For a free and liberal Catalonia

Liberalism defends the values of freedom, personal autonomy, diversity, pluralism, mutual support, progress, peace and tolerance.

0. Introduction

The declaration, “For a free and liberal Catalonia”, is a text advanced by the Free Catalans Collective (CCL), an independent group of citizens from different areas of civil society. We are a cross-cutting group with no affiliation to political parties or political entities; our firm commitment to advancing a free, prosperous society in an independent Catalonia is what unites us and what inspires us to put forth this declaration. We are liberals and supporters of independence who are optimistic of the political process that our country is undergoing. Nevertheless, we are concerned with the profound lack of knowledge that Catalan society has with respect to the principles of liberalism. For this reason, we are determined to expound our forward-looking proposals.

Historically, liberal values have driven Mediterranean trade, Catalan civil rights and the Industrial Revolution, thereby nurturing our country’s progress. We believe that liberalism is alive in Catalan society and is active in the day-to-day lives of millions of citizens. However, it needs a push to emerge as a convincing ideology for a majority who, as it stands, finds itself disconcerted regarding the founding principles of the new Catalan State.

It is for this reason that we have decided to contribute our perspective to the debate on an extremely importance political process in our country. By publishing this declaration, we hope to make our voice heard to firmly establish that there are citizens who envision a free and liberal Catalonia.

1. Self-determination

As liberals, we espouse the right to self-determination because we defend the principle that individuals should be able to freely choose the political community in which they wish to participate. To be liberal is to defend individual liberty. Therefore, we believe that individuals cannot be obligated to remain perpetually and without change within the borders of a nation state that was forged in the 18th century.

Unlike the right and left-wing Jacobin ideologies of Europe, like those of France and Spain, the decentralisation and fragmentation of nation states on the one hand favours global integration while on the other hand encourages tax competition. Consequently, these factors limit the ability of bureaucrats and plutocrats to impose unfair taxation.

This respect for individual liberty also assumes accepting a shared national identity and the right therein to pursue emancipation via a democratic referendum.

2. Independence

The Free Catalans Collective supports the Independence of Catalonia because it is the only way to move beyond the model of a historically authoritarian and interventionist state, like that of Spain. Catalan society, like any of the world’s societies, has the capacity to self-govern and it is within the framework of a new state that its human and business capital can grow freely and to its full extent.

We think that the production model promoted by the Spanish State, dominated by large corporations that emerged from former public monopolies (banking, telecommunications and power), has never sought to maximise efficiency, productivity or wealth generation. This model does not respond to the needs of the Catalan economic base, which is primarily made up of businesses who seek to grow in a global, innovative and competitive environment. Moreover, it is undeniable that the distribution of investments in Spain has not managed to improve socioeconomic conditions for the country’s poorest regions, which ensures a pattern of dependency between these regions and other regions with greater economic development.

We believe that the independence of Catalonia will help align the priorities of Catalan citizens and companies more efficiently with the expenditure and investment priorities of the state. Accordingly, we are advocating for a unilateral referendum and a subsequent declaration of independence. However, we are not opposed to any democratic means of achieving this objective.

3. A small state open to the world

Small states with negligible natural resources, as would be the case for an independent Catalonia, are obliged to look to the outside world and to trade for survival. The economic foundation of the Catalan industry and business network has a strong international component that, as we argued before, will reach its maximum potential in an independent Catalonia. We look to small, interdependent and open states like the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland as examples of countries who achieve high levels of wealth and well-being for their citizens.

Additionally, we believe that an independent Catalonia will be a positive influence in the construction of a Europe that leaves behind the current 19th century Nation State model, opting instead for an open and fully competitive market.

The free movement of people is another pillar of liberal philosophy. We are opposed to borders and customs that impede or obstruct individuals from freely choosing where they wish to live, work and develop as people.

4. Institutional reform

We defend a legal and institutional framework that protects individual Liberty, civil rights and equality before the law. The evidence shows that the key to social progress is designing inclusive institutions in the political sphere that guarantee participation, representation, pluralism and oversight of the arbitrariness of politicians through checks and balances. In the economic sphere, government institutions must ensure property rights, contract fulfilment and free competition as the bases for guaranteeing economic growth and productivity of economic agents.

5. Limited government and social justice

We do not believe in imposed egalitarianism: we believe that a free society, where private enterprise can be enjoyed without hurdles and where wealth generated by individuals stays in their pockets, is the best way to ensure well-being and prosperity.

We do not support a welfare state, but rather a subsidiary state: we believe the responsibility of the state is to provide quality assistance to those who, for one reason or another, cannot lead a dignified life for themselves. Increased expenditures do not equal greater social justice. Therefore, reducing taxes and the size of the government is consistent with improving redistributive measures, prioritising social protections for society’s most vulnerable groups and guaranteeing improved living conditions via effective and definitive solutions. The complete subsidy of a service that has no bearing on the recipient’s income is harmful to society’s most disadvantaged members.

6. Free competition

The State must guarantee free competition and the liberalisation of services. We also want Catalonia to be free of corporatism: we do not want an interventionist government that arbitrarily funds private sectors of the economy or bails-out companies with public money. We think that the free market is the natural ecosystem for the development of SMEs and co-operatives, which are the motors of Catalan industry. The downturn in resource allocation among companies caused productivity to fall 0.7% annually between 1995 and 2007, a factor clearly at odds with the rest of Europe. Thus, the economic model of an independent Catalonia must be based on the productive sectors, recognising private companies to be the fulcrum of wealth and employment generation.

7. The labour market

We support a highly-mobile labour market model that is flexible, dynamic and adaptive. Current, punitive labour regulations cause rigidities in the labour market that incentivise companies to continuously offer temporary contracts while not utilising indefinite ones. One of its most obvious shortcomings is the lack of incentive to invest in human capital and training; the employment relationship has no long-term outlook and can therefore cause decreases in economic productivity. Private initiative and cooperation between individuals must be the principal instrument for generating value and effectively tackling poverty and social problems.

8. Radical democracy

We do not believe in a false democracy dominated by political parties who are propped up by closed-list voting systems. We value the Anglo-Saxon electoral system, based upon open-lists, the merits of the individual candidate and limitless and transparent party financing. We also believe in direct democracy and holding referendums to solve community conflicts.

9. Civil rights, individual liberties and educational freedom

The State must remain neutral when it comes to issues affecting the private lives of individuals, who are sovereign in terms of their own morality and the values that they employ to guide their lives. Liberalism is an integrative, complete and cohesive worldview: the State must be hands off. It does not have the right to burden the taxpayer with oppressive taxation nor impinge on one’s sexual freedom, religious freedom, freedom of thought, freedom of expression or freedom of association. In this regard, we defend the right to euthanasia, the decriminalisation of drugs and the right to self-ownership.

We believe in a system of free education that is open to different educational models, like home-schooling. We also believe in the freedom of educational centres to adapt their programmes according to demand. Free competition in education is the driving force of excellence. To be fully effective, we call for the free choice of educational centres and for school vouchers. Lastly, we urge the adoption of the autonomous, decentralised educational model founded by Francesc Ferrer Guàrdia in the Modern School.

10. 360º liberty

We believe strongly in the concept of individual liberty, a Western value and the foundation of our ideology; we view such liberty as associated with personal responsibility and total ownership of the consequences of one’s individual actions—a far cry from the paternalistic state model. We want a society with total freedom where the individual is the master of their own destiny; a society of creative, entrepreneurial and self-aware individuals who evade the demagogy of the masses. This is the ideological base for achieving a peaceful, progressive and prosperous society.