Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Subsidiarity and Violence

I have talked alot about subsidiarity:

"As history abundantly proves, it is true that on account of changed conditions many things which were done by small associations in former times cannot be done now save by large associations. Still, that most weighty principle, which cannot be set aside or changed, remains fixed and unshaken in social philosophy: Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also 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. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them." (Pope Pius XI, "On Reconstruction of the Social Order", 1931)
On of the reasons for this is diminishing spontaneity:
as a hierarchy of associations and relationships rise from the individuals and families at the base of the social structure (up to and including government), the higher the rung the less spontaneous it is and the more contrived; or, the higher you go the less help the structure gets from nature and the more help it needs from culture.
So, as this article points out:
[Subsidiarity] holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy
That is because the closer, and more organic, organization is the more natural organization and easiest for the folks affected to control.

One thing I noticed (and haven't directly mentioned in connection with subsidiarity) when I wrote "The Era of Bloodshed" was (as mentioned by Conyers) that Hannah Arendt:
suggested that where power, in the sense of effective action within a community is missing, violence takes its place. Moreover, once the institutions of government have outgrown the individual and the neighborhood, so that the very scale of governance no longer permits effective action for most people, then those people are more likely to take to the streets and address their grievances in destructive ways.
If you are not just going to take things like the Tea Party movement and the outcry at the health care town halls as astroturfing, then you can see this feeling of ineffectiveness and lack of control beginning to explode into anger and violence.

Even folks who supported President Obama are feeling the same: it seems to many that regardless of the promises made during the election, and the vote, and the control of Congress by the Democratics - that nothing has changed. Nothing. Arendt's critique still explains: we, the electorate, are simply to far from the "halls of power" to have any impact on policy - or at least not the same impact as the lobbyists sitting in their offices. Certainly not the same impact that organized citizens can have on city, county, and state governments.

There was a reason the Federal Constitution left so many powers in the hands of the several states - and it has not been particularly good that the Federal government has moved more and more control, over more and more areas, into Washington D.C. One thing that political activists of all stripes need to realize - the Federal Government is too large, and too distant, for there to be effective citizen control.

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly