Saturday, September 25, 2010

Subsidiarity

A month or two ago, I blogged on the anachronistic idea of local politics. Today, almost no politics is local, at least in America. It is all dominated by the goings-on in Washington, D.C.

As Americans start to wake up en masse to the foolishness of trusting the clowns in D.C. with our money and our problems, and the possibility of collapse becomes real, we need to start thinking about what comes next. Do we need a new Constitution? Do we need to enforce the old Constitution? Do we need a different form of government? What?

One concept that needs to be front and center in any debate over reform is the notion of subsidiarity--that the specific tasks of governing ought to devolve to the lowest level of government possible. It is an idea found, though not articulated as such, in all of the founding documents in America. An elementary understanding of our Constitution would reveal this to be true. What powers we find given to the federal government in the Constitution are those unable to be handled by the States themselves. For example, coordinating wars against foreign entities, regulating commerce between states, coining a common currency for the States to engage in trade, etc.

What you do not find in the Constitution are laws that can and should be handled locally. For example, criminal laws that deal with crimes on persons or property.

But, we have been innoculated against thinking in these categories. We talk about the "national health care problem," or the "war on poverty". Friends, these are abstractions that distract from the real problem of caring for the sick and poor in our midst. There is no national health care problem. There are people in our local neighborhoods that are sick and suffering. There is no need for a war on poverty. There is a need for local communities to care for the poor and suffering among them. One of the side effects of turning everything into a national problem is that local responsibility is abdicated in direct proportion. We have become statists--looking to the state for salvation--while abdicating our personal and local responsibilities. According to R.J. Rushdoony in his excellent work, Politics of Guilt and Pity:

The politics of the anti-Christian will thus inescapably be the politics of guilt. In the politics of guilt, man is perpetually drained in his social energy and cultural activity by his over-riding sense of guilt and masochistic activity. He will progressively demand of the state a redemptive role. What he cannot do himself personally, i.e., to save himself, he demands that the state do for him, so that the state, as man enlarged, becomes the human savior of man. The politics of guilt, therefore, is not directed, as the Christian politics of liberty, to the creation of godly justice and order, but to the creation of a redeeming order, a saving state.

In contrast, the idea of subsidiarity is that higher levels of government should not be asked to do what lower levels of government can and should do for themselves, keeping in mind always that "government" does not equate to "state government," and includes the concepts of self-, family- and church-government. According to Pope Pius XI in his Quadragesimo Anno encyclical:

It is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do.

Ask yourself how well our "savior" has performed in liberating we, his people, from the ills upon which he has declared war.

Let us recover the power (and taxes) we have sent to the national temples in D.C. and apply them to the local problems that surround each and every one of us. I trust St. Louisians (<--?) to handle poverty and sickness in St. Louis better than I trust anyone in Washington so to do. And I trust the church to handle poverty in her local parish better than the Department of Health and Human Services, especially if all of her members weren't sending 40% of their resources upstream.

Place no faith in the god who cannot and does not save.

2 comments:

Dave Linton said...

Excellent.

Matt said...

Good stuff we need to hear.

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