Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big Government vs. Subsidiarity

I honestly think that "Big Government" as we see today is in opposition to the principle of subsidiarity. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."7

1884 God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

1885 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. ...

The family is actually prior to and in the moral order above the state (i.e. the state should serve the family, and not the other way around), but I think that big government tends to "interfere in the life of" the family, as the CCC puts it. Within the US, some examples are:
  1. lack of school choice -- in most regions, parents cannot choose to send their children even to a different public school of their choice.
  2. parents have been denied the right to know what their children are being taught in the public schools (the Church considers parents' right to control their kids' education to be "primary and inalienable"). When parents have sued, courts have ruled that by putting their kids in the public schools, parents are handing over blanket authority to the school system; those who don't like this can either put their kids in private schools or homeschool them.
  3. Instead of supporting marriage and families, the welfare system has tended to work against stable marriages and hence eroded family stability, which is not only a moral evil, but generally leads to economic problems as well. (A family headed by the single mother is vastly more likely to live in poverty.)

With respect to the Church, too, we've already seen government intrusions into its internal life, such as:
  1. forcing Catholic hospitals to give out "Plan B", which can act as an abortifacient (CT)
  2. forcing Catholic agencies to place children with "gay" couples (MA)
  3. forcing Catholic organizations to cover contraceptives in their health insurance plans (CA)

The federal government has also taken over way too much from the states. This is not only unconstitutional, but also opposed to the principle of subsidiarity.

As government grows, the tendency is for it to head toward socialism (aka collectivism). With government funding there are always strings attached. And the bigger government it, the more it encroaches on true freedom. It's these aspects of "big government" that trouble me most.

It's even worse in Europe, as my sister and her husband found out. There, several countries forbid homeschooling altogether. There have been many cases in Germany of parents being jailed or having their children taken away for the "crime" of homeschooling. Even the European Court ruled against the parents. My sister's family actually moved to Turkey and later to Syria to find more freedom. (!)

This may be why Pope Benedict has said that the principal focus of the Catholic Church's interventions in public life are the protection of life, marriage, and parental rights.

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