Subsidiarity

Subsidiarity

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July 22, 2012
 

While the 1648 reorganization of international relations under the concept of Westphalian sovereignty held out promise as an alternative to feudalism in Europe, the modern state model agreed to there is no longer functional. If our goal is peace and prosperity, then the international institutions that evolved from that model have to change. A new model must take into account the Indigenous nations subsumed by states, as well as the sovereignty mauled by markets under globalization.

Realities that go beyond the statist framework is the topic of Navnita Chadha Behera’s article Alternative to the Westphalian rashtra. Examining the intellectual tools required to fashion an understanding of international relations suitable to post-colonial, post-independence Southasia, Behera condemns the ‘epistemic violence’ of Eurocentric political realism. It is this positivist enterprise, says Behera, that scientifically delegitimises Southasia’s traditional pasts, traditional pasts that could and should serve as a source of knowledge creation. As a modern invention and historical product that excludes indigenous understandings in contrast to positivist enterprise, the artificial Westphalian state model is in opposition to genuine nations and their ways of knowing.

Exploring the subject of international governance through the lens of the International Criminal Court — an institution opposed by the United States — David M. Green notes that the ICC is living testimony to the fact that the world is moving slowly away from the anarchy of the classic Westphalian System. Although there is a real legitimacy to the idea of not universalizing all, or even most, policy issues, but only those which absolutely must be located at a global level, the doctrine of subsidiarity — a key notion in the practice of federalism, that stipulates policy decisions should always be made at the lowest level pragmatically possible — as an institutional framework for international politics, says Green, is a good idea. The problem with the current system is that the structure doesn’t work.

The accumulative aspects of the TIMN model contribute to our understanding of the current governance trend toward subsidiarity. Autonomy of first nations (i.e. Scots, Basques, Sami) and self-determination of tribal minorities — alongside state structures — allows for simultaneous development of more cohesive and effective loci of decision making, and by reference, more democratic participation.

One of the best kept secrets of social evolution — due to their invisibility in mainstream media — is this resumption of governance by first nations, for the most part absent the formation of independent states. Having since 1948 (under the concept of human rights) gained greater control over their education, development and resource protection, these roughly two billion people on all continents recently challenged the UN and its member states to honor international law by allowing their delegates a seat at the table on climate change negotiations. Indigenous peoples may have been crushed, but they have demonstrated remarkable resilience, and promise to make the Indigenous Peoples’ Movement a force to be reckoned with.

Illustrating the principle of subsidiarity, Sinn Fein and the DUP in 2008 reached a deal on the devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster to Belfast. The creation of a Department of Justice — in, by and for the people of Northern Ireland — is a key element of continued stability and cooperation between the indigenous Irish and British settlers. The Irish and British governments both support the deal.

Our two greatest obstacles, progressivism and fraud, are related. Abandon the worldview of scientific optimism, and it’s easier to address the institutionalization of fraud. While prosecuting fraud is a vital and noble endeavor, it can’t keep up as long as power is concentrated and public wealth is centrally controlled. Disbursing governance to lower, more appropriate levels whenever possible is one objective toward the goal of democratization of capital and decision making. One can already observe this trend toward subsidiarity in some parts of Europe and some US states, not to mention the Indigenous Peoples’ Movement of self-determination manifested recently at the UN.

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