My wife and I recently attended an info-dinner given by a nationally known financial planning company for invited clients. Near the end of the evening, one of the attendees at our table repeatedly mentioned how improper it was for those us attending a special dinner we didn’t have to pay for when so many in the U.S. and the world were struggling to survive. To comfort him, several of us agreed with his assertion that the world contained enough wealth to sustain the entire population, but that the problem was how to make it equitable.
He continued to wring his hands verbally about how those of us at the table, living in excess, were part the problem. I commented that it would be a great help if our federal government would stop pushing religious groups out the adoption business, hospitals and schools because they did not subscribe to the new political correctness being enforced. These organizations not only have done good work for centuries, but do it more economically than big government can.
His continued restrained jabs at our supposed lack of concern for the less fortunate changed our responses. A couple of us described how we and relatives were assisting disadvantaged people through contacts in our country and the world in charitable projects to alleviate poverty. These efforts included not just significant financial assistance, considering our modest means, but actual labor to help those in need.
Unfortunately, he was not mollified by any of this. Finally, to my surprise, my otherwise silent wife asked him what he was doing to help others since he seemed so passionate about this subject. After some typical liberal avoidance of the issue, he said he was promoting awareness. But what was he actually doing to be part of the solution? In the absence of anything specific, it was clear that he was for big government to solve these inequities. This idea was cemented with his question after I reminded him that the success of getting the colonies to agree to a federal constitution was contingent on the assurance that states’ rights would still exist. He then asked me how much our nation’s population had increased since then. I correctly stated that it went from three million to 320 million. His implication was that greater size required great government intervention.
Subsidiarity, not Big Brother
The Left loves concentration of power at the top ostensibly because those of us at the lower levels are incapable. History proves the error of this strategy because:
“… Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity [emphasis retained], according to which ‘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 co-ordinate its activity within the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good’… The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention… In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, neither the state nor any larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and intermediary bodies… The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life.” 1,2
How Does This Relate to the New Federal Budget?
President Trump’s federal budget proposal is expected to be released this coming Tuesday (May 23). Included in it will be some budget cuts as the federal deficit begins to be addressed. The safest bet is that there will be considerable howling, especially from Democrats, as a result of some decreases in funding of some social programs.
Subsidiarity teaches that this is not a crisis or necessarily inappropriate. Much has been and should be done at the state and local level – and this includes us average citizens, not just “the government.”
Going back to the discussion at the financial planning dinner, what states’ residents are doing the most to make the world a better place through their own initiative? According to recent data, these states were the most charitable based on income tax filing deductions (as a percentage of income) and would not reflect aid to family members and friends in need:
- Utah 6.6%
- Mississippi 5.0%
- Alabama 4.8%
- Tennessee 4,5%
- Georgia 4.2%
- South Carolina 4.1%
- Idaho 4.0%
- Oklahoma 3.9%
- Arkansas 3.9%
- North Carolina 3.6%
Liberal states aren’t present in this list. Adding to the Left’s reputation for wanting the federal government take all of the responsibility, New Hampshire was the lowest and Maine and Vermont were among the lowest.3 While some may believe that this is because conservatives are simply wealthier or more religious (at least true on the second part), the point is that for the 2012 election, “The top 17 states for rate of giving all went for Romney.” 4
The take away from this: Liberals, with their willingness to spend others’ money instead of their own, may not complain about budget cuts until they match the generosity of their supposedly less informed non-liberal acquaintances.
1 – Taken from paragraphs 1883, 1885, 1894 and 2209 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 25th printing, November, 2013.
2 – A word about “the common good.” It is not about majority rule or what helps the most people, but “By common good is to be understood ‘the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.’ The common good concerns the life of all… The common good consists of three essential elements: respect for and promotion of the fundamental rights of the person; prosperity, or the development of the spiritual and temporal goods of society; the peace and security of the group and of its members.” Ibid, from paragraphs 1906 and 1925.
3 – “Report: Which states give the most to charity? The ones with church-goers,” by Lindsey Bever, The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/06/report-which-states-give-the-most-to-charity-the-ones-with-church-goers/?utm_term=.d192b18507a9, 10/6/2014.
4 – “Who’s More Generous, Liberals or Conservatives,” by John Grgurich, The Fiscal Times, http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2014/10/17/Who-s-More-Generous-Liberals-or-Conservatives, 10/17/2014.