Thursday, 14 January 2016

Subsidiarity and Participation

One of the key principles of Catholic social thought is known as the principle of subsidiarity. This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization.

In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the drive for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the State.

The Parish is an excellent example of that principle. It raises money from the rates to cover expenses, and is run as a very tight ship. Being smaller than the State, it can be more efficient than the State. The recent consultation on property taxes, which is still lurking on the Council of Ministers agenda, would take rates from the Parishes and put them in the hands of an official, centralised authority. Instead of people giving time on an honorary basis as Rates Assessors, we would have a civil service pyramid, and rates would almost certainly increase as a result of the paid bureaucracy.

Another way of stating subsidiarity is this: a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.

A model for this can be seen in the work of charitable organisations, which are helped by grants from the States. They are far more efficient than the States, and can also draw upon volunteers to help fund raise and aid them with their activities. And yet the States is considering, and has considered cutting grants. But if the charities were not there, the citizens of the State would be in a worse position, and the States might well have to pick up the tab as people became unable to cope in their lives (for a variety of reasons). What seems like cost cutting actually deprives charity of their functions.

Pope Pius XI wrote an encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno, in which he stated:

“It is indeed true, as history clearly proves, that owing to the change in social conditions, much that was formerly done by small bodies can nowadays be accomplished only by large corporations. None the less, just as it is wrong to withdraw from the individual and commit to the community at large what private enterprise and industry can accomplish, so, too, it is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order for a larger and higher organization to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower bodies.”

One doesn’t have to be a Catholic to assent to this Catholic Social Teaching. What is important is that it is providing a framework for understanding how society works best, which is not by command and control centralisation to the detriment of smaller bodies, and indeed to individuals themselves.

This is a matter also dealt with by former Senator Sarah Ferguson, writing in the JEP on the 13th January 2016.

Is anyone listening?
By Sarah Ferguson

The Governor of Texas has a plan. Actually it looks more like a reminder to Washington to get back to the Constitution. It effectively requires Washington to stop trying to control everything and let the State deal with everything that concerns the State alone, as set out in the founding documents.

This seems to reflect the feeling of the general public everywhere that those in power are ignoring them and trying to control their every move. There are regulations for this, that and every other thing, the latest being the conclusion by the UK Authorities that no one should drink alcohol. There is a rider that perhaps older ladies may partake of a genteel glass or so.

The problem with central control is that more regulations are required, more compliance personnel are required and productivity falls. At the same time the unelected officials running the regulatory bodies acquire more and more control over our lives.

Temps passé, the Connétable of the Parish would call a Parish Assembly to discuss matters of significance. If the Connétable was reluctant to do this then only 4 members of the Parish would be required to hold them to account. Sadly this was changed to 10 members of the parish last December – why? Perhaps, with a number of Connétables engrossed in the executive, they no longer consider themselves representatives of the Parish?

The Privileges and Procedures Committee are also considering whether to have a Business Committee for the States. Currently business is dealt with in date order. The proposal is for the Business Committee to ensure that important business is dealt with first. Important to whom? Will the Business Committee be under the control of the Executive and will back bench members be trampled in the rush?

At the 2nd February sitting of the States Assembly, the States will consider a proposition of the Chief Minister, P.163/2016 Jersey Bank Depositors Compensation Board: Appointment of Members. According to the report on the proposition, the interviews were conducted by senior States officers. Given that £100 Million has been earmarked in the Rainy Day Fund in case it is required for Depositors’ compensation, and given that the previous appointments were organised by the Appointments Board, this seems curious.

There have been two good consultations recently –for the Charities Law and for Les Quennevais School. This makes it all the more surprising that the so called consultations about the site of the new hospital have been such a disaster. Are the rumours about the siting a red herring to divert attention or are they the preliminaries to an all-out war?

The Strategic Plan states that “the Island’s government serves you, the residents of Jersey”. Doesn’t that include considering the public point of view? Is anyone listening?

1 comment:

roger benest said...

Excellent comment, should be on Jersey Politics page!