Solidarity, Subsidiarity, and the Consumerist Impetus of American Law
RECOVERING SELF-EVIDENT TRUTHS: CATHOLIC PERSPECTIVES ON AMERICAN LAW, Chapter 5, Catholic University of America Press, 2007
20 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2007
Catholic social teaching is, by design, ill-suited to abstract formulation. It can be understood only through exploration in the context of pressing social problems. At the same time, the value of the teaching emanates from its grounding in truths that are not cabined by the contingent nature of modern epistemological understanding. The Church offers lessons to particular participants in a particular scene of the human drama because its foundational principles speak to all participants in the human drama, everywhere and in every age. Nowhere is this attribute reflected more clearly than in discussions of the two pillars of Catholic social teaching - solidarity and subsidiarity. In simple terms, solidarity represents the "commitment to the good of one's neighbor," and subsidiarity represents the conviction that "needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them."
The relevance of the interplay between these principles becomes clear against the background provided by the expanding norms of consumer autonomy in American law. Increasingly, the state has taken upon itself the responsibility to compel providers to honor the individual consumer's decisions, regardless of how morally problematic those decisions might be from the provider's perspective. Examples of this trend abound when it comes to the provision of goods such as health care, education, and law. This chapter - part of a forthcoming volume titled Recovering Self-Evident Truths: Catholic Perspectives on American Law - introduces solidarity and subsidiarity into the conversation.
Keywords: Catholic social teaching, subsidiarity, solidarity, consumer culture, consumerism, health care, equality
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