Uncharted Territory, Spain to Take Over Catalonia Government: What's the Libertarian Position?

Madrid will suspend Catalonia autonomy on Saturday after Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president, refused to back down from a declaration of independence. What happens next is unknown. Spain fears violence but it may force new regional elections nonetheless. This is uncharted territory.

The Spanish government is to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and impose direct rule after the region’s president refused to abandon the push for independence that has led to Spain’s biggest political crisis for 40 years.The announcement of the unprecedented measure came after the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, threatened a unilateral declaration of independence if the Spanish government did not agree to talks on the issue.

According to article 155, which has never been used, the Spanish government will need to lodge a formal complaint with Puigdemont, then submit its proposals to the senate for debate and approval. As a result, it will be at least a few days before concrete steps are taken.

Tensions in the already fraught impasse rose further this week after a judge at Spain’s national court denied bail to two prominent Catalan independence leaders who are being investigated for alleged sedition.

Spain Moves to Suspend Autonomy

Spain is to start suspending Catalonia's autonomy from Saturday, as the region's leader threatens to declare independence. The government said ministers would meet to activate Article 155 of the constitution, allowing it to take over running of the region.Catalonia's leader said the region's parliament would vote on independence if Spain continued "repression".Some fear the latest moves could spark further unrest after mass demonstrations before and since the ballot on 1 October.

However, the central government wants to minimise the risk of large-scale demonstrations, our correspondent says. Civil servants and government lawyers have thought long and hard about what measures to adopt and when and how they should be implemented.

Xavier Arbós, a constitutional expert at the University of Barcelona, said the situation was moving into "uncharted territory". He told the BBC: "We simply do not know what measures the Spanish government could enact. We do not know how the powers of the Catalan government could be affected."

It is likely that senior figures in charge of internal security in Catalonia could be dismissed, and control of the region's police force could pass to Madrid. The regional parliament could also be dissolved. One Spanish newspaper has reported that Mr. Puigdemont might nominally remain in his job but Madrid would aim to take control of many of his duties and powers.

What's the Libertarian Position?

I pinged my friend Pater Tenebrarunm at the Acting Man blog with a simple question for which I already knew the answer: What's the Libertarian position? Here's is Pater's reply:

:As libertarians we should always support secession, for a number of reasons:

  1. The smaller the territories governments rule over, the less power they have.

  2. The more territories and governments people can choose from, the less tyrannical government policies will be, as people will find it easier to vote with their feet.

  3. Competition among governments is a good thing for citizens. That is one reason why the EU has become such an evil organization since it expanded its remit from being a trade union to become a political entity trying to centralize power. The idea of secession will eventually lead to the total abolition of government. After all, if a territory can secede, why not a city? Why not a block within a city? And lastly, why should not individuals also be able to secede?

  4. Incidentally, this was an argument Rothbard made in support of secession. He basically said: "We are told anarchy is bad but governments and nation states exist in a state of anarchy vs. each other. Why is that not bad? And if that is not bad, how come getting rid of government altogether is considered bad?"

  5. I have empirical support for this idea as well. Where is economic freedom the greatest, and which countries are therefore the by far most prosperous? Well, how about Hong Kong, Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra, all of which are tiny political territories. Some of them are almost twice as rich (in output per capita) than the so-called "developed world". What unites them are "laissez-faire" governments, low taxes, almost no licensing requirements, low tariffs or no tariffs at all, and so on. Oh, and none of them "throw their weight around on the world stage" or threaten any of their neighbors militarily.

Mish Position: No One Can Own You

Many of my readers back Spain, citing the rule of law.

But rule of law once allowed slavery, despite a US Declaration of Independence that stated "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

A rule of law also once held that black votes were worth 3/5ths of a white vote and slave-owners got to cast those votes on behalf of blacks.

Other readers noted the radical socialist positions of some of Catalonia's leaders. So what?

People either have a right to self-determination or not.

In this case, the government of Spain has acted in a manner that tells the people of Catalonia, "Whether you like it or not, we own you. You cannot leave. If you try, we will jail you."

In essence, Spain is enforcing slavery on 90% of the population that decided to leave. If California or Texas voted to leave the United States I would say, go for it.

Military conscription and drafts are additional forms of slavery. Such laws mean the government can own you.

Here's the deal: No one has the right to own you, no matter what the law says!

It's self-evident.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

No. 1-25

Not all small countries are heavens as Honk Kong or Montecarlo, think of North Corea as an example. Not all of is are libertarians


Catalonians have every right to ask for secession if that is what the majority really wants, and it goes without saying that to do so, even if they were to do it properly, they would have to flout Spanish law. But they CANNOT flout Catalonian law. The Catalan autonomy has its own statutes, drawn and voted by Catalan legislators and voters in completely free and clean elections over 40 years since democracy came back to Spain. As many have mentioned above, the laws of the referendum were passed disregarding Catalonian statutes that required two thirds majority for this type of law. Well, if they wanted things to be properly done they should have reformed the statutes before passing these laws. It was a piece of cake for the Spanish Supreme Court to rule them illegal, because they were (for Spanish law), but they would also be ruled illegal by Catalonian law in a Catalonian court. The Catalonian opposition who disagreed with this line of action left the premises and the remaining lawmakers (who had a majority in Parliament even though they did not have a majority of votes) passed the law they wanted. I don't care if it was illegal for the Spanish federal government. It does not pass muster by Catalonian laws. Now, if they want to run a proper referendum where everyone can vote and they win, be my guest. But this referendum was a sham. The fact that the present Catalan leaders consider it a mandate while refusing to call for an election which was the only thing that would have precluded the application of Article 155 on the part of Spain plainly shows in my view that they consider it more in their interest to have Spain intervene in the autonomy in order to rile up their supporters rather than lose a clean election within the autonomy with candidates of parties that exist and have existed for decades within the autonomy. Let it be clear that this is not meant as a defense of the imbeciles in the Spanish government. The way things are turning out, this will be a long, drawn out mess with disingenuous statements on the part of the Spanish government and false victimization on the part of Catalan secessionists. In the meantime, the economy is tanking and businesses are leaving in droves. Well done!


Rothbard was too stupid to understand this, but seceded individuals would not be subject to any laws. A state needs to be large enough to function as an autonomous country. I think the smallest currently has around 10,000 people. It's also incorrect that smaller = better. A small country could be quite tyrannical and a large country could have a laissez-faire government.


Beware. In the name of libertarians you are supporting an antidemocratic coup of radical nationalists and the extreme left antifa. They had the 47% of votes in the last elections, but thanks to the rules of counting, they have 72 out of 135 seats in Parlament. With this slight majority they have break the law and even their own rules in a shameful session in catalonian parlament to organize the illegal referendum. They had a 40% voting people (imagine that). You are stuck with the 90% YES figure as if it were something real, when it is not. They haven't published the geographical distribution of vote (to know if there are cities that want to continue in Spain) because their idea of freedom is to force everyone to be independent. You are being mislead about the intentions and nature of these people.


@wootendw I was in no way implying that the US was currently doing the right thing anywhere else in the world. In fact, they step in it pretty much anywhere they go. They simply can't understand that different people around the world with different customs and cultures may not want the same things they want. They don't understand that not everyone wants to be an American.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't vocally support another person's (or group's) right to choose their government - regardless of whether or not we like that form of government.

Unlike a lot of folks, I'm a "bring the military home and stop f*king around in other people's business" type of guy. If another state attacks us directly, and we can prove they did so - then we respond with enough force so that the people* of that country understand that the actions of the government they've chosen are unacceptable. And yes, I believe that all people choose their governments - even the ones living under a dictatorship choose their government because not enough of them are willing to fight and possibly die to change it - to them it's worth it living under oppression just to live.

And if they refuse to change, and their government continues to attack - we simply raise our response level until they decide it isn't worth it - and then we go home. We don't stay and rebuild, we don't hang around and "help" them choose a government - we walk away. Because that part of it is none of our business.