Paul Ryan made waves earlier this week when he spoke about how the Christian, and particularly Catholic, emphasis on subsidiarity was a major principle undergirding his budget.
To me, the principle of subsidiarity, which is really federalism, meaning government closest to the people governs best, having a civil society of the principal of solidarity where we, through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities, through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community, that’s how we advance the common good. By not having big government crowd out civic society, but by having enough space in our communities so that we can interact with each other, and take care of people who are down and out in our communities.
Nearly a year ago, when discussing Ryan’s previous budget, I wrote a piece for the Catholic Advocate making very much the same point:
Talk to Ryan for even a small amount of time and you are immediately struck by the sincerity of his concern about the debt burdens the nation faces and about how it robs hope from generations yet unborn. Examine the details of his proposals and you’ll see stark examples of subsidiarity in practice. What American political liberals describe as an assault on Medicare and Medicaid is nothing other than subsidiarity applied to those programs in order to save them. He would “block-grant” Medicaid to the states – a “community of a lower order” than the federal government – and let the states operate the programs with particular attention to local needs.
Note that Ryan never said to me he was practicing subsidiarity. That was my analysis. It turns out I was right — which is not important because it was I who was right, but because what was right was that this principle is one worth considering when making policy choices. A humane government is one that leaves decisions closest to the people.