What subsidiarity doesn’t mean

I assume everyone in the world regularly reads my blog, so I should only have to say this once.  My particular targets today are Deal Hudson and George Weigel.   Here goes:  the principle of subsidiarity has nothing to do with personal freedom, private property, or the free enterprise system.  It only means favoring small over big; it is utterly indifferent to public vs. private.  On the subsidiarist scale, city governments rank higher than Wal Mart, Microsoft, Verizon, or other massive corporations.  In a true subsidiarist order, the market would be much more regulated than it is now–because it would be hemmed in by kinship, guild, and ecclesiastic authorities as well as government ones.

By the way, this argument between Hudson and a Msgr. Pope is a good illustration of why “solidarity” and “subsidiarity” are worthless as bases of a political philosophy.  As these term are (mis)understood by both sides, they flatly contradict each other, and so any position at all can be justified by the appropriate mix of the two principles.  “Subsidiarity” is taken to mean “smash the state”, while “solidarity” is taken to mean “the central government shall wipe every tear from our eyes”.  Even if one understood the terms correctly, they wouldn’t be of much use, because both a extremely vague “all other things being equal, try to lean this way” sort of principles.

In fact, as I have argued earlier, the true basis of Catholic social teaching is precise, unitary, and coherent:  it is the principle of patriarchy.

3 Responses

  1. It also means favoring small, personal associations over big, anonymous conglomerations.

  2. In an action I fully support, the town next to mine, East Aurora, NY, was famous for barring WalMart to preserve its historic downtown, complete with a five-and-dime that I loved to visit as a kid.

    Yet, I want the Federal government out of the economy and full Gorver Cleveland-style laissez-faire.

    I’m a distributist locally, and a libertarian federally.

  3. Aurora’s act would, I think, be a good example of an application of subsidiarity.

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