Subsidiarity


Subsidiarity

Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. The concept is applicable in the fields of government, political science, cybernetics and management. Subsidiarity is, ideally or in principle, one of the features of federalism.

The word subsidiarity is derived from the Latin word "subsidiarius" and has its origins in Catholic social teaching. The concept or principle is found in several constitutions around the world (see for example the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution).

It is presently best known as a fundamental principle of European Union law. According to this principle, the EU may only act (i.e. make laws) where member states agree that action of individual countries is insufficient. The principle was established in the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, and is contained within the proposed new Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe. However, at the local level it was already a key element of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, an instrument of the Council of Europe promulgated in 1985 (see Article 4, Paragraph 3 of the Charter)

Catholic social teaching

The principle of subsidiarity goes back to Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum 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. If a complex function is carried out at a local level just as effectively as on the national level, the local level should be the one to carry out the specified function. The principle is based upon the autonomy and dignity of the human individual, and holds that all other forms of society, from the family to the state and the international order, should be in the service of the human person. Subsidiarity assumes that these human persons are by their nature social beings, and emphasizes the importance of small and intermediate-sized communities or institutions, like the family, the church, and voluntary associations, as mediating structures which empower individual action and link the individual to society as a whole. "Positive subsidiarity", which is the ethical imperative for communal, institutional or governmental action to create the social conditions necessary to the full development of the individual, such as the right to work, decent housing, health care, etc., is another important aspect of the subsidiarity principle.

The principle of subsidiarity was developed in the encyclical "Rerum Novarum" of 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, as an attempt to articulate a middle course between the excesses of "laissez-faire" capitalism on the one hand and the various forms of communism, which subordinate the individual to the state, on the other. The principle was further developed in Pope Pius XI's encyclical "Quadragesimo Anno" of 1931, and "Economic Justice for All" by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Since its founding by Hilaire Belloc and Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Distributism, a third way economic philosophy based on Catholic Social teaching, upholds the importance of subsidiarity.

European Union law

Subsidiarity was established in EU law by the Treaty of Maastricht, signed on 7 February 1992 and entered into force on 1 November 1993. The present formulation is contained in Article 5 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community (consolidated version following the Treaty of Nice, which entered into force on 1 February 2003):

The Community shall act within the limits of the powers conferred upon it by this Treaty and of the objectives assigned to it therein.

In areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Community shall take action, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States and can therefore, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved by the Community.

Any action by the Community shall not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of this Treaty.

A more descriptive analysis of the principle can be found in Protocol 30 to the EC Treaty.

Article 9 of the proposed European constitution states

Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence the Union shall act only if and insofar as the objectives of the intended action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level.

Formally, the principle of subsidiarity applies to those areas where the Community does not have exclusive competence, the principle delineating those areas where the Community should and should not act. In practice, the concept is frequently used in a more informal manner in discussions as to which competences should be given to the Community, and which retained for the Member States alone.

The concept of subsidiarity therefore has both a legal and a political dimension. Consequently, there are varying views as to its legal and political consequences, and various criteria are put forward explaining the content of the principle. For example:

* The action must be necessary because actions of individuals or member-state governments alone will not achieve the objectives of the action (the sufficiency criterion)
* The action must bring added value over and above what could be achieved by individual or member-state government action alone (the benefit criterion).
* Decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the citizen (the close to the citizen criterion)
* The action should secure greater freedoms for the individual (the autonomy criterion).

The European Union, however, has as part of its phraseology a call for "an ever-closer union." What restraints upon the progress of centralised decision making would be brought about by strict reference to the principle of subsidiarity have yet to be proven by major constitutional clashes.

See also

* Principle of conferral
* Decentralisation
* Devolution
* Distributism
* Grassroots democracy
* Localism
* Local Church
* Local Government
* Oswald von Nell-Breuning
* Public choice theory
* Urban secession

External links

* [http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/treaties/selected/livre345.html Protocol 30] to the [http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/treaties/dat/EC_consol.html Treaty establishing the European Community] .
* [http://europa.eu.int/futurum/constitution/protocol/subsidprop_en.htm Protocol] to the [http://europa.eu.int/futurum/constitution/index_en.htm draft European constitution] on the application of the principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality.
* [http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c2a1.htm#1883 Catechism section on Subsidiarity] .
* [http://www.a-e-r.org/events/press-communications/2008/subsidiarity-campaign.html Subsidiarity campaign] , on the Assembly of European Regions website.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • subsidiarity — the idea that functions that can be exercised at a lower level of organisation should be rather than being taken over by a higher level organisation. The idea appears within the Roman Catholic Church in the encyclicals Rerum Novarum (1891) and… …   Law dictionary

  • subsidiarity — UK US /ˌsʌbsɪdiˈærɪti/ US  / erəṱi/ noun [U] ► the principle that decisions should always be taken at the lowest possible level, or closest to where they will have their effect, for example in a local area rather than nationally: »We re starting …   Financial and business terms

  • subsidiarity — (n.) 1936, from Ger. Subsidiarität, paraphrasing the Latin of Pius XI in his Quadragesimo Anno of 1931; see SUBSIDIARY (Cf. subsidiary) + ITY (Cf. ity). Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own… …   Etymology dictionary

  • subsidiarity — This is an awkward word that falls into place when you know that it is pronounced with the stress on the ar . It dates from the 1930s and has the special meaning ‘the principle that a central authority should have a subsidiary function,… …   Modern English usage

  • subsidiarity — [[t]səbsɪ̱diæ̱rɪti[/t]] N UNCOUNT Subsidiarity is the principle of allowing the individual members of a large organization to make decisions on issues that affect them, rather than leaving those decisions to be made by the whole group.… …   English dictionary

  • subsidiarity —    A description of a political system in which the functions of government are carried out at the lowest appropriate level for efficient administration – at the closest level possible to the people affected by the decision; the idea that each… …   Glossary of UK Government and Politics

  • subsidiarity — subsidiarumas statusas T sritis Politika apibrėžtis Vienas iš viešojo administravimo principų, reiškiantis, kad sprendimai turi būti priimami kiek galima arčiau piliečių (arba kiek galima žemesniu valdymo lygiu). Principas kilęs iš katalikų… …   Politikos mokslų enciklopedinis žodynas

  • subsidiarity — noun Date: 1936 1. the quality or state of being subsidiary 2. a principle in social organization: functions which subordinate or local organizations perform effectively belong more properly to them than to a dominant central organization …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • subsidiarity — noun The principle that government power ought to reside at the lowest feasible level (i.e. at the local or regional level, instead of the national or supranational level, unless the latter presents clear advantages) …   Wiktionary

  • subsidiarity — sub|sid|i|ar|i|ty [səbˌsıdiˈærıti] n [U] a word meaning a political ↑policy in which power to make decisions, is given to a smaller group, used especially about the European Community giving power to its member countries …   Dictionary of contemporary English


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