Monday, August 25, 2008

Peace Nerd II

On Wings of Comity and Subsidiarity

By John Taylor; 2008 Aug 25, 06 Asma, 165 BE

In yesterday's Peace Nerd essay we talked about the principles of peace as tools for ese small coops, administered largely by farmers, teachers and doctors, would scientifically mediate the shifting needs of the economy at the grassroots level. Farmers would be empowered to ensure that food is grown as close as possible to those who eat it and would oversee every roof, yard and garden in both urban and rural settings. Doctors would see that the lifestyle of all is attuned to optimum mental and physical health. Teachers would oversee an apprenticeship program aimed at involving every local citizen in optimum, productive work, even if it is unpaid, bartered or volunteer service.

Doing as much work as locally as possible is not only ecologically and
culturally sound, it is the application of a principle of federalism
known as subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is, according to Wikipedia, "an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority." ( They cite the OED, which says that it is the idea that "a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level." Subsidiarity is not mindless delegation, it is the result of the fact that those who are closest to a problem are usually in the best position to solve it.

Subsidiarity means that the three prime physical needs -- food, clothing and shelter -- would devolve by default to the neighbourhood economy. The storage of cars and bicycles in garages would be handled by transportation specialists. Handyman activities would take place in local studios and workshops. Every bathroom would be public property; shower, bath and toilet facilities would be cleaned and renovated according to strict schedules in order to avoid wasted water and assure that sewage is disposed of and composted properly. Kitchens would be cooperative and tied into the products of local growers; incentives, overseen by dieticians, would encourage each citizen to improve their diet. Those not inclined to work in cooperative gardens and kitchens would pay for their meals to be delivered directly to the dining area of their family compound.

Since early human origins, the evening meal has been a source not only of physical nourishment but of spiritual, social, political and
intellectual nutrition as well. Centralization, competition, corporatization and other corruptive influences of our war economy subjugate the primal institution of communal breaking of bread. In this system meals would be treated with the utmost seriousness since from it comes the most essential quality of a peaceful economy: comity.

Comity comes from the Latin word for courtesy and it is defined as civility, a "state of mutual harmony, friendship and respect." Communal meals, properly run, tend to create a spirit of hospitality in local institutions. This propagates and promotes comity in other relations throughout the day. Living in a comity allows for the other Sine Qua Non of peace, polity. Polity, as delineated by Aristotle, is the complementary balancing factor to subsidiarity: it is the willingness of the part to subordinate itself to the interests of the whole. Like two legs that work together in walking, subsidiarity and comity trade off one another. Earlier this summer this blog examined a perfect example of how they go together locally. We looked in detail at Abdu'l-Baha's proposal, given in an address to socialists in Montreal, for local storehouses, where all wealth, including even mineral rights, is fed into a local, public bank, which (applying subsidiarity) assures the welfare of every local worker and enterprise. Then, according to the principle of comity, it surrenders without struggle not some but all surplus wealth to higher levels of government.

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