Subsidiarity is an organizing principle stating that a matter ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized authority capable of addressing that matter effectively.It is a theory, honored sometimes in the breach.
The concept, if not the word, came up in this last Monday's debate between the two Republicans running for the right to represent the Party in the November election against Democrat Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. The way it was presented by Mr Tom Weaver was that his opponent, Mr Jon Golnik, was for small government, while he, Tom Weaver, was for limited government. While some might dismiss this as a distinction without a difference, I think it is not and it is an issue that needs to be teased out by reporters, bloggers and citizens.
That said, I am not sure Mr Golnik just wants to shrink the budget. However Mr Weaver is the one who called attention to the point at the debate.
At the same time, Congresswoman Tsongas does not come across as a small government advocate. That said, her late husband, Senator Paul Tsongas, was a deficit hawk.
I believe that subsidiarity is imprinted on us at birth. Has anyone not heard a pre-school child say, "I'd rather do it myself." But, this is at war with the ideal of helping others make better decisions, which appears under the concept of "nudge".
I am a "rather do it myself" kind of person. That means that once in a while I need to step back and let others do it their way. The term "perfect is the enemy of good enough" usually means to stop wasting time and money on making something better than it needs to be. I think that it can also be applied to how government works. Under our federal system there can be a tendency to establish a single federal standard, so that Mississippi does it the same way as Massachusetts. We should pick those areas where this is the case, lest we destroy the incubator that is our federal system and tamp down the ability of local government to explore and find better ways of doing this or that. Some things are not open to local development, such as those areas covered by our Bill of Rights. Other things are, such as local control of education. It helps commerce to have a national standard for truck safety, but not so much to have a national standard for the size of lots for private homes.
Regards — Cliff