The Principle of Subsidiarity and a New Paradigm of Economics


  • Dennis P. McCann


What is the “Principle of Subsidiarity”? It is, in brief, a contribution to Western social philosophy first articulated in Catholic Social Teaching (CST). From the perspective of CST, any new paradigm of economics must be consistent with basic principles, namely, human dignity, the common good, and especially the principle of subsidiarity. This principle, which first surfaced in Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno, in 1931, was meant as a warning indicating the proper way(s) in which interventions from governments can and should assist persons and families to fulfil their purposes in a modern industrial economy. Such assistance—a subsidium—from “higher organizations” like the State must not usurp the proper functioning of the “lower” entities they are ostensibly trying to assist. Solutions to social problems must respect the dignity of all human beings, the rights of natural associations like families, and the common good.