September 13, 2011
Europe, or "What Happens When Subsidiarity Goes Bad"
The European Union has long been an exhibit for aspects of Catholic social thought, and not surprisingly so--several of the "Founding Fathers" of the EU (Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, and Konrad Adenauer, for example) were deeply influenced by Catholic social thought, and popes ever since John XXIII have been outspoken advocates of European integration. But things are not going well in Europe right now, to put it mildly (thorough Der Spiegel story here, commentary by FT's Wolfgang Munchau here, h/t Tyler Cowen). Although subsidiarity is a constitutional norm in the EU, see George Bermann, Taking Subsidiarity Seriously: Federalism in the European Community and the United States, 94 Colum. L. Rev. 331 (1994), the current crisis strikes me as a cautionary tale about free-floating concepts from Catholic social thought unmoored from a sufficiently determinative conception of the common good and solidarity (economic crises have a way of doing that), with a good measure of the usual human tale of avarice, corruption, and incompetence thrown in.
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