CATHOLIC SOCIAL JUSTICE
The Principle of Subsidiarity
Theologian and author George Weigel is trying to correct the distortion of Catholic Social Justice by presenting an accurate and updated summary that takes into account the decisive contributions of the late John Paul the Great.
The Principle of Subsidiarity is also explainable as the "Free Association" or "Civil Society" Principle, this principle, based on a rigorous distinction between the state and society, asserts that the state exists to serve society and not vice-versa. In general, decisions are best made at the lowest possible level of society by those persons closest to the problem to be addressed. Weigel gives American federalism as an example of this principle and notes that this anti-statist principle leads us to prefer, where possible, private or mixed private/public sector solutions as opposed to exclusively public sector solutions to social problems. School vouchers which empower parents as the primary educators of their children are a good example of such a preferred solution. Another application of this principle would be for courts to let the several states determine their own stand on the abortion issue or on the so-called "gay marriage" issue through democratic debate and legislation, instead of imposing a national regime from Washington.
The Principle of Subsidiarity is by far the most important of Catholic Social Justice doctrine in today's society. In these modern times, it would seem that more and more people are joining "the cult of the omnipotent state," meaning they believe big government is the solution to every problem. The problem with this thinking is that when the Principle of Subsidiarity is not followed, all the other principles of Catholic Social Justice are eventually thwarted by an overpowering centralized government that consumes individual human rights for the sake of self-preservation.
In the case of dealing with poverty, I believe it’s time for some Subsidiarity. The ‘welfare state’ mentality of the federal government has only served to increase poverty in the United States, and the same can be said of other industrialized nations. Big intrusive and centralized government doesn’t work. It’s time to put the problem into the hands of the private sector, allowing government to serve a role restricted to coordination and fraud prevention.