If the subsidiarity principle and our Institute were to have a motto, it could easily be “Back to Basics”. Subsidiarity is all about basics, all about “keeping it simple”, so in that spirit, a brief overview of the development of the principle is in order.
“The principle of subsidiarity was developed by German theologian and aristocrat Oswald von Nell-Breuning. His work influenced the social teaching of Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno and holds that government should undertake only those initiatives which exceed the capacity of individuals or private groups acting independently. Functions of government, business, and other secular activities should be as local as possible” states the Infogalactic entry (worth reading in its entirety) on the subject. The entry is labeled Subsidiarity (Catholicism) so as to differentiate it from the “the general principle of subsidiarity, with particular reference to European Union law”. Said second option will be examined at another time if at all, given that the EU is a political experiment that has failed, as recent events show ever more clearly.
Human nature is the bedrock of subsidiarity, because when all is said and done, no one truly wants anyone, much less a faceless bureaucracy, telling him or her what to do. Back to basics, and that’s as basic as it gets. Subsidiarity is also based on the principle of self-sufficiency, perhaps only tacitly, but nonetheless certainly. Each ascending unit of activity takes on only the tasks the smaller unit simply cannot manage on its own. The above graphic illustrates this with respect to the subsidiarity principle when applied to government.
Subsidiarity is decentralizing and therefore glorious: imagine (cue in the insipid John Lennon tune) a world in which people minded their own business and bureaucrats were reduced to beggary because of their uselessness! Imagine a world in which the nanny state was suffocated with a pillow while dreaming of safe spaces! Imagine a world in which you could build yourself a debt-free home, grow much of your own food, educate your children without outside interference, joining with others in mutual accord when you deem it worthwhile to do so! Such is subsidiarity!
The Subsidiarity Institute is housed in the straw bale building shown in the site photo. It is wholly-owned, as is the property on which it stands, property planted with fruit and nut trees, vegetable patches galore and even some non-edible flowers and shrubs! When the project was begun 13 years ago, there were no annoying governmental regulations with respect to building, to planting, to property use in general; that is no longer true in the small rural village in which the Institute is headquartered. Even so, regulations are few and flexible, shall we say. Municipal services are even fewer. Know what? It all works out well, or at least well enough for reasonable people.