The Subsidiaritan Criterion of Just Coercion

How can we tell whether a given sort of government coercion is just?

Government just is coercive control. But coercion eo ipso traduces a man’s dignity – which is to say, his status as an image of the Most High, and therefore in his very being a thing worthy of all honor and respect; a King, indeed, within his own small domain. Men ought then to be coerced as little as possible. So the basic problem of just government is to discover where coercion is justified nonetheless; and the moral hazard of all government is that it will coerce where it ought not to. The probability that government will err is obviously very high; so then is the probability that it will coerce unjustly.

The less that any organ of government can do while still meeting its duties, then, the better. Primum non nocere: better to do nothing than act unjustly. In practical terms, this means that each organ of government should leave as much coercion as possible in the hands of some lower order organ of government. A sort of activity that can be directed more meetly at a lower level of the hierarchy of social control, ought to be. If an organ of one level is controlling agents at a lower level when things would run more smoothly and appropriately if the latter were in charge, then the control of the former is in that respect unjust. It is also likely to be inept.

Thus the Nation should recuse itself as much as possible from meddling with the Province; the Province likewise with the Metropolis; the Metropolis with the Polis; the Polis with the Township; the Township with the Family; the Family with the Household; the Household with the Person. The effect will be as libertarian as a functional society can possibly be.

The only practical way to determine what functions ought to be controlled at what level is by trial and error. See what works at lower levels of the hierarchy, and what doesn’t. What doesn’t, should be referred upward. When men disagree about what works or does not, or who should or should not rule in respect to this or that, and the normal discourse of politics is unable to resolve the conflict, the ultimate resort must be to juridical trial. Let a Duke overstep the bonds of his proper coercive control of an Earl, and let the Earl then appeal to the King or his ministers – which is to say, generally, his lawyers and the officers of his Court – for adjudication. Their rulings set precedents. Thus the whole system of determinations of what sorts of coercion are proper to each level of the hierarchy can evolve organically, like the Common Law.

This subsidiaritan criterion of just coercion ends up implementing by trial and error and continuous tiny adjustments in view of specific idiosyncratic concrete circumstances a proper ideological and political humility, given our incapacity – implicit in Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem – to devise and implement a meet and right social order according to some prior abstract formal logic of political science. A just social order must somehow be discovered and implemented, but we cannot understand what it might be ex ante. The subsidiaritan criterion specifies, not an a priori political order that pretends to universal justice, but rather a method of testing the justice of each practical policy.

23 thoughts on “The Subsidiaritan Criterion of Just Coercion

  1. Precedent is extraordinarily important to the libertarian minimalism that you describe, and that means that a sense of its own history is equally extraordinarily important to any nation. Trial and error indeed together constitute a millennial process, but then history, which is nothing other than the history of that process, is likewise millennial. A National Consciousness rooted in the collective memory of the nation (that is, its history), and reaching back by millennia to the remotest origin, is a potent prophylactic against the usurpation of the lower by the higher, which is why it lies at the very center of liberalism to obliterate memory, a policy that it effects by hijacking education and perverting its end to narcotic amnesia rather than proper recollection.

    • A tremendously important point. You can’t know where to go next if you can’t remember where you’ve already been.

      But then, by that very same token, you can’t engineer an altogether New Man if men can still remember what it has perennially been like to be the sort of men they are. So, as Lawrence Auster often pointed out, the Left must continually wipe out all memory of history, especially its own. Everything prior to the present year must be treated as radically evil, worthy only of eradication. The New Age must be seen to be ever just now about to dawn. Such evils as have persisted into the present year of the present regime must be ascribed to its wicked predecessors.

      Injustice rather depends upon a deliberate forgetfulness.

      • “The Left must continually wipe out all memory of history, especially its own.”

        This is one of the traits that Liberalism or the Left has in common with Islam, which also ferociously indisposed to Tradition, which it seeks to obliterate, as violently as possible.

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  4. coercion eo ipso traduces a man’s dignity

    I realize the proof of that did not fit in the margins, but I’d be curious to see it. It seems that coercion–i.e., threat of violence–does not traduce man’s dignity, unless we are prepared to say that hierarchy per se traduces man’s dignity, which is crazy. All are under authority, save the sovereign who is responsible only to God. Those in authority have a reasonable expectation that their commands will be obeyed. If not cheerfully, then by coercion. Without coercion in the back pocket, it is unlikely reasonable commands will be obeyed. If a person is free to disagree with or disobey the hierarch, then then he never was under the authority of the hierarch, and the name “hierarch” was poorly chosen.

    • Good points. Men are of course all free – i.e., ontologically able – to disagree with their hierarchs, and to disobey them. This fact alone cannot evacuate “hierarch” of meaning. Indeed, the term could not have the meaning that it does if men could not disagree and disobey just authority. When we pledge our fealty to a lord, we grant his authority – we admit its reality, its justice and its propriety – and place our wills in subjection to his. In that grant only is his authority ever concretely implemented – or, lacking it, not.

      If men had no authority inalienably their own, inhering in their own persons as each an image of God, and to dispose of as they saw fit, which they could then willingly grant and pledge to some other higher authority, they would have nothing wherewith to pledge their fealty. Their fealty then would be nil, and vacuous, and so worthless.

      Fealty is *only* of some authority to some other.

      NB furthermore that no pledge of a temporal creature’s fealty can be forever perdurant. The fealty of creatures must like any other of their accidental properties be rather reiterated at each new occasion of their ontological careers. The marriage bond, e.g., is intended by God and man to be permanent and irrevocable. Yet it can be broken at any moment, by either of the human parties to that contract with the Almighty. Not that the contract itself can be broken, but that the human parties thereto can break their faith with it.

      Unlike the vows of ordination to religious orders – of baptism, confirmation, ordination, and marriage – which cannot be dissolved by any creaturely act, the vassal’s pledge of fealty to his lord is not even intended to be irrevocable. It is, rather, conditional. Unlike the vows of marriage and ordination, withdrawal of the vassal’s fealty dissolves the hierarchical relation. Lords too may resign their hierarchical offices, likewise dissolving the hierarchical relation to their subjects. All are under authority, to be sure: but not irrevocably. The ontologically inalienable power of either lord or vassal to revoke and thereby obviate a contract of fealty is the source of the vassal’s right of exit, which is ontologically given along with his individual disparity from the human herd; by the very same token is it the foundation of the power of ostracism – i.e., of life and death – exerted by any human herd over any of its constituent individuals. The treason of an individual vassal cancels the bond of mutual loyalty between him and his lord, justifying his banishment or execution as an enemy of the polis. But then likewise the treason of a lord – his disloyalty to his fiduciary duty to his subjects – obviates their reciprocal obligation of loyalty to him, and can justify rebellion, usurpy or regicide.

      Hierarchy lives only insofar as it is intentionally renewed, both from above and from below.

      We must distinguish then between two sorts of hierarchy: those wherein the fealty of subjects to their lords is all freely granted, and those where it is coerced. The former sort does not traduce the dignity of its subjects; the latter does, for it rapes the fealty that subsists in the first place only insofar as it is freely given.

      The ideal society needs no coercion. All fealty to proper authority is in it freely given, and the relation between lords and their vassals is of pervasive mutual loyalty, and indeed of sacrificial love. But pace Pope Francis – indeed, tace Pope Francis, please, by God’s Blood – that ideal is in this aion nowhere ever to be found under the orbit of the moon, and so ought not there ever to be sought. Some authority then must in practice be coerced. The question therefore arises: when is such coercion just?

      Does that answer the question?

      • Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I hear shades of Social Contract in this comment. The notion of fealty as freely given is questionable at best due to the role of divine sovereignty, to which adherence is not voluntary but mandatory, and the social order which proceeds out of that obligatory obedience. One can choose to rebel or not to rebel but neither act changes the reality of the Lordship of God, nor does it constitute a choice freely made because it is a choice made under constraint with sharply limited alternatives. Certainly by Common Law standards, I would not judge this choice to be legal consent.

        The notion that the primary experience of Man is one of obligation, not liberty, can be illustrated by the small child, who gets no choice as to his father. The child is born into a situation where upon gaining consciousness of his surroundings, the first thing he realizes is that he is already embedded within a social stratum which has provided for him and incurred obligation on his behalf. He did not and could not choose any of these things, indeed, nor did he choose whether or not he would exist at all. His birth was a choice of his parents, which relied upon a similar choice of their parents, further back to the origin in Creation and the choice of God to create Man, which incurred the first obligation.

        God places individuals in concrete social and political situations from birth, in which the individual has no choice. Listen to little boys talk about their fathers. The first boy will say, “I wish your dad was my dad,” to which the other responds, “Oh no you don’t!” The child’s wish is futile, the result of immaturity, since he can no more change his father than he could change his left arm, and is a result of an errant will, no different than the person who wishes they can change the other elements of his birth, such as ethnicity, nationality, or culture. On top of this, as indicated by the second child’s inevitable response, it is a desire born from ignorance and a desire to escape obligation. The first child has a rosy view of the second child’s family, since he only visits at play time and is not present when it is time to fulfill the obligations of a member of the family. As before, there is no choice here, but merely the choice of rebellion or acceptance of an obligation which pre-exists the formation of the child’s rational mind. The requirements of choice, namely alternatives, is not present. The child is not capable of changing his father, only destroying the God-wrought order of his family.

        Certainly, this principle becomes more complex as one moves beyond the organic relationship of kith and kin towards the fully artificial State. Concrete communities have a better claim to natural auctoritas than some bureaucrat sitting in a far-away imperial capital, but the principle still rests on the fact that a person enters into a situation in which he did not choose, but was chosen for him by ancestors and by Providence. The necessity of submitting to the leading men of one’s community of birth derives from the generations who have incurred costs on one’s behalf long before your birth, before choice was a remote possibility, as well as the obligation of submission to Providence which places the individual in that position. Certainly, when a political body devolves into an ecumenic empire and is no longer an object of order but a destructive force eroding the divine order of concrete communities, we can talk about the role of renunciation of obedience, however this falls within the sphere of obedience to the source of auctoritas, the Lord Most High, who orders the hierarchies of the world by his Providence.

        To return to the original question, coercion is therefore appropriate under the circumstances where any person renounces their debt and obligation, ie. so long as Man is sinful.

      • … divine sovereignty, to which adherence is not voluntary but mandatory …

        What is not voluntary needn’t be mandated in the first place.

        Perhaps that calls for some expatiation.

        It is ontologically possible for creatures to disobey God, and all subsidiary authorities. This power of creatures, inherent in them qua creatures, per se, eo ipso, and essentially, is part and parcel of their disparate existence. No power, no being.

        If disobedience were not possible, then, there would never have been any call for a mandate to obey.

        One can choose to rebel or not to rebel but neither act changes the reality of the Lordship of God …

        Correct. Rebellion is nonetheless possible to creatures. If it were not for the Lordship of God, rebellion would not be rebellion.

        … nor does it constitute a choice freely made because it is a choice made under constraint with sharply limited alternatives.

        What is not free is not a choice.

        That choices are constrained does not make them unfree. You can’t choose to kill Julius Caesar. You are constrained from that choice. That doesn’t mean you can’t choose at all.

        The notion that the primary experience of Man is one of obligation, not liberty, can be illustrated by the small child, who gets no choice as to his father.

        Obligation presupposes liberty (and vice versa – for the free ordination of behavior presupposes a superordinate world, toward which behavior can be ordered in the first place). The child is not obliged to be the son of his father. He rather just is the son of his father, and liberty, choice, obligation, rebellion and so forth don’t even enter into the question of who will be his father.

        The child is indeed obliged to honor and obey the man who, he finds willy nilly, happens to be his father. Likewise is the subject obliged to honor and obey his lords. But it is in the nature of obligation that it may be shirked. We can be obliged to do only such things as it is possible for us not to do. Were it otherwise, there could be no such thing as sin. Were it otherwise, government would be superfluous.

        … coercion is therefore appropriate under the circumstances where any person renounces their debt and obligation, i.e., so long as Man is sinful.

        Yup. Being sinful, man wants governance; which is to say, coercion. That is not in question. What is in question is how we tell when coercion is just. That is the question the post tries to answer.

      • One will find just coercion when the human free will aims consciously or subconsciously at imperfection AND the reactionary force still denies Perfection Himself as his “operating paradigm.”

        And one will find JUST coercion where a human free will aims consciously or subconsciously at imperfection AND the reactionary force GRANTS Perfection Himself as his “operating force” thus dissolving the “coercion” and giving full exposure to his justness.

      • Thordaddy: I think you meant to say that we will find UNJUST coercion of an errant human aiming at imperfection when the reactionary force who is trying to correct that error in his subject denies Perfection Himself as his own operating paradigm, whereas JUST coercion would involve the reactionary force granting Perfection Himself as his own operating paradigm; in which case the coercion exerted by the reactionary force is no longer his own, but rather simply the “coercion” (this being not quite the right term) of Natural and Eternal Law, flowing through and working in him for the correction of his errant subject (it is not quite right to call the constraint of Natural and Eternal Law “coercion” because these Laws don’t force us to act in one way or another, but rather just are; and are the forecondition of all our acts).

        Correct?

      • Kristor…

        I believe we are essentially conveying the same truth.

        Where a reactionary force does not conceive of and/or rejects the “perfect reaction,” said reactionary force may only “rise” to the level of plain, ie., just coercion from whence he may subsequently delve into unjustness and towards evil.

        Likewise, the reactionary force who will conceive of and wholly embrace the perfect reaction, may he rise to the level of righteous, ie., just coercion so much so that said reactionary force is, in actuality, just plain righteous. The notion of his coerciveness rapidly dissipates amongst the more healthy-minded.

      • OK: so on the one hand there is “just” coercion – as in “mere” coercion, that is not quite righteous, and is therefore in some degree unjust – and on the other there is just coercion as in righteous coercion; and the latter turns out not to be coercive after all, but rather only the perfect justice of righteousness, period full stop. And a healthy minded man would not feel the rule of a righteous lord to be either unjust or coercive, any more than he feels that the wind and the rain are unjust or coercive. He would not object to righteous rule; he would rather rejoice in it, as the healthy minded man rejoices in the magnificence and glory and fitness of the weather, even when it is in the process of ruining his chances at life. So a man commanded by a righteous lord to sacrifice his life in battle for the sake of his people – or, even, only for the sake “only” of the righteous lord whom he loves, and to whom he has rejoiced to pledge his fealty – can feel that his certain death serves a true and worthy good, and does not chafe or groan thereat, but rather sallies forth in gladness and singleness of heart. He takes his master’s mandate to be at one with his own. So there is no coercion of his free agency involved, but rather only congress and agreement of two minds in one purpose.

        Retreating to a more quotidian case: the healthy minded man does not whine about the injustice of a penalty or tax or toll or tonlieu exacted by a sovereign whom he thinks just. On the contrary, because he does not judge the costs he suffers at the hands of that sovereign unjust to begin with, he finds it an honor and a privilege to pay the price of engaging with him and his people, in his domains and in subjection to his rule.

      • There is a problem with this doctrine of choice, however, if you assume rebellion to be a choice rather than a rejection of the question; you must conclude that sin is a choice and therefore under free will, Man has a “right” to sin. It’s been a few years since I read through my Aquinas, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t square with most Christian philosophy before the Enlightenment. Sin, being a lack of a substance and not a substance itself, cannot be treated as an object metaphysically. If it is not an object, it is not a thing to be chosen, but something else entirely, thus we must reject the “right” to sin. The reification of non-objects into objects is one of the core fallacies of Enlightenment thought, especially in economics but found in all fields

      • There is no right to sin. But obviously there is in creatures a capacity to sin, or else there could be no such thing as sin in the first place. If rebellion is not a choice it cannot occur – is not, i.e., rebellion at all, properly speaking, but rather something akin only to the gravitational fall of masses (or, even, less; for it can be argued that there is agency at work even in such “merely physical” procedures). But that there is choice involved in sin, that rational creatures have the ontological capacity to sin, does not mean that there is a right to sin.

        Even if we were to say that there is a right to sin, that would not entail that sin is a concrete real. To say that sin is real is not to reify sin as a concrete real in and of itself, but rather to admit that there are concretely real states of affairs that are defectively good.

        If sin were a real in and of itself, rather than as a character or property of concretely real states of affairs that are more or less good, it would have to be completely evil. There can however be no such thing as absolute zero of virtue, for that zero is achievable only at the zero of being. [The only way Satan could perfect his evil is to cease his existence; which, given his ontological permanence under his essentially and unchangeably immortal nature, he cannot possibly do; this being a reason of the permanence of his chastisement.]

        To sin then is to choose a defective good rather than the optimal good that for all creatures at every moment of their careers is to be found in the Divine Will.

        It has a certain ring of deep truth, but while I have a way to make sense of it, I’m not sure exactly what you mean by saying that sin is a “rejection of the question.” I’d be curious to hear more on that score.

        I’m also not sure how saying this helps lift sin out of the category of free choice. How could one reject a question other than by choosing to do so?

        Now there is to be sure a sense in which each man’s capacity to choose – his freedom – has been somewhat ruined ex ante by the Fall. We cannot but choose somewhat defectively. Yet it cannot be the case that the Fall ruined our freedom completely, for in that case we could not be said to choose anything at all. We would then be nothing but machines, who did not actually do anything. We would, that is to say, not actually exist as concrete reals. The perfect corruption of the good of freedom is achieved only at the zero of being: and we are not there yet.

        We must then conclude that our freedom – i.e., our capacity to choose the good – was pervasively but not completely ruined by the Fall. So in virtue of our congenital corruption we inveterately choose lesser concretely real goods than we could, or therefore ought. We tend always to sin. Such is concupiscence. We cannot furthermore attain to perfect goodness; as defectively free, we lack the capacity to be perfectly free. Such is Original Sin. Our only hope of salvation from this relentless coil of mortal suffering, then – from our karma – is the intervention of the Holy Ghost, whose perfect infinite ontological capacity and immaculate freedom superadded can make up the defects in our own.

      • This is where I think you can’t square your doctrine of choice with Aquinas: For Aquinas, sin is not “a character or property of concretely real states of affairs” but an absence of the character or property of goodness. I think what we’re doing here is running around in circles over the question of whether an absence itself exists.

        Hence, the medieval interpretation of sin is that it is not a choice, but an act of surrendering the will and no longer being capable of making choices. In other words, the sinner is Aristotle’s Natural Slave, who cannot choose, not because he is dominated by a master, but because he is by nature incapable of making choices altogether. The sinner, as per John of Salisbury’s Policraticus, is natural serf because he lacks the ability to assert the rational mind over raw, egophantic will, and is radically subject to Satan, who makes his choices for him. In contrast, the Christian liber homo, by making his will a slave to God’s will, is transformed spiritually and his will is redeemed such that he can choose the Good, that is God’s Will. This ability to choose, however, is paradoxically a product of the complete submission of the Human Will to God’s Will, the acknowledgement of obligation to defer to the will of the Higher; hence the medieval emphasis on fidelitas not libertas, submission not choice, deferment to one’s superiors rather than self-assertion of authority, as the bond which forms the foundation of human society, to bring it all back to the topic at hand.

        I wish this thread would have been posted two weeks later, after the start of the semester. I miss my books, but can’t bring myself to commute all the way into the office over an internet thread.

      • Understood. My notion of sin is not at variance with St. Thomas. Absence itself does not exist. The sinful character or property of concretely real states of affairs *is* its actually defective goodness. It is virtuous, but not as much as it could or ought to be, given its nature and circumstances. Its lack of virtue is a possession not of some positive character, but of some lesser degree of some positive character than is proper.

        Is the submission of the will either to the Divine Will or to something less an act of the creature? If it is not free, then no; but in that case, neither sin nor faithfulness can be accounted to the creature; they and all the acts that derive from them are the acts of some other agent. This not only evacuates the notion of sin, it obliterates all human agency; and this is to obliterate the actuality of the human being. No act, no actuality.

      • Hence, we’ve reached the limits of Reason and entered into the realm of a mystery of Faith, where Reason leads us to a paradoxical conclusion. Surrender the will to be free, assert the will to be a slave of sin, lacking all moral agency. This is why I think Eric Voegelin is correct that doctrines relying on consent, like various Social Contract symbolisms of order, eventually lead to dead ends in the search for divine order. Cicero, St. Paul, and St. Augustine could square the notion of consent with the above paradox (the former two doing so explicitly), but we moderns too often attempt to square paradoxes which formed the experiential core of such consent-based symbols, and in doing so eject the content of the symbol for the superficial forms of consent.

        As such, I would void the entire substantive question of this post – by attempting to systematize a dogma of coercion, we must necessarily take an abstract and reductionist approach which negates any insight into the problems of defective social order. Coercion is just when it is, and is not when it is not, and knowing this is almost certainly situational and not capable of being abstracted. Knowledge into that situation requires a social order built upon the principle of coherentia, meaning that the right kinds of authority are vested in the right people with the right knowledge, and in such a society, the lower orders would not have the wisdom or knowledge to properly judge their authorities. I think this is one of the reasons John of Salisbury doesn’t give up a set of rules by which to judge the tyrant – he leaves it in the hands of the Pope and the lesser magistrates of the realm.

      • Hence, we’ve reached the limits of Reason and entered into the realm of a mystery of Faith, where Reason leads us to a paradoxical conclusion.

        I can’t be content with that. When our reason leads us to a paradox, we should take it as self-inflicted reductio ad absurdum. It should indicate to us that we have erred in our logic, or that one at least of our premises is false, or that we have misunderstood our terms, so that the paradox is only seeming. I find it is usually the latter.

        God can’t be unintelligible in principle, for he is himself the principle of intelligence, and its principal. So nor therefore can any of his acts be unintelligible in principle; so nor by the same token can any aspect of the created order that is his handiwork be unintelligible in principle. Only such aspects of the created order as are not his handiwork can possibly be unintelligible in principle. Even they must be intelligible insofar as they exist; only their marginal defects of existence (i.e., of ontological value) can be unintelligible: which is just as we should expect from nothingness.

        Now none of this is to say that we can understand anything we set our minds to. It is to say only that, when we do thus set our minds, and find that we arrive at a conclusion that simply cannot be understood, by any mind whatever, then we can be sure that we have lost our way. Thus whether or not we can grasp what we have concluded, there must in our conclusions be no paradox or contradiction. Such mysteries as then force themselves incorrigibly upon us must be accounted to our imaginative incapacity, rather than to some essential contradiction or confusion in things. There is, e.g., no logical contradiction in the doctrine of the Trinity, even though we cannot grasp it.

        [One of the pleasant bedevilments of philosophy is the discovery that our intellects run up against this same limit in respect, not just to such difficult notions as the Trinity or the Incarnation, but to virtually everything we contemplate, even humble and ordinary things, that we take usually as quite simple and unremarkable. The more carefully we think about anything, it seems, the less we find ourselves as able to grasp it imaginatively as we had thought.]

        There is then plenty of room in our own intellectual economy for the mysteries of the faith. They are mysterious, not because they are paradoxical in themselves, but because we cannot parse them comfortably and without residue.

        [We should never be surprised when we find ourselves pleasantly bedeviled by our incapacity to parse something without residue. The incapacity is logical; it is inherent in any finite and consistent formal logical calculus, any system of thought that is not infinite.]

        Surrender the will to be free, assert the will to be a slave of sin, lacking all moral agency.

        If the slave of sin lacks all moral agency, then the sin is not his, and he is nowise culpable, so that it is not properly speaking a sin in the first place, with the result that it would be monstrous – indeed Satanic – to punish him for it; and since he has no will, he cannot surrender it to God, and indeed it cannot be surrendered to God, for ex hypothesi it doesn’t exist in the first place, so as to be surrendered. Slavery and captivity of the will, and likewise its submission and liberation, are simply meaningless notions if there is in fact no will to be enslaved or captured, submitted or freed.

        This seeming paradox cries out for a reconstruction of terms. I offered one here a couple of years ago, and here another. Unless I have in them got something badly wrong, I don’t believe the freedom of the will poses a paradoxical problem vis-à-vis election to everlasting salvation.

        … doctrines relying on consent, like various Social Contract symbolisms of order, eventually lead to dead ends in the search for divine order.

        It’s worse even than that. Social Contract theories are circular. A contract can have meaning only within the context of a social order. Social Contract theories presuppose a pre-existent social contract, within which only might a social contract possibly exert any moral suasion. To say that society is a social contract then is just to say that society is society. The Social Contract, then, is not the explanans – as Social Contract theory takes it to be – but the explanandum.

        To explain society, you can’t refer back to operations of society. You must rather show how society derives from cosmic order, and agrees with it; and how men’s minds, seeing that agreement, agree themselves thereto. So you need the Law of Nature.

        No Logos, no explanation, at all, of anything. It’s as simple as that, at bottom.

        … by attempting to systematize a dogma of coercion, we must necessarily take an abstract and reductionist approach which negates any insight into the problems of defective social order. Coercion is just when it is, and is not when it is not, and knowing this is almost certainly situational and not capable of being abstracted.

        I wasn’t reaching for a system or a dogma, just a criterion – one among many that might pertain to this situation or that, but that would apply to most. Nor is the subsidiaritan criterion abstract. On the contrary, it is peculiarly concrete, practical, and can vary without limit in its application. The question posed by the subsidiaritan criterion of just coercion is this: “Can this particular (sort of) situation be satisfactorily controlled by a lower level of the hierarchy than mine?” And the answer: “If not, then I must in duty take it up myself. If so, it ought probably to be handled by that lower level, and it is a mistake for me to get involved in it, not just because it is a misuse of my office, but because no matter how good my intentions I am likely to muck it up.”

        The subsidiaritan criterion obviously *must* be applied on the basis of particular historical facts and circumstances.

        … a social order built upon the principle of coherentia, meaning that the right kinds of authority are vested in the right people with the right knowledge, and in such a society, the lower orders would not have the wisdom or knowledge to properly judge their authorities …

        The subsidiaritan criterion is meant to be used by those in authority over others. It suggests that one way of telling whether or not the right kinds of authority are vested in the right offices is answering the question whether a given kind of authority would be administered better either higher or lower on the hierarchy of social control. Would it really work, e.g., and in the limit, to station an officer of the Politburo in every household as political commissar? The question answers itself, no? Is it wise to put the King himself in charge of the planting scheme of every farm in the realm, or is that sort of decision best left to the farmers?

        The criterion is a way for those in authority to figure out what sorts of duties they ought to delegate. In supposing that they have the power to delegate a particular authority, it presupposes that they first have it, so as then to delegate it, or not.

        There’s nothing complicated or abstract about this. It’s mostly a matter of common sense. But ideologically driven polities have a way of losing their senses, seeing things that are not there, and overlooking the things that are.

      • I just lost about 45 minutes of thinking and writing with a wrong click, so I’m going to be brief and I apologize for that, but I don’t have another 30 or so minutes to recollect my thoughts.

        First, the problem I see in the beginning is that you assume that intelligence (Aristotle’s Noesis) is constitutive of ultimate reality rather than being a flawed representation of reality. Philosophia is not sophia. Logic is merely a symbol we use to represent an experience of order in Being, but it is not Being itself and therefore cannot fully encompass the extent of Reality. Logic is as flawed and paradoxical as we creatures. So long as we exist in metaxy, between life and death, material and spiritual, damnation and salvation, paradox is an inevitable part of our experience of existence, where truth is seen, “as if through a glass, darkly.” Accepting that paradox, which will only be cleared up when we ascend to the true and full vision at the feet of the Lord, is part of the limitations of Man.

        I think you answered the paradox of the sinner without moral agency yourself in the linked articles – you assume that justice exists temporally, when God does not. From Pharoah’s hardened heart, to homosexuals in the Corinthians, God often punishes people by making them sinners, then punishing them for that sin. You simply are assuming a linear path of intent to sin, act of sin, punishment. God, being outside of time, is not bound by temporal linearity. He may punish us for a sin yet uncommitted. Yet in our flawed eyes, we see a punishment undeserved or unmerited. I can only refer you to Job 38.

        Lastly, I do not see a relevance to the last two sections. You are not discussing a criterion for the practice of coercion, simply at which level it should be performed. Should the Feds or the City Constable enforce the law? You answer that the Constable should. Well enough. If that is the only point you’re trying to make, than I accede.

      • I just lost about 45 minutes of thinking and writing with a wrong click …

        Aargh! I hate when that happens. It’s always the best stuff that gets lost that way. We’ve all now lost, as a result.

        … you assume that intelligence (Aristotle’s Noesis) is constitutive of ultimate reality rather than being a flawed representation of reality.

        It’s the other way round. Ultimate reality is constitutive of Noesis (among all other things). Logos – Memra, Word, Dharma, Tao – is only one of his Names. But it is indeed one of his Names. No Logos, no logos; no Divine apprehension, then no apprehension whatever, whether flawed or not. “Flaw” is a meaningless notion in the absence of perfection. Any partial understanding presupposes some complete understanding, of which as part it is a participation. So Omniscience is the forecondition of any science whatever.

        Philosophia is not sophia.

        Exactly. But, no Sophia, no philosophia. One can’t befriend what is not there to begin with. Philosophia presupposes Sophia.

        Logic is merely a symbol we use to represent an experience of order in Being, but it is not Being itself and therefore cannot fully encompass the extent of Reality.

        Sure. The map is not the territory. But, either the map maps the territory, or not. If not, it is not a map to begin with, at all, but just some squiggles on paper: pure noise. If there is mapping, then the map must somehow echo or reflect, and instantiate, the order of the territory mapped.

        Logic is as flawed and paradoxical as we creatures.

        We can’t think, then. One of the things we cannot then think is that, “Logic is as flawed and paradoxical as we creatures.” You see the problem.

        So long as we exist in metaxy, between life and death, material and spiritual, damnation and salvation, paradox is an inevitable part of our experience of existence, where truth is seen, “as if through a glass, darkly.” Accepting that paradox, which will only be cleared up when we ascend to the true and full vision at the feet of the Lord, is part of the limitations of Man.

        True enough, so long as we remember that the paradox is in us, and not in Reality; so that it is only a seeming. We see darkly, but we do see; or else, we could not see that we see but darkly; we could not otherwise suspect, hunch, intuit that there is more to see than we now see, and that more clearly.

        … you assume that justice exists temporally, when God does not.

        Just the opposite. Justice subsists eternally. So does time. Temporal procedures are processes of eternity. Their temporal character derives from their eternal character.

        From Pharaoh’s hardened heart, to homosexuals in the Corinthians, God often punishes people by making them sinners, then punishing them for that sin. You simply are assuming a linear path of intent to sin, act of sin, punishment. God, being outside of time, is not bound by temporal linearity.

        I assert the contrary. That God is not bound by temporal linearity – and that, therefore, nothing is in reality bound by temporal linearity – was the point of the linked posts.

        Do you see what you have done here? You have asserted (agreeing with the linked posts) that God is not bound by temporal linearity. Well and good. But you had just a moment before asserted that God makes people sinners, and then punishes them for that sin. In eternity – i.e., in reality as it actually appears to Omniscience, and so truly is – there is no before or after; no sequence, ergo no consequence. “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” is then another way of saying that Pharaoh hardened his heart. It is a way of saying that God lets Pharaoh be Pharaoh. There is in eternity – in reality – no making of Pharaoh, followed by what Pharaoh does, which then determines the way Pharaoh is. In eternity, there is only the way that Pharaoh is. God does not know – i.e., does not make – the creature before the creature makes his own decision about what he shall do, and therefore be; for, in reality there is no before, at all. The creation of the creature by God and the decision of the creature upon his constitutive characteristic act are two aspects of one single motion. *Everything* is an aspect of one single motion: the motion of God in Creation. That does not mean that all the creaturely aspects of the Tao are irreal, or that they are somehow coterminous with the Divine. On the contrary: were they anywise irreal, they would nowise exist, at all. They do exist; so Jesus knows them, his sheep, and they him (whether they reck his rod, or not).

        Should the Feds or the City Constable enforce the law? You answer that the Constable should. Well enough. If that is the only point you’re trying to make, than I accede.

        It is. The Subsidiaritan Criterion is not the only relevant criterion, but it is always one of the criteria. Control that is better delegated ought to be; so that the Subsidiaritan Criterion is (one at least) of the de minimis criteria of just coercion. But – of course – there are others.

  5. Where there is coercion, it is invariably applied towards the “goal” of an imposing imperfection. And where there is a sense of coercion by Perfection itself (read: Perfect Authority) there is almost certainly some physiological pathology within, i.e., a self-annihilating habituation of mind… A thoroughly redundant conception of Perfection as perpetual degeneration. Inducing what amounts to a total denial of the absolutely coercive imposition of imperfection all around one’s self.

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