Subsidiarity

Do you agree with the principle of subsidiarity? If so, what do you think its practical application is today?

Well, it is more or less a blunt object one can use to destroy any proposal for a government program that helps the poor.

I do agree with it. I like the idea that decisions should be made by those closest to the issues being decided upon. How much suffering and tragedy has been caused by “governments” in distant places, often composed of professional politicians and opportunists, who have little or no knowledge of the history, customs, beliefs, and circumstances of the people whose lives they may be drastically affecting?

Local decision-making also reinforces the concept of accountability. There’s little or nothing we can do when a president or a supreme court justice implements a bad policy except complain about it. In a small town or county or urban neighborhood, you can go knock on the guy’s door and give him an earful. Also, people are better able to elect leaders when they know more about them, which is the case in a smaller population.

In addition, the opportunities for corruption are fewer in a small group than in a large one. So many hundreds of billions flow into a nation’s capital that most “lawmakers” figure no one will miss a few million here and there.

If a larger unit is necessary, such as in a nation, an army, or the Church, then it is the leaders’ job to defend, from needless innovation, the wisdom and traditions that have been passed down from previous generations, and to make sure that people lower down the scale have the right to control their own local situations.

Not necessarily, however it can be misapplied. Many CAFfers don’t want to admit it, but there was a crying need for the Great Society federal programs of the early and mid-60s because state and local government efforts, as well as the efforts of private charities, was woefully inadequate in meeting the needs of the poor. Hunger and malnutrition were not uncommon in the US of that time.

If you want a look at how bad things were in the US before programs such as food stamps, AFDC, Medicaid etc all you have to do is read the classic book The Other America. It was published in 1962 and offers a breathtaking glimpse of the bad old days.

The application of subsidiarity requires prudential judgement, so a great deal of disagreement is possible and a great deal of discussion is required.

Here is what the US bishops have to say about subsidiarity:

[quote=USCCB]48. The principle of subsidiarity reminds us that larger institutions in society should not overwhelm or interfere with smaller or local institutions, yet larger institutions have essential responsibilities when the more local institutions cannot adequately
protect human dignity, meet human needs, and advance the common good.
[/quote]

usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship/FCStatement.pdf

I already have a vague idea of how bad America was before the Great Society Programs.

cbpp.org/foodstamp-video.htm

I do not see anything about the concept of subsidiary that would impell me to retract that statement about it being a blunt object use to assail social programs. Most people who invoke subsidiary just use it to assail any program of government assistance. Maybe if properly understood, it could be used benefit the less fortunate, but those who commonly invoke it tolerate high social inequality which would destroy any social capital.

However, unlike many other liberals, I think the original AFDC would probably violate the concept of subsidiarity in a way that would be detrimental to its recipients. However, I do not approve of the effects of welfare reform (actually, I believe the expansion of the EITC mitigated the economic pain caused by that which was fought for by liberal think tanks) because it help create a glut in cheap labor (along with globalization and an influx of third-world immigration). Such programs encouraged the recipients to reproduce more children further enervating the welfare system. I think one way to mitigate this externality is to plagiarize from Japan. I think promoting family-oriented solutions would help such as parasite singles and hikikomori. This might also be a possible sink for cheap labor, and such a sink is good because it helps increase the bargaining power of the employed.

And yes I do believe in subsidiarity too. People can cut their own lawns and tend their own gardens and they do not need someone else to do it a cheap price.

I’m not sure how valuable the historical dimension is on this.

I agree with subsidiarity entirely. . . note that Aristotle recognizes that there’s an inherent good in a person being socially and politically active in his environment. It helps the development of one’s personhood.

As an American, it’s VITAL to remember that WE are the government. Our democracy requires this. We can’t just say there’s a nameless, faceless, bureaucratic THEY that runs everything. . . we must insist on the people running the country. Bureaucrats must be responsive to legislative and executive will; elected officials must be responsive to the citizen.

Should we apply the principle of subsidiarity to huge corporations or ONLY to the government?

I ask you this question because you agree with subsidiarity “entirely.” I want to see how entirely you agree with it.

The question goes out to everyone, else, too.

How much damage has been done by corporate boards making decisions about things thousands of miles from the place where their actions take effect.

It works both ways.

Just out of curiosity, what does this have to do with my post?

Simple. You said this:

How much suffering and tragedy has been caused by “governments” in distant places, often composed of professional politicians and opportunists, who have little or no knowledge of the history, customs, beliefs, and circumstances of the people whose lives they may be drastically affecting?

I have noticed that many coming from a right-wing ideology only focus on subsidiarity when it comes to government but never when it comes to corporations.

I want to know if you think it is truly a principle (subsidiarity for government AND business) or an ideological tool (subsidiarity for government only).

It is an interesting question. I would say most businesses would say, yes, “subsidiarity” is a good principle for business. A flatter management structure and empowerment of employees is generally a good way to run a business.

However, you seem to think that means small business are to be preferred rather than corporations. The principle can work in either case, but it doesn’t mean that small business are preferred. Subsidiarity is about where the decision making and/or action is taken or managed. It doesn’t have to do with the physical size of the government or business. It refers to the function at the different levels of government or business.

So, yes, just as I think the person in need of social services is best served by the local community, a customer is going to receive better service by a local business and/or branch of a larger business. Anyone who has had to deal with customer service in India can tell you that. :stuck_out_tongue:

(btw…I spoke with some software support guys from one of the largest PC companies in the US and they are moving all of their call centers stateside. Someone figured it out! :idea: )

Like I said subsidiarity is a blunt object that can be used to assail anything.

I found this on a Catholic blog:

Too often, then, the spectre of subsidiarity is used to ignore another key principle: solidarity. In fact, these principles must act in unison. As noted by Church teaching, while solidarity without subsidiarity can lead to the problems often associated with the welfare state (an overly-bureaucratic mindset, a distance from individual dignity), subsidiarity without solidarity can degenerate into “self-centered localism”. We need both. And should cannot invoke one of these principles to deny economic and social justice. If the welfare state is broke, fix it, don’t ignore poverty. If people are lacking adequate health care, fix it, don’t make false excuses.

But health care is only one example. At the beginning, I noted a lack of clarity over what “small government” means, a lack of clarity that feeds into the subsidiarity debate. Many think of it purely in terms of the size of government as an economic entity, rather than as an entity that uses coercive power to smother subsidiary mediating institutions. Why do the proponents of subsidiarity not speak out against the progressive weakening of unions over the past quarter century, when unions are an indispensable aspect of the social order? This is one of the most grave violations of subsidiarity in modern times.

Focusing on spending can also lead to incongruities. It is well-known that those most fervently opposed to the role of government make one very large exception: military spending. Now, one can perform ideological somersaults to justify cutting health care and education spending to buy more bombs, but what about subsidiarity? After all, there was a time when defense was assigned to subsidiary mediating institutions, with local ties. But the rise of the nation state has erased these competing loyalties and instead demands personal allegiance between every citizen and itself. This has incredibly important issues for subsidiarity, issues that never seem to be addressed (outside Vox Nova, that is!), issues of immense importance in a country the size of the United States.

vox-nova.com/2008/05/27/mis-using-subsidiarity/

So no one here focuses on solidarity. Well, I would rather have solidarity without subsidiarity than subsidarity without solidarity. I suppose the former is what the European model is based on .

No offense to the blogger, but their points don’t sound that interesting.

I think the real problem with the application of subsidiarity is that no one knows where to stop when getting “closer” to the individual. If carried too far, then you basically are saying that the individual is the closest to the individual, so…you are on your own! That makes no sense.

This is why I tend to be more liberal in my local politics than I am in my state and federal politics. At some point, it makes sense for government to help. Local minimum wages? Sure, if the local government finds they are necessary. Federal minimum wages? Nope. State unemployment insurance? Sure. Local “welfare” programs…if private charities can’t cope with it, sure. My mayor is a Democrat, and he does a great job. Our taxes aren’t crazy. Our police and fire departments are well run. No problems.

Militarily, we do have National Guards, which, ironically, are based in the states. So there is some subsidiarity there. Perhaps there could be more, but since it is rare for individual states to go to war, I’m not sure there is good reasoning going on there. :stuck_out_tongue:

you are right, to a certain extent, but I think that it is inappropriate to disregard the value of subsidiarity based on this.

I could just as easily make the claim that those who want to impose their will on others, either out of desire for power or self-righteousness, view subsidiarity as nothing more than an inconvenient hurdle to achieving their goals.

So no one here focuses on solidarity. Well, I would rather have solidarity without subsidiarity than subsidarity without solidarity. I suppose the former is what the European model is based on .

Why are you trying to juxtapose these two concepts? It is ridiculous to say that a political system could embrace one without the other. It makes me question whether you even understand these two principles. As I believe the blogger you quoted was trying to point out, Subsidiarity and Solidarity can only be genuinely realized when in proper relationship to one another.

I would go a step further to say that one cannot genuinely exist without the other, and neither is ever more important than the other.

Any violation of subsidiarity necessarily erodes the sense of solidarity of those who have been denied the right to make decisions about their own lives.

When solidarity deteriorates, society becomes divided, and the resulting groups invariably claim the moral authority to violate the subsidiarity of those outside their group.

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**[size=3] The Principle of Subsidiarity **

**by David A. Bosnich **

One of the key principles of Catholic social thought is known as the principle of subsidiarity. This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State.
This is why Pope John Paul II took the “social assistance state” to task in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. The Pontiff wrote that the Welfare State was contradicting the principle of subsidiarity by intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility. This “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”
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The problem in my view is not the lack of human involvement, but in distributing resources to those in need so they do not live a life of want and suffering. I respect Karl Popper’s views; he had a sincere desire about respecting human freedom, but he ALSO had the concommitant concern about reducing suffering (which is why he proposed “negative utilitarianism”.) Unlike Popper, most right-wing people who allegedly care about “freedom” do not share his desire to reduce suffering. Instead of “subsidiarity,” Popper preferred “social technology” and “piecemeal engineering” to deal with such problems.

*Do not allow your dreams of a beautiful world to lure you away from the claims of men who suffer here and now. Our fellow men have a claim to our help; no generation must be sacrificed for the sake of future generations.
*

Karl Popper
*Now I think one of the reasons why religion developed in the way that it did over the centuries was precisely to curb this murderous bent that we have as human beings.
*-- Karl Popper
*The attempt to produce Heaven on Earth often produces Hell.
*-- Karl Popper
Those who promise us paradise on earth never produced anything but a hell.
Karl Popper
*

Do you have any evidence that his ideas are contrary to the Scandinavian model?

Lovely theoretical model – too bad it doesn’t work that way in reality. In small settings it is much easier to suppress dissent and abuse minorities (soaking here mostly of political minorities).
Corruption can go on at local levels for years & usually isn’t discovered until some higher authority gets involved – a state inspector or outside media.
Often local authorities don’t have the competence (or inclination) to deal with problems so State or federal authorities have to step in.

You have this completely upside down. History can clearly demonstrate that the larger the government system is, the more prone it is to suppressing dissent and abuse, while small open communities like towns (as opposed to small closed communities like the KKK) are more susceptible to being influenced by individuals. Higher authorities only step in AFTER the status quo has been challenged. After all, how would they know that the status quo is being challenged if someone at the grassroots level wasn’t challenging it.

Look at pretty much every political revolt in the last, well, 2000 years. They are always marked by two things- 1) a large, oppressive government that rewarded institutionalized oppression and 2) a small, grassroots effort that began at a local level, sometimes around a charismatic figure or ideal, which spreads at the level of the individual, and eventually forces those in the established government to adapt or be replaced.

Human rights movements have always begun at the grassroots level- beginning with individuals reacting to injustices in their community. Every civil and human rights issue in the US has begun this way. Civil Rights movements only gain support from the government after they have taken hold at the grassroots level, but that kind of support is typical of politicians jumping in front of the parade.

Sure, in the US you can make the claim that the Federal Government had to press individual States to change their laws, but none of that would have happened without those individual people who protested and demanded change.

If what you are saying was true, then the Federal Government would have taken action long before Rosa Parks was ever asked to move to the back of the bus. Why do you think they didn’t?

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