"Civitas" or Leviathan?

The first colloquium of theSocial Doctrine of the Church at the Pontifical Lateran University falls one yearafter the institution by the Rector of the International Research Area"Caritas in Veritate".

On May 24 2011, at the inauguralseminar, we launched the idea of organizing the first International Colloquiumof the Social Doctrine of the Church during the month of November, and dedicatingit to a reflection on the role of local, mediating and supranationalinstitutions, in the light of principles of solidarity, subsidiarity andpolyarchy.

When, in the summer of 2008, thefinancial crisis showed its dark face, most analysts pointed out that it wasthe end of an era. Faced with such a scene change, government interventionbased on the famous maxim "Too big to fail" appeared as an attempt toopen a new phase.

 Well, what does the maxim "Too big tofail" mean in practice? It means admitting, at the highest political level,that the credit enjoyed by an economic institution doesn't depend on itsability to create value, but would be directly proportional to its size. That,of course, does not necessarily correspond to economic criteria, as the legitimateinterest of the managers doesn't always coincide with those of shareholders.Beyond opportunisms by corporations and possible immediate electoral returns,this is a real perversion of the economic perspective.

Three years have passed sincethose convulsive days and the motto "Too big to fail" now shows itsinadequacy in the face of the financial tsunami that is now sweeping the globe.What is largest of the "State"? And today we have surprisinglyrealized that the "State", however great, itself can fail. So howshould we respond? The "world state"? Perhaps the global Leviathan? ALeviathan whose representatives, not elected, would not respond to anyone(irresponsible) if not to those who nominated them, or perhaps to thecontributors to a phantom global financial fund.

Such a fund, which would arisefrom global taxation, of course would impose a political regime composed ofthose nominated by those countries that are major contributors to the budget ofthe fund. I do not think it is difficult to imagine what the languages spokenby the new global Laviathan would be.

With "Caritas in Veritate" 57,the term "polyarchy" ("stratified") enters in the lexicon of papal socialteaching. The fact that this term has entered into a social encyclical and thatit has been accorded the high rank of principle means that, it deserves alittle attention concerning its inevitable consequences in terms of globalpolicies.

Paragraph 57 is placed at thebeginning of the fourth part of the encyclical, in which the Pope considers somespecific instance and among these, a reform of global governance. The set ofobservations is introduced by a statement that we can not overlook: the systemof power that can help you to grasp the opportunities established byglobalization should be structured in a "subsidiary and stratified[polyarchical] way".

The Latin terms at this point,"moderamen globalizationis",refers to the verb "moderari".In the Latin version of "Caritas inVeritate" and in its English, French and German translation, "governanceof globalization", helps us to grasp more accurately, than the notion of"government" [gubernaculum]the dimensions of subsidiarity and polyarchy with which "Caritas in Veritate"qualifies the notion of authority. This is far more nuanced than anotherregister of terms [kyberneîn-gubernaculum-government].We should pay special attention to the carefully calibrated perspective itoffers about the processes of global interdependence.

The characteristics "Caritas inVeritate" presents are typical of systems based on the principles ofsubsidiarity and polyarchy. They respond to the more classical definition ofgovernance, given to us by the "Commission on Global Governance, established in 1995 by the United Nations, which defines governance as"the ways in which individuals and institutions, public and private,dealing with the issues of collective interest."

Governance is polyarchycal becauseit represents a process through which different and conflicting interests canbe reconciled [kathechein-"moderamen"-"governance"],giving rise to public and private institutions based on cooperation betweendifferent parties involved. And this matters because, as stated in "Caritas inVeritate": "Globalization certainly requires authority, insofar asit poses the problem of a global common good that needs to be pursued. Thisauthority, however, must be organized in a subsidiary and stratified way, if itis not to infringe upon freedom and if it is to yield effective results inpractice."

 

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