Introducing the Wilson Initiative

The Wilson Initiative is made up of six Catalan academics in the fields of Economics and Political Science who, concerned about the direction that the current debate on the possibility of Catalan self-determination has taken, have decided to join forces in order to help the citizens of Catalonia have the opportunity to decide their future freely, without fear or threats, and with the best information possible.

The Wilson Initiative is politically diverse: its members have different opinions with respect to the way the economy works and about the criteria that should determine the norms of political and social interaction. Notwithstanding, we have come to a consensus on the following fourteen points.

The Wilson Initiative's Fourteen Points

1 The right to self-determination is a fundamental right of any nation, and therefore, also of Catalonia. This right includes the power to democratically choose its own political system.

2 The Spanish State has been, up until now, unable to satisfy Catalonia's demands for fully functional self government and for a financing system that allows it to achieve its national objectives. Today Catalonia is not free to decide about such essential issues as its educational model, its judicial system, or the geographic distribution of its infrastructures. Indeed, we believe that the Spanish State unfairly treats the citizens of Catalonia by offering them services and investments that are woefully below the level that corresponds to their fiscal contributions. The Spanish system of “autonomies”, based on arbitrary and unlimited interregional solidarity, has not only been unable to give Catalonia the means that would allow it to achieve optimal levels of growth and prosperity but has ended up bringing the Catalan Government (the “Generalitat”) to financial ruin.

3 We are at a historical crossroads. The current debate about a new state model for Catalonia is fundamental to the future of the country. The new state that comes out of this collective discussion will determine the wellbeing of both present and future generations of Catalans. We must choose well, and without fear.

4 In order to choose well and without fear, the people must be well informed about the risks as well as the opportunities, the costs as well as the benefits, and the certainties as well as the uncertainties involved with each of these alternatives for the future. For that reason, the direction that this process of deliberation has begun to take has greatly concerned the members of the Wilson Initiative. Some members of the media, political parties, economists, foundations affiliated with political parties, and analysts have opted to begin campaigns of misinformation that pollute the discussion about the real consequences of a hypothetical Catalan State. Often, these campaigns are presented as backed by supposedly academic studies, supposedly scientific data, and supposedly impartial analysis. We believe that the majority of these predictions and theses would not stand up to systematic scrutiny.

5 The future of Catalonia has three distinct possibilities: (a) remain within a recentralized Spain where the regular autonomies like Catalonia continue to lose political and economic power; (b) remain within a reformed Spanish State that gives more political and financial liberty to the institutions and citizens of Catalonia; and (c) leave the Spanish State in order to become a new state in the European Union.

6 Any reform of the Spanish State (whether it be towards recentralization or towards increased freedom for Catalonia) depends not only on the will of the Catalan people but also requires finding a consensus with the rest of the citizens of the Spanish state.

7 Through their political representatives, and through polls, the rest of the citizens of the Spanish State have reiterated time and again that they have no intention of changing the Spanish State in order to adapt it to Catalonia's needs for more self-government and better financing. They even deny the basic principle that Catalonia is a nation and has the right to self-determination. In addition, a growing portion of the Spanish populous, outside of the Basque Country and Catalonia, has shown itself to be in favor of recentralization. Faced with this reality, it seems impossible to reform the Spanish State.

8 We do not deny the possibility that the rest of the Spanish State's citizens may change their minds in the future and accept that Catalonia has a right to self-determination and/or propose a reformed Spanish State that is acceptable to Catalonia. However, history suggests that the probability of this occurring is very low.

9 International jurisprudence indicates that exercising the right to self-determination is a feasible option. It would be difficult for the international community to allow the voice of the Catalan people to be ignored, especially if this voice is expressed peacefully and democratically.

10 The economic consequences of having a sovereign state are uncertain. Indeed, the economic consequences of remaining within Spain are also uncertain. At the same time, it's undeniable that an independent Catalonia would be economically viable. With today's data, Catalonia would be ranked 10th in the European Union in terms of per capita GDP, just behind Finland, and ahead of the United Kingdom, and 15th in terms of population, ahead of Denmark and Ireland. It is also clear that a sovereign state would have more resources for financing the different services and investments that the people need, because all of the resources that currently go to the solidarity fund could be used in Catalonia to the benefit of its citizens.

11 That said, the economic prospects of an independent Catalonia would depend, logically, on the institutions that it adopts as a country, on the laws and regulations that it approves, and on the economic policies, investments, and priorities chosen by its government. Therefore, the members of the Wilson Initiative will also make proposals for the future, so that, if the people choose the path toward a sovereign state, we can take advantage of the opportunity of starting from scratch, in order to create modern and innovative institutions and legal and regulatory frameworks that allow the people of Catalonia to improve their level of prosperity.

12 One of the uncertainties associated with the possible independence of Catalonia is its relationship with Europe. This uncertainty was created by the Spanish government which, in contrast with the British government, has threatened to veto Catalonia's membership in the European Union. It is difficult for the Wilson Initiative to believe that the current democratic Europe would decide to punish the people of Catalonia (who, we must remember, have been citizens of Europe for the last 27 years) by taking away the liberties they currently enjoy of free travel, free commerce, and free trade throughout Europe.

13 The hypothetical decision of the Spanish government to block Catalonia's participation in European institutions would not keep Catalonia from becoming an integral part of the international economic community. Note for example, that the very treaties of the Union foresee, as in the cases of Switzerland and Norway, that bilateral agreements can be established that guarantee the free flow of goods, services, workers, and capital. These agreements require a supermajority of the European Council and are beyond the veto power of a single state. Equally, it's obvious that an independent Catalonia could continue to use the Euro if it so chooses, as do several other countries that do not belong to the European Union.

14 Beyond the short-term political complications in ensuring its membership in the European Union, there is nothing that can keep Catalonia from being a full, upstanding member of the Union or its citizens from actively and directly contributing to the construction of a united and prosperous Europe.


The Wilson Initiative takes its name from and is inspired by the US President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), who proclaimed that “National aspirations must be respected; peoples may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. ‘Self-determination’ is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of actions which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril.” Respect for the exercise of self-determination is contained in the Charter of the United Nations and has been reaffirmed on various occasions by the International Court of Justice. We believe that contributing to its defense with peaceful, rational discourse is an absolutely essential task at this moment in time.


Pol Antràs
(Ph.D., MIT) Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Carles Boix
(Ph.D., Harvard University) Professor of Political Science, Princeton University
Jordi Galí,
(Ph.D., MIT) Senior researcher of Centre de Recerca en Economia Internacional (CREI)
Gerard Padró i Miquel
(Ph.D., MIT) Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics
Xavier Sala i Martin
(Ph.D., Harvard University) Professor of Economics at Columbia University
Jaume Ventura
(Ph.D., Harvard University)
Senior researcher of Centre de Recerca en Economia Internacional (CREI)


Sign the Wilson Manifesto of 14 Points

Col·lectiu Wilson

Pol Antràs (Ph.D., MIT) Professor at Harvard University
Carles Boix (Ph.D., Harvard) Professor at Princeton University
Jordi Galí (Ph.D., MIT) Senior Researcher at the Center for Research in International Economics (CREI)
Gerard Padró i Miquel (Ph.D., MIT) Professor at the London School of Economics
Xavier Sala i Martín (Ph.D., Harvard) Professor at Columbia University
Jaume Ventura (Ph.D., Harvard), Senior Researcher at the Center for Research in International Economics (CREI)

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