort over the next decade. So it’s not certain by any means, certainly not if we keep going like this.

    @facebook-618554100:disqus : I’m not sure we can be certain about a referendum definitely taking place yet. The Spanish government will try and do everything in its power to stop it.

  • John2000

    Well written, Matthew. I don’t see it as ‘dark’. Spain always had a very high unemployment from the onset (1976). But a few years between 2002 and 2008 the numbers went down. Spain is an agricultural country with its traditions and way of life. It’s a developing country with a relatively poor infrastructure. However: it was a largely autarkic country – it had to be before 1976. State finances are still relatively sound and better than those of Germany with its far higher debt. The overhang are private debts, according to some experts nearly 1 trillion US dollar (or about 820 billion Euro). How to get rid of those? Simply scrap them from the books! A pity for banksters, a blessing for Spain, provided it at the same time quits the eurozone. We’ll possibly haven’t to wait that long – Europe is splitting already. The point of no return has passed, it seems. North with a strong euro, the South with a sort of mini-euro or sovereign currencies again. That would solve the crisis as if by magical hand! Wait to see, soon in this theatre…

  • Manuel

    Dear Simon,
    I’m Spaniard who has just returned to Spain after living for three years in US. I want to thank you for your initials words, but please, just let me tell you that on the contrary to Mathew’s Analysis, yours it too simplistic, especially when just drop a line saying your looking forward to see how Catalonia break free from Spain, as if Catalonia where a different country itself. The reality might be much more complex than what you have in mind. You might want to know that the corruption level in Catalonia is far more than the rest of the country, that these catalan politicians are trying to impose secession as a smokescreen because of their failure to rule Catalonia, that Catalonia itself is at bankruptcy because of these megalomaniac politicians who have been ruling these provinces as if they were their own kingdom, trying to kill everything related with Spain, forbidding the Children get their education in Spanish, forbidding the companies advertise in Spanish… I just want you to think twice before you write something that could really hurt us as Spaniards. I love Catalonia, it’s part of my country and I’m open to read and share everyone’s opinion, but to make this kind of statement I’d love to read what is your justification.

  • http://www.spain-football.org Simon Harris

    Hi Sirio, As you may have guessed I’m in the pro-Catalan Independence camp. I’ve lived in Barcelona for 25 years, am author of Going Native in Catalonia and I would be delighted to disagree personally with you on my blog at http://bcnblog.barcelona-travel-guide.info.

  • http://www.spain-football.org Simon Harris

    I think I and 55% of Catalans can justify our opinions. If you visit my blog at http://bcnblog.barcelona-travel-guide.info. and click on either Politics in Categories or Catalan Independence in the Tag Cloud, you will read very clear explanations of why it’s time to get out of Spain. By the way, my Twitter followers include, Catalonia Direct, Reagrupament, ERC and Artur Mas’s press officer!

  • http://www.spain-football.org Simon Harris

    I didn’t say so but I do think yours is a great post, Matthew, but I’m with Brian on Catalonia. I also think the value of commenting is to cause a bit of a furore … I’ve provoked some tasty responses and will probably provoke more!

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Thank you, Manuel. There’s a whole range of future possibilities for Catalonia and Spain, I think, all of them complex. The outcome probably depends on two things: the economic situation and the strength of each of the identity projects (Spain vs. Catalonia). They’re feeding off each other at the minute. But we can talk about that in another post.

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Thank you, Simon. Feel free to comment as you see fit, of course, as befits the occasion—all respectful and politely expressed opinions will always be welcome—although I’m sure you enjoy talking about things that aren’t Catalonia sometimes too… :-)

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Thank you @eae4ab9c1e75b04ee28f253aca14c38a:disqus. If Rajoy had cojones, he would take Spain out of the euro and get on with whatever’s nex†…

  • http://www.facebook.com/dibeach Di Beach

    I am happy to have found your blog. As a small business owner in Andalucia, my main frustation is with the unbelievably restrictive employment laws. I live in a small village and would and could employ more local people on a casual basis but the law is impossible. I have one fijo employee who is mine for life but during busy periods I cannot take on extra help for short periods. I feel this is a major impediment to Spain’s economic revival – which actually i believe fervantly will happen! Sooner if not later.

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Hi @facebook-1398856363:disqus, thanks. Glad you found it and that it’s useful. How do you think they should change the small business employment laws? Social security payments as a percentage? Lower taxes? Less paperwork? Government start-up capital?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dibeach Di Beach

    I don’t care about paying social security, I don’t care about taxes. Paperwork is a pain but one gets used to that here and I employ two gestors to deal with it. None of that. I have a small hotel so, as you can appreciate, the business ebbs and flows. The main issue (and it could be that my gestor who deals with employment does not know what he is talking about in which case, somebody please enlighten me and by extension him !) is that I may need you to work this week but not next week. For one week only next month. Perhaps two weeks in the following month. I don’t mind at all paying the seg soc for the weeks worked but I would like to be legal unlike most people in my industry. According to my information, I can employ somebody on trial for 15 days. At the end of that period, I can give them a contract for a certain period. At the end of that my choice is either to dump them or put them on fijo. This is absurd for a small business. I am convinced that there are many many businesses in this industry and others that employ people black because that is the only alternative thus depriving the state of needed seg soc and tax revenue. Any reform would allow businesses to legally employee the staff they need on an as-needed basis.

  • Marta

    We Catalans are absolutely fed up with Madrid’s way of doing things. It is not only about economy (43 cents of each euro we pay as taxes in Spain never come back to Catalonia). It is much more than that. We were invaded by Spaniards by military force in 1714. All our laws, constitution, parliament…etc were all annihilated. They tried to wipe out our own language and culture, but they could not. They have survived for 300 years, even though the obstinate attempts of destroying them. We want our rights back in plenitude, that’s all. They treat us like a colony, so we want independence.

  • Ja Ume

    Fine words . . . will see if they butter no parsnips . . . how are you going to bing some analysis without access to vital information, for example how many taxes each region brings and receives from central governement?. From where are you going to gather the fundamental information?. The Catalans had enough of these three decades of fantasy. We do not need a King in order to enjoy ham and football.

  • http://www.facebook.com/siriocl Sirio Busybee

    Thanks for the invitation Simon, and nice blog btw.

    The truth is that I feel this debate needs to take place ‘inside’ Catalonia (amongst Catalans, non-Catalan residents, and Catalan expats), in the same way that what the rest of Spain needs to debate how to legitimise Spain as a polity, rather than how to shore it up in the face of Catalan nationalism using centrist-nationalist arguments.

    Unfortunately, until that focus is found, debate inside and outside Catalonia will continue to be in a state of catatonia. Arguments will simply be used by both sides solely to push their nationalist agendas (centrist or separatist).

    Right now the only thing Spain can do is to safeguard the interests of its citizens, and that of those who wish to remain its citizens. If Catalonia cesedes then so be it, but you know what they say about cakes… and eating them.

    There also needs to be some thought on what the minimum turnout needs to be, on whether you need a qualified or simple majority, and on where Spain needs to go from here structurally. A layer-cake federal state is obviously necessary, and a provision for an exit from the union needs to be considered, though probably along US lines. Some kind of mechanism for areas to pass powers back and forth might also make sense.

    None of this matters as much as the shameful lack of representation, transparency and accountability found in all parts of contemporary Spain. Until that is dealt with it will return to haunt all involved like ignored chronic ailments always do.

  • Junius

    Interesting piece. I thought I should link to some other reflections on the failure of Spanish institutions and institutional arrangements, such as the electoral system:

    In the Economist, “Why is Spain so Corrupt? (http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/2009/03/why_is_spain_so_corrupt) “; in El País, “Por qué hay tanta corrupción en España” (http://elpais.com/diario/2009/03/27/opinion/1238108412_850215.html) of which the former is a gloss, by the political scientist Victor Lapuente Giné; and a short opinion piece in a 2010 issue of Vanguardia by Jordia Barbeta (http://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/noticias/20100314/53897613761/girona-que-no-se-queje…-barcelona-gracia-red-electrica-pompeu-fabra-telefonica-montseny-diagonal-e.html) on the parliamentary representation of those Catalans who have been without electricity since last Monday’s snowfall. Barbeta points out that the snowed-in towns have no effective voice in Barcelona or Madrid because they are without local representation. Barbeta doesn’t suggest scrapping proportional representation as practised in Spain; I do.

    In my own modest blog, I drafted a proposal for institutional reform in 2010 (http://e-08001.blogspot.com.es/2010/04/fifteen-reforms.html), beginning with the electoral system.

  • http://www.facebook.com/siriocl Sirio Busybee

    I’m no expert (by which I mean that I am the very essence of ignorance) but as an English teacher I was always employed on what I believe to have been called a ‘fijo discontinuo’ or something along those lines, which seemingly allowed my employer to pay me as and when I worked, and only then. Some people (should I say most) are also incredibly creative with the paychecks, meaning that the ‘salario base’ is just a fraction of the total, and things like travel and ‘dietas’ take up a massive chunk of the monthly income. I don’t know whether that is just a Madrid regional tax thing or not….

  • http://www.spain-football.org Simon Harris

    Although you may diagree, I would like to see an independent Catalonia. It’s unlikely that any referendum or consultation will be allowed ‘legally’ by Spain, so its purpose will be to put pressure on the international community … A very high turnout and a very large majority will be difficult to ignore. However, we have a good few months and many steps ahead of us before we know the result!

  • http://www.facebook.com/florian.j.hoffmann Florian Josef Hoffmann

    “It worked for about three decades, until the Great Spanish Construction Hangover.” When the city is built, the construction workers are jobless. It was the same, when modern Paris was bult. Thats normal. Its a consequence of the division of labor, its a consequence of the market economy. What did the Paris people do? They reoriented to non construction business, means fashion, art and high class food.

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    That’s a great question, @facebook-100000598104319:disqus , and I don’t think anyone has the answer to it right now…Spain doesn’t know what it should be doing with its time, what it should be focusing on with its economic energy right now, to provide value to the world. Not like it did in those years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/siriocl Sirio Busybee

    For my part I hope that such a referendum is allowed to take place, and it may just be a view that is slowly taking hold across Spain at more levels too. Scottish public opinion to the now-tangible reality of independence has not gone unnoticed. Pro-independence feeling in Catalonia has increased rapidly since the start of the crisis, the corresponding austerity and the whole estatut joke.

    These are patently reactions to the ‘here and now’ which may go a different way as the perception of said ‘here and now’ changes. So Spain needs to focus on dealing with the atrocious present (for now) and Catalonia can think about who and what it is, and why, and where it wants to go, and how, and what it’s future will be.

  • http://www.matthewbennett.es/ Matthew Bennett

    Well, @6fbe522b1597738a2cb2e5b58a880b70:disqus , if you mean my own thought processes and what I’m going to be doing on this blog, I’m going to base it on thinking about different plausible future options. No-one knows exactly what will happen, of course, but if we mix data with trends and history and what we know about life, and we use our imagination a little, we can think about the future in a more practical way. I’ll explain more in the next few posts.

  • nicklas

    Great reading! Nicklas

  • Mike

    You do realize it’s this kind of attitude that caused the crisis to begin with. Thank God I’m Canadian.

  • Jackie Cornwall

    Quite a stirring read, but I would prefer something more factual, maybe a little more specific. What form would your projectd ‘cataclysm’ take? What are the projections and forecasts from economists and other experts?

    The Constitution of 1978 created a form of proportional representation which embodied potential inequalities, especially regionally, and some anomalies of representation. These should be addressed, though I think it would take a referendum to do it.

    When you ask the rhetorical question of what might occur in the future if economic decline continues, you might consider the example of Ireland in the 19th century or Argentina in the 20th. However, most of the bad choices in Spain took place in the private sector, while the government itself managed to keep an acceptable balance of debt. It follows logically that Spain needs to move further in the direction of a planned economy in order to restablish control over spending.

    I fully agree that Spain, like all Western nations, is in a spot of bother, but beating our breasts and crying woe will not improve matters. Those who really love Spain need to start arguing calmly and campaigning for positive solutions based on a
    realistic and detailed appraisal of the situation.