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On the Political Economy of the Subsidiarity Principle


  • Watrin Christian

    (University of Cologne)


Besides personalism, and solidarity, the principle of subsidiarity is the third layer of Christian Social Philosophy. It requires that in a good society political competences should be allocated at the lowest possible level if possible. What the single citizens can achieve should not be taken away from them by higher ranking political authorities (as for instance townships, provinces or the central state). The same rule has to be applied inside a political community among the various levels of the government. In other words, the principle favors Federalism as the organizing structure of the social order.The most important political document in which the principle of subsidiarity plays an important role is the EU-Treaty of Maastricht. Here, however, the principle is misunderstood as a pure procedural process to settle conflicts between the European Commission and the Member States in areas of shared competences. Instead it should be a means to revise the whole existing legal structure of the European Union.Subsidiarity is a constitutional norm. Here, every person in a free society must be respected by the political authorities. This implies that in a civil society political power must be limited, decentralised, and controlled by the citizens.À côté du personalisme et de la solidarité, le principe de subsidiarité est le troisième volet de la philosophie sociale chrétienne. Il requiert que dans une bonne société les compétences politiques soient allouées au niveau le plus inférieur possible. Ce que les simples citoyens peuvent accomplir ne doit pas être réalisé par les autorités politiques dun rang supérieur (par exemple les mairies, les provinces, lEtat central). La même règle doit être appliquée à lintérieur dune communauté politique aux différents niveaux du gouvernement. En dautres termes, le principe favorise le fédéralisme en tant que structure dorganisation de lordre social.Le document politique le plus important dans lequel le principe de subsidiarité joue un rôle important est le traité Européen de Maastricht. Dans ce cas précis, cependant, le principe est mal compris, car réduit à un simple processus purement procédural pour régler les conflits entre la Commission Européenne et les Etats Membres dans le domaine des compétences partagées. Au contraire il devrait être un moyen de réviser lensemble de la structure juridique de lUnion Européenne.La subsidiarité est une norme constitutionnelle. Ici, chaque personne dans une société libre doit être respectée par les autorités politiques. Cela implique que dans une société civile le pouvoir politique doit être limité, décentralisé, et contrôlé par les citoyens.

Suggested Citation

  • Watrin Christian, 2003. "On the Political Economy of the Subsidiarity Principle," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 13(2), pages 1-17, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jeehcn:v:13:y:2003:i:2:n:8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Giovanni Grevi, 2002. "Subsidiarity and the debate on the future of Europe," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 3(4), pages 12-18, October.
    2. Valery Lazarev & Paul R. Gregory, 2002. "The wheels of a command economy: allocating Soviet vehicles[Research f]," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 55(2), pages 324-348, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Karsten Mause, 2010. "Considering Market-Based Instruments for Consumer Protection in Higher Education," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 29-53, March.

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