The Most Honourable Monopoly

2907714-Jordi-Pujol-800x365A week ago, the new-born Spanish digital newspaper EL ESPAÑOL, started to publish new evidence about the corruption case against Jordi Pujol and his family.

Spanish Judicial Police finds Pujol’s “immense heritage” certainly outrageous, disproportionate, and impossible under usual economic relations. The analysis of letters rogatory issued to Andorra, UK, Argentina, Mexico and Liechtenstein concludes that the source of funds comes from entrepreneurs of Catalonia and illicit activities. It presents Pujol’s family as a “well established criminal organization” headed by the patriarchs Jordi Pujol i Soley and Marta Ferrusola Lladós, who engaged in “all known modalities” of ​​money laundering, over the past decades.

Not by chance, the news came while an assembly of Catalan separatist party CUP was voting a deal to back Artur Mas for president of Catalonia. The vote ended with a highly improbable draw—1,515 members voted in favour of Mas, and 1,515 voted against—, a result which has raised quite a few eyebrows (if that’s still possible.) One of CUP party leaders has resigned after declaring that the secession proccess in Catalonia is a farce. Tomorrow, next chapter.

Artur Mas is the political heir of Jordi Pujol i Soley. Pujol was the leader of the party Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) from 1974 to 2003, and President of the Generalitat of Catalonia from 1980 to 2003. When he retired in 2003, Pujol hand-picked Mas as his successor as head of CDC. After breaking its former long lasting alliance (CiU) with Unio Democratica, CDC has been standing for new elections camouflaged under the secessionist alliance Junts Pel Si (Together For Yes.) and Democràcia i Llibertat (Democracy and Freedom.)

Junts Pel Si won 62 of 135 seats in region’s parliament during the last September election, and needs the backing of CUP’s 10 elected legislators to re-elect the current acting president, Artur Mas. The CUP opposes NATO and EU membership, and has refused to back Mas to date because of his previous austerity policies and his party’s links to corruption. Mas has been trying to cut a deal with the CUP, offering to raise spending on social services, and making other concessions.

el-ala-mas-dura-de-la-cup-rechaza-aceptar-el-pacto-para-investir-a-mas-y-exige-eleccionesThe only rational explanation I can come up with for Artur Mas’ desperate attempt to cling to power is that what he has to hide is bigger than his stubbornness. Yesterday, EL ESPAÑOL reported that Pujol’s family’s largest cash deposits in Andorra, took place during the period in which Artur Mas was Minister of the Generalitat.

All this is deeply embarrassing for Catalonia and Spain, but maybe—only maybe—we need to accept that governments in general, and democracies in particular, are necessarily built on dark unfathomable foundations. Certainly, Jordi Pujol and Artur Mas fit Mancur Olson’s description of “stationary bandits”(1):

The monopolization of theft and the protection of the tax-generating subjects thereby eliminates anarchy (…)

Bandit rationality, accordingly, induces the bandit leader to seize a given domain, to make himself the ruler of that domain, and to provide a peaceful order and other public goods for its inhabitants, thereby obtaining more in tax theft than he could have obtained from migratory plunder. Thus we have “the first blessing of the invisible hand”: the rational, self-interested leader of a band of roving bandits is led, as though by an invisible hand, to settle down, wear a crown, and replace anarchy with government. The gigantic increase in output that normally arises from the provision of a peaceful order and other public goods gives the stationary bandit a far larger take than he could obtain without providing government

And this is so funny (emphasis added):

These violent entrepreneurs naturally do not call themselves bandits but, on the contrary, give themselves and their descendants exalted titles. They sometimes even claim to rule by divine right. (op. cit.)

The man who set Catalonia on a path from no self-government to an annual budget of €25.5 billion ($33.9 billion, about half of Ireland’s) liked to be called “president” or “the most honourable”. A foundation bearing his name specialises in ethics. (The Economist, “Scandal in Catalonia”)

It is a pity Pujol decided to close his foundation… We could have learnt something of value there.


(1) Olson, Mancur. “Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development.” American Political Science Review 87, no. 03 (1993): 567–76.

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