Two General Comments
First, as I suggested in my first note, the resolution is being interpreted as it is written — Should Spain grant Catalonia independence. It is not being debated more generally as secession good/bad, though some of those arguments are still relevant.
Second, while debaters still prefer to speak second, when teams that lose the coin toss have the option of which side to take, they are invariably choosing the Con. Debaters and coaches think the Con arguments are better, and the they are probably right.
In the rest of the essay I will review the major Pro and Con arguments in order that you can prepare well for January
What were the main Pro arguments?
Secession/civil war/violent conflict/terrorism inevitable. I think this was in every Pro case I judged. The Pro argued that there is push for secession now, that Spain’s anti-independence crack-down has fueled the opposition, that the opposition may resort to terrorism, and that a full-scale civil war is possible when Catalonia tries to secede. They argued that this would be resolved if Spain were to grant Catalonia its independence.
This claim also non-uniques any arguments related to the harms of secession, though, surprisingly, most Pro teams did not point that out.
To win on the Con, you need to be able to significantly undercut the claim that secession is inevitable. Obviously the results of the December 21st election are likely to impact that, so I would wait until that new election before cutting uniqueness cards, but it is a critical part of the debate you need to be prepared to win.
Catalonian economic growth. Teams offer a number of reasons why secession would improve its economy.
- Tax revenues. Secession means that Catalonia can keep more of its own tax revenues. Some teams argue generally that government investment will improve the economy. Others argued that keeping more of their own taxes means that they could invest more in education, health care, and transportation infrastructure.
- Foreign direct investment bad. Some teams argue it would be good if Catalonia seceded because the by it would drive investors out and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) crowded out local industries. This argument doesn’t make much sense because if the economy went down local businesses would also go down, but people are making this argument.
- Spain’s economy. If secession causes invest ors to flee Catalonia’s economy they may turn to Spain’s economy, strengthening it
- Civil war. This is more of an impact to the civil war argument, but if there is going to be a civil war, the economy is obviously likely to go down. This emphasizes the importance of answering the civil war scenario.
- If Catalonia is independent and the conflict is resolved, Catalonia may be more attractive to tourists. Tourism is an important part of Catalonia’s economy. Since Barcelona is currently the thirty fourth busiest airport in the world, I’m not sure what the uniqueness is to this, but this is a Pro argument.
- Types of economic development. This argument claims that Spain is more interested in developing in Catalonia economically in a more neoliberal way while it holds onto a more socialist-oriented development model for Catalonia. One country with two models undermines development.
- Catalonia can succeed economically on its own. The arguments are that Catalonia’s economy is as large as Switzerland and Scottland, that it has a robust banking industry, that it is bordered by a sea, and that it has a number of partners interested in trading with it.
- Economic dependency/Welfare dependency. The argument is that if Spain is economically dependent on Catalonia that it will not act to reform and improve its own economy.
- Economic cooperation. Economic cooperation between two countries — Spain and Catalonia — would be mutually beneficial and improve both economies.
- Any losses are short-term. Pro teams claim that any economic losses (see reasons below) will be short term, as Spain will eventually join the EU and enter into trade agreements to boost their economy.
Oppression. There are three different oppression arguments teams make
(a) Catalonians have a right to self-determination and that the Spanish government is oppressing that with Article 155 authority. Some teams claim that the right to self-determination is a human right and that human rights are apriori rights.
(b) In the past, Spain has oppressed their culture and language. Some teams claim that oppression is ongoing.
Fair taxation. One of the main drivers of Catalonian independence is that Catalonia pays substantially more in taxes than it gets back in services. At least one team argued this was unfair, though they struggled to impact the argument. For impacts to this, Teams should rea libertarian literature that argues wealth redistribution is immoral.
Gender equality. One team argued that more women would be elected in Catalonia if Catalonia was independent and that their legislature would be more concerned about the promotion of equality than Spain’s legislature.
European Union admission. Perhaps the most common argument on Con was the if Catalonia became independent that Catalonia would not be able to become part of the EU for the following reasons
*Spain would oppose
*EU members states would oppose
*Catalonia would not have the requisite economic policies/procedures and economic activity to become a member
*It would take a very long time for Catalonia to become a member of the EU, even if it was eventually permitted to do so
Most teams impact this with the economy — that Catalonia would not be able to trade, access the Euro (the EU’s currency), and take advantage of other economic opportunities presented by EU membership.
But other teams argued that sex trafficking would flourish if the Catalonia was not able to participate in cooperative EU efforts to control sex trafficking.
Pro teams respond to this argument by claiming that if Spain granted independence they would support entry into the EU, but, at the very least, teams should research how long it would likely take for countries to be admitted to the EU, even if there is not significant opposition. Admissions requires countries to be approved by all members and to undergo a long review process to prove that they meet certain criteria. This would take a very long time AND would, at the very least, create a period of many years of significant economic and political uncertainty.
Another team argued that if the EU was weakened that Russia would be more tempted to be aggressive toward Europe.
Terrorism security. The link to this argument can stem from cooperation with the EU, but it can also exist independently. The argument is that Catalonia does not have an adequate military/security force and that this will allow terrorism grow in the area. This can be coupled with an argument that Catalonia won’t be able to control its borders, enabling terrorists to infiltrate from France, and the Mediterranean Sea.
Basque secession/other secession. This argument says that Catalonian independence will encourage other regions/groups in Europe and Spain to seek independence. One specific example that was highlighted in one debate was Basque separatists in Spain. Although the Con didn’t make this argument in the debate I watched, I think they could have strengthened their argument by explaining that it Spain granted independence that other groups in Spain may think Spain would grant them independence, strengthening the link.
Wealth redistribution good. This argument claims that it is good that Catalonia sends a lot of money to the central Spanish government because wealth redistribution supports social welfare in Spain. This team I saw coupled this with an airgument that if Catalonian becomes independent they will develop neoliberal/deregulatory policies that will widen the rich-poor gap within Catalonia. They also claimed that less financially well off people in Catalonia oppose independence.
Debt. Currently Spain is holding a lot of debt that Catalonia took on during the 2008/9 economic crisis. If Catalonia became independent, it is likely that Spain would be left holding this debt. Spain’s retention of the debt means that it would undermine their own economy, as high debt levels risk increasing interest rates.
Economy. There are a number of reasons that Catalonia becoming independent from Spain could undermine the economy
- It is unlikely that Catalonia would become a member of the EU. This argument has been discussed above.
- Trade with Spain would likely cease. Of course, if Spain granted Catalonia its independence then it would probably still be willing to trade with them, but it would still take a long time to create trade agreements.
- Investor uncertainty. This argument claims that if Catalonia became independent that investment in Spain would decrease because investors would be certain as to what the future would hold. I do think this is one of the stronger Con arguments and that is often underplayed by the Con. Why? Well, think about it from the perspective of an investor. If Spain granted Columba its independence, investors would, at the very least, be uncertain as to whether or not Catalonia would eventually be admitted to the EU. They would be uncertain as to whether or not free trade agreements with Spain and other neighboring countries (France, Portugal) would be established and what the terms of those agreements would be. Investors could not even be certain if Catalonia could secure its borders, establish a strong government, and create sound economic policy. Creating a governing a country is no simple task, and investors would be uncertain as to what the outcome would be. This would likely dramatically reduce business activity in the region.
- Even simple fears of Catalonian independence are reducing investment. Full independence would make the situation much worse.
Nationalism/Far right nationalism. This argument claims that a push for independence would instigate nationalism and trigger far right nationalism. Some teams argue that far right nationalists have infiltrated into the Catalonia secessionist movement. Different teams read different impacts to this, including the collapse of the EU, racism, fascism, violence, and undermining democracy.
Comparisons and Impacts
The thing that I find most difficult about judging PF debate is that debaters assume they win 100% of their argument, that the other team doesn’t win any arguments, and that, therefore, they do not need to make any comparative claims about probability and basic impact comparison. On this topic, I think teams need to make some essential comparative claims.
First, they need to debate probabilities and not absolutes. As stated at the beginning of this essay, the most common argument on the topic is that there will inevitably be a push toward secession and that and that general violence and crack-downs by the government will trigger a civil war. Many Con teams I judged were well prepared to debate this argument, but in these debates both teams debated it as if it was a simple Yes/No question rather than a debate about probabilities – is it likely that Catalonia will seceded now? The Pro simply said yes, and the Con simply said no, without making comparative statements such as, “The recent crackdowns indicate that the likelihood for violence is increasing (Pro). Comparatively, the Con could make statements such as — “While it is possible, our recent evidence indicates opposition leaders have been arrested, popular support for independence is decreasing, and Catalonia doesn’t have an army to challenge Spain. The chances of Catalonia trying to secede now are therefor, very low..”
Two final notes
Impact arguments. Teams need to do a better job in a few areas. First, they nee to impact their arguments. Even if we go with the mainstream view that economic growth is good, this still needs to be impacted with reasons what it is good – poverty, health care, civil strife, etc, so that those impacts can be weighed against other Pro impacts, such as the risk(s) of secession.
Beyond establishing impacts, Con teams need to argue explain why their arguments outweigh/are more important than the Pro arguments. These are all Common weighing mechanisms –
- Probability – Economic decline due to investor uncertainty is way more likely than Catalonia deciding to secede because it’s a fact that we don’t know what a new Catalonian government would look like and/or what its economic policies are going to be.
- Scope — An economic downturn would effect everyone in Catalonia, whereas even some secessionist violence would only impact a few people
- Magnitude – An economic decline would cause significant poverty, killing more people than secession. Note: This is similar to a scope claim.
- Time-frame – At best there would be some secessionism in the future, the harms of economic decline would occur now.
Comparisons of this nature provide the judge with guidance as to which side to choose, rather than simply picking one side that is more persuasive to him/her and leaving the other side upset.