Appeared in Summer/Autumn/Winter 2002, Vol. XXVII, No. 2, 3, 4
[I]t is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. -Pius XI, 1931
Throw out the radio and take down the fiddle from the wall. -Andrew Nelson Lytle, 1930
There is a normative principle of social associations which has been articulated in various intellectual and religious traditions, and is implicit in much classical and medieval political thought. According to this principle, smaller, more local, or “lower” human associations have proper social functions which should not be assumed by larger or “higher” associations. For ease of discussion, let us refer to this principle as it has been denominated by modem Catholic social thinkers: “the principle of subsidiarity.”
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