Thursday, November 29, 2012
I have a new paper on subsidiarity here. The paper is a chapter in what I believe will be the first English-language, book-length, comparative study of subsidiarity. My topic is subsidiarity in Catholic social doctrine, the place where the neologism "subsidiarium" originated. Subsidium, meaning help, is a Latin word in use since Roman times, but the new word subsidiarium denotes a plural social order that is derivative of social justice. Subsidiarity is the way the common good is to be achieved.
Talk of the common good "seem[s] unintelligible (even proto-fascist) to many contemporary Westerners" (John Rist, Real Ethics [Cambridge, 2002], 207), but subsidiarity, one of the basic principles of Catholic social doctrine, is about how the common good is to be achieved. Subsidiarity is not about smallness per se, devolution, or even "mediating" institutions that balance power or perhaps limit the state. It is about respecting the ontology of group persons: respecting associations, and helping them as necessary, as they refer their internal common goods to the overall common good.