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November 5, 2017 / Congau

Catalonian Legality

What is taking place in Catalonia is illegal. Of course it is. It is against Spanish law. But so what? That tells us nothing about the justice or injustice of the matter. There may be all sorts of valid consideration concerning whether or not Catalonian independence would be a good idea, but the question of legality is not one of them.

Of course it is against the law to break away from any state since a state is a system of laws. Obviously it’s illegal to attempt to escape from the law, which is just to say that it’s illegal to break the law. That is a simple tautology and adds no new information.

Still, in the case of Catalonia, that observation is put forward as if it contained a new insight: Catalonian independence is wrong because it is illegal. It’s the same as saying that independence or secession always and in any case is wrong as it would always mean a break with an existing law.

Such a principle would have rather serious implications for many countries which call themselves independence, wouldn’t it? Since most (if not all) of the existing states in the world today at some point in their history were founded as a more or less abrupt break with a previous state formation, they must have been illegal and therefore lacked a justification from its very beginning. The absurd conclusion would then be that hardly any country should have existed. (And maybe their existence is still unjustified.)

A law exists until another law takes its place; a country exists until it is replaced by another country. One authority is substituted for another.

In a totalitarian state it’s illegal to strive for a replacement of the existing government. Dissidents in China or Iran do break the law, but that simple fact is of course ignored in the West, and rightly so. The dissidents are not doing something bad because they are doing something illegal; the law is bad and therefore they are doing something good by breaking it.

That is the question that must be asked in Catalonia: Is the law that prohibits any attempt at secession a good law? Well, according to previously acknowledged European standards it isn’t.

To dismiss something simply because it happens to be illegal is to avoid the difficult considerations of right and wrong.

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