On September 17, in his speech to civil and religious authorities in Westminster, Benedict XVI underlined a peculiar political character very similar to the vision of the Doctrine of the Church's social policy: "the parliamentary tradition; the balance between the legitimate claims of government and the rights of those subject to it; the limits on the exercise of power; the freedom of speech; the freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law; the equality of all citizens before the law." Actually, on one hand, the character of policy fosters the dignity of the person; on the other hand, the duty of civil authorities is promoting the common good and a notion of common good that works out the plural and stratified (polyarchycal) vision of political, economic and cultural institutions, and that is not reducible to a unitary and centralized perspective. Indeed, the theory of the federal state offers a huge number of theoretical points of undeniable interest in the perspective of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
The reason for a greater articulation of the spatial plan and a diversification of the policies--in order to emphasize local peculiarities and optimize their cost--is entirely consistent with the political, economic and sociological analysis of a relevant figure of Catholic social thought: Luigi Sturzo. He is considered the father of political Catholicism and a source for anyone who is looking for doing politics and is inspired by the popular and the Christian Democrats tradition.
Sturzo thought the resolution of the problems of our economy would have to go through a radical evolution of the state toward an effective federalism, able to generate economic development and social cohesion throughout all the country.
A peculiar and current aspect of Sturzo's federalism is to be definitely devoted to the resolution of South Italy. Sturzo supported the need for policy action that does not promote a centralized model rather than another, and he affirmed the need of a policy that would allow the articulation of various regional policies. In Sturzo's opinion, the inclination of the Italian state was without doubt federalist, a federalism erected on municipal and regional basis, "a sober regional, administrative and financial decentralization and a federation of regions, that leaves intact the unity of the regime."
Therefore, the response of Sturzo focuses on the active role of intermediate communities; the statism, the abuse of power by political parties and the squandering of public money (the "three evil beasts of democracy") could be removed by the living forces of the nation emerging from below. Therefore, Sturzo's federalism, is not a simple devolution of powers from the "center" to other minor "centers."
His federalism flows from the principle of subsidiarity and it aims to resolve the difficulties created by the illiberal centralization of state power through the active role of stakeholders representing civil society. In conclusion, the Sturzo's federalism is projected to reach the European dimension without losing the value of national identity: "Only through the local self-government it is possible to prepare a national, vivid and coherent life, and more effective and fervent international cohesion."
I think no one can honestly say what Sturzo would think today about the federalism proposed by the current Italian political parties; he definitely would not have supported the national "dissolution", but he was not even satisfied for the victory of his federalist battle. It would be fought like a lion to improve the reform and, in any case, he would not have destroyed anything.
Will the Italian politicians--who identify themselves with the popular and the Christian Democrats tradition--learn from the Sturzo's lesson and propose it again in the political lesson of every day? It would be appropriate that someone starts to become active!
Flavio Felice is an adjunct fellow at AEI.