Subsidiarity Requires International Institutions
If you’re Catholic or interested in subsidiarity, the idea that social problems should be addressed at the most local or immediate level possible, you might find Mark Shea’s recent article on why it’s only part of the picture interesting:
Subsidiarity is basically common sense. You don’t want some bureaucrat in DC deciding how your library parking lot should be laid out or what songs your kindergartner may sing before naptime. It’s better to have the people in the neighborhood do that. As the Soviet Union and other commie societies so wonderfully illustrated, centralized governments and economies have a genius for inefficiency and chaos.
There’s a line of American Catholic political analysis that holds that conservatism is the natural representative of subsidiarity and progressivism the natural representative of solidarity. There’s something to that view, and it does go a long way towards explaining why so many sincere American Catholics find themselves dissatisfied with both wings of American politics. But equating “small government” with a respect for subsidiarity is a mistake even more foolish than equating welfare with solidarity. Subsidiarity demands that problems be addressed at the lowest level possible, no lower or higher. Sometimes the lowest level possible, however, is the world as a whole, since many problems, like climate change, nuclear proliferation and pandemics affect the common good of the entire human species. Shea’s interlocutor, who asked if the principle of subsidiarity required him as a Catholic to vote for small-government politicians, had it doubly wrong. Not only is subsidiarity itself only half the picture, subsidiarity demands all kinds of things–like robust international institutions!–that many American small-government types explicitly oppose.