An Objection to Subsidiarity
By John Taylor; 2010 Aug 05, Kamal 04, 167 BE
Like so much in this world, the twin financial principles of subsidiarity and fiscal transparency ultimately derive from spiritual principles. Subsidiarity, which is leaving spending decisions to those on the spot who know best what is required, is a consequence of the parallelism between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Socrates, for example, held that the state is nothing more than the virtues of individuals write large. The same idea was also expressed in Christianity, among other religions,
"He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. He who is unrighteous in a very little is also unrighteous in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? If you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" (Luke 16:10-12, WEB)
The balancing principle of fiscal transparency, openness and clarity between the taxpayer and those who disperse taxes comes out of the religious teaching not to "hide your lamp under a basket" but to place it in the center where all can benefit from a single source of enlightenment.
Being aware of this universal foundation, we can answer an objection that some -- ye of little faith -- might raise to these fiscal principles. They might point out that subsidiarity, which gives local governments full latitude to spend tax revenue as they please, might reward irresponsibility. If we permit junior governments to collect all income taxes and only after their needs are covered to pass the remainder on, what is to prevent them from withholding payment permanently? What is to stop localities from spending all their money on junkets and other frivolities, leaving nothing at all for higher levels of government?
Of course, the balancing principle of transparency would tend to counteract this temptation. Having "glass pockets" assures that everybody, starting with local taxpayers, knows exactly how their money is being spent as it is spent. And, as studies have shown, humans are naturally more averse to loss than we even hope for future gain.
Furthermore, it is also known that most people respond more to reward than to punishment. A Comenian comity, then, concentrates everybody's attention upon positive advances by means of a live badge known as an escutcheon. Indicators of a person or groups' level of responsibility are symbolically displayed there, and transparency dictates that the escutcheon be shown prominently, on doors, gates and web sites, according to the principle:
"Give her of the fruit of her hands; Let her works praise her in the gates." (Proverbs, 31:31, WEB)
Although in most cases the escutcheon acts as a positive motivator by comparing progress to others in the same situation, in a case like this, where malfeasance is intentional, the black mark would show up very clearly.
Year 5: Equality of race, ethnicity and the Sexes
Year 6: Expulsion of Imitations and Prejudice
Year 7: Ethics and Universal Peace
In a town as reactionary and stubborn as Stiffneck, it is a fair bet that part of the problem can be traced to neglect of at least one of these three principles of peace. Perhaps the leadership is truculent because it has too few women among them, or perhaps they all come from a single background with a stereotypical viewpoint of others. There may be tension between the majority and minorities, or among many small groups. Where there is no peace, everybody tends to be chained by borrowed thoughts born in past conditions that no longer apply. There may even be open violence, or at least a lack of ethical vitality. Each of these ills requires a special cure of its own.
During these three years, the Dicastery of the senior government will choose projects that evidence and experience suggest will improve Stiffneck's particular mix of problems. Since only those leaders who distinguish themselves in effective peace projects during this triad are likely to be re-elected, it is very much in the interest of the present members of the Dicastery to adopt only the most effective strategies.
And again, three years of media attention, reform, experimentation and group activism will create a great amount of turnover both among the town's leadership and the citizens and voters at large. Often conflict is purely contextual and is best resolved simply by changing the milieu in which one frequents. While out-and-out exile is heavy handed and reserved for criminals, there is nothing stopping the senior government from offering incentives to the most problematic individuals in Stiffneck to emigrate. Jobs and resettlement grants can be offered to both residents and managers there who agree to move elsewhere.
When all worldly measures have failed, the last three years concentrate on the most long-term consideration of all, our fate after death. The interfaith parliament called the Consistory of Holiness sets the agenda for its service elections over the last three years of the decade based on the following themes,
Year of Love, Compassion, Hope, Freedom
Year of Reciprocity, Charity and Economic Equity
Year of Religious Cooperation
The Consistory invites the cream of the area's faith leaders and believers to visit and help out the spiritual condition of the people of Stiffneck. Any corrupt religion in Stiffneck is cured by an educational campaign on how to use the sacred constitutional right of the world citizen to convert. Having this choice ensures that no faith group becomes complacent, tries to compete unfairly or hypocritically applies exceptionalism to the principle "by their fruits ye shall know them."
A flood of the consistory's currency, the Ecuterra, is liberally spent in Stiffneck during this period on improving the spiritual condition of local faith groups, renovating and beautifying their buildings, gardens and places of worship, and sponsoring meetings to bring people of all faith backgrounds together in love feasts.
During year one of the triad, truth and reconciliation meetings are held to promote forgiveness and remove the scars and bitterness of past rivalries. Seminars on hope and faith inspire the people and raise their hopes with a realization of their high station as creations of God. All citizens, whatever their faith, belief or lack thereof, are encouraged to live a lifestyle balanced by faith, one oriented by piety, reverence and other virtues. Each in his or her own way is expected to support the religion or faith-based activity that they deem worthy.
Year two concentrates on the Golden Rule, on treating others with courtesy, the rules and obligations of hospitality. Discussion and practice sessions are held showing how to apply such universal teachings to local customs and interpersonal relations. The time period also explores the virtue of charity, how sincerity in sacrificing for one another turns mere equalization payments into profound strengthening of social bonds.
The third year of the consistory's triad and the last year of the decade features a triumphal demonstration of interfaith cooperation showing the diversity of human belief, not only in Stiffneck or the region but also in the whole wide world. This parade gives believers in Stiffneck a sense of where they stand in relation to the entire planet, and of their duties to God and the humanity He created.
Faith gives humans our two most distinctive inventions, language and money. Language is based on the faith that a certain sound has one meaning and not another, and that others will understand that apparently arbitrary choice just as we do. Money is a similar collective acceptance that a certain standard, and none other, can be a valid criterion of value for trade and interchange. If nobody believed in language or currency, we could neither communicate nor trade; and it is knowledge and the division of labour that raise us above mere scrabbling for survival.
In the same way, our twin principles of subsidiarity and transparency require a leap of faith, a belief that if we all trust the integrity of face-to-face relationships that our own integrity is a universal attribute of humanity, and that this alone can uphold the center.