Increase of Subsidiarity Tends to Increase of Liberty

As each level of a subsidiaritan political hierarchy fobs off upon its subsidiaries every duty it possibly can, each level of the hierarchy will interfere with subsidiary systems less and less. The result should be a libertarian’s dream – and quite nice for sovereigns, too (indeed, optimally nice).

There are natural limits to such fobbing off, of course, and thus to the scope of liberty enjoyed by subsidiaries (taking “liberty” to denote licit optionality really open to a given subsidiary agent, at any level of the hierarchy; or, more simply, scope of licit action). Enforcement of contracts can’t be left only to contractors, obviously, other than by opening the door to feud and vendetta; nor might national defense be left only to private citizens on their own recognizance. But, where each actor of the control hierarchy is actively avoiding responsibility for this or that state variable of the social system that he can with profit avoid – as would be the case under robust subsidiarity – the demands duty levies upon any given actor at any level of the hierarchy would be minimized, its costs minimized, its profits optimized, its scope of action maximized, and – most importantly – its need for action minimized.

Note that fobbing off duties on subsidiaries is something that only a profit-optimizing organization would do. It has the effect of decreasing expenditures, without necessarily decreasing revenues from the subsidiary hierarchy. A state that was ordered to maximize profits would not be too interested in control of the behavior of its subsidiaries, provided that behavior was predominantly productive. It would be interested in that degree and type of control of its subsidiaries that most tended to their common prosperity and peace, and thus to increase in its own revenues on their businesses. It would, i.e., be interested in optimal policy. And this would be experienced by its subjects as just the right amount of liberty: not too many laws, nor too few, but rather just enough that they felt themselves able to optimize their own circumstances without too much trouble.

A profit seeking state would seek revenue first, rather than power. State actors always seek profits in fact, whether or not in law. State actors who cannot outwardly and explicitly and legally seek state profits for the benefit of their own personal treasuries will still seek them sub rosa, but will be forced by custom and law to do so indirectly, by means of increasing their own bureaucratic control of society, which they can then sell to the highest private bidder so as to generate revenues for themselves. They will, that is to say, be forced by custom and law to engage in corruption of that custom and that law.

6 thoughts on “Increase of Subsidiarity Tends to Increase of Liberty

  1. Pingback: Increase of Subsidiarity Tends to Increase of Liberty | @the_arv

  2. Pingback: Increase of Subsidiarity Tends to Increase of Liberty | Reaction Times

  3. Problems arise when the interests of the subsidiaries come into conflict with each other.

    For three centuries, the Elizabethan Poor Law, which devolved responsibility for the poor to the parish level generated an enormous amount of litigation (and its own series of law reports, with one stout quarto volume a year) over the “legal settlement” of paupers and so, which parish was responsible.

    This was partly redressed in the second part of the 19th century, by grouping parishes into Poor Law Unions, especially in the cities; something that also produced economies of scale and was even favoured by the Liberals of the Manchester School

    • Problems arise when the interests of the subsidiaries come into conflict with each other.

      Correct. Such conflicts indicate the presence of a governing duty that might be better administered higher in the hierarchy. When actors at the same level are trying to fob duties off on each other, rather than on subsidiaries or supersidiaries, supersidiary adjudication might be needed. Emphasis on “might.”

  4. Pingback: Liberty within Scope | Infinite Semiosis

  5. Pingback: This Week In Reaction (2017/09/17) - Social Matter


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