More subsidiarity for a steadier country

After the bitter experiences of the past few years, I believe that no one is willing to yield to new political illusions. The novelty of the "up in the field" of Professor Mario Monti lies also in the claim method-sober and absolutely not triumphalistic-with which he communicated his decision. Someone even joked about the sobriety of Monti and pointed out that with austerity you do not grow. To paraphrase the former Minister Tremonti, "the culture doesn't give to eat."

The issues of method and style are not only formal aspects. Never as in politics is form substance. Here are some things to consider, which we hope will come to fruition in the electoral program that we soon look forward to reading and judging. In the section of "Agenda Monti" dedicated to federalism and local autonomies, we appeal to the principle of subsidiarity, a principle that for the last twenty years many people have invoked. As evidence, the last two legislatures even saw the birth of a parliamentary intergroup dedicated to subsidiarity.

Then we saw the results of the so called "Second Republic," made up of political party scandals and behaviours  reflecting an utter lack of institutional decorum and decency. We realized that most of the defenders of Italian subsidiarity were nothing more than the usual profiteers, intoxicated by statism, lacking respect for free enterprise, and influenced by a caricatural and grotesque notion of subsidiarity.

We would like people to talk about subsidiarity as that principle which makes social justice effective, anchoring freedom to responsibility; that is, a principle that takes freedom as the natural condition in which a person is called to live, implemented through the combined action of a vibrant civil society and a governance policy aimed at removing barriers, thus making equality of starting points more effective.

The principle of subsidiarity draws the correct articulation between actors that make up the diverse and stratified social body. If, for example, the person, the family and civil society have a foundation and legitimacy which are autonomous from the state, it follows that the state must first respect and promote such three dimensions without any hegemonic pretension. This means that the state should refrain from promoting actions that pertain to the communities preceding it. In negative terms, it is not appropriate for a community of higher order to intervene in the affairs of a community of a lower order, because the lower community has a more intimate understanding of the problem to be solved.  Rather, in positive terms, it means that a community of higher order should instead intervene as a supplementary and temporary tool to help communities fulfill their functions and perform those tasks that belong to them in a primary way.

From a historical perspective, the principle of subsidiarity is a cornerstone of the modern social doctrine of the Catholic Church and contrasts with the centralization typical of systems that prefer monopolistic statist solutions in the fields of education, business and social security. Let us not forget that this formulation coincides with the rise of totalitarianism in Europe: Soviet communism, Italian fascism and National Socialism in Germany. Apart from the differences of these three ideologies, totalitarianism has a common character: to absorb the energies that emerge spontaneously from the autonomous action of the intermediate bodies of civil society, to convey it and to consolidate it under the auspices of the central authority. Note the motto with which Mussolini summed up the core meaning of fascist ideology: "Everything is in the State, nothing against the state, nothing outside the State."

We can summarize the economic and political character of a society ordered according to the personalist paradigm of subsidiarity in the statement that the state must not claim for itself the competence of areas which belong to institutions of a lower order. If anything, the state must ensure that these levels adequately fulfill their duties; it should intervene only in the event that they do not. Only then, if they failed to respond to needs, should the state replace the lower orders. In the aphorism enunciated by Pius XII: "civitas propter cives not cives propter civitatem" ("city is for citizens and not citizens for city").

The paradigm of subsidiarity is the belief that the state should encourage the actions of intermediate bodies that nourish and vivify the civil society, in an attempt to soften an oppressive bureaucracy and the rules it promulgates, which are currently making happy lawyers and accountants. Additionally, subsidiarity serves to dampen the impulse of individual initiative, which can often generate feelings of cynical contempt toward the notion of social solidarity. Eventually, the intermediate bodies should become the real agents of pluralism, democracy and solidarity, in order to reform our country and make its institutions more secure.


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