Research Handbooks in Law and Economics series
Edited by Thomas Eger and Hans-Bernd Schäfer
Emanuela Carbonara, Barbara Luppi and Francesco Parisi 1 THE SUBSIDIARITY PRINCIPLE While the concept of subsidiarity reached political prominence in the twentieth century, it is as “old as European political thought” (Carrozza, 2003, p. 38). According to MillonDelsol (1992), the concept of subsidiarity can be traced back to classical Greece. In Politics, Aristotle conceived of society as an interconnected system of associations, with each association required to perform specific tasks and provide for its own needs.1 In the middle ages, Thomas Aquinas renewed the concept of subsidiarity in Summa Theologica (1274). Aquinas and subsequent authors of the medieval scholasticism school viewed subsidiarity as being built upwards from the person and his autonomy. Subsidiarity was, therefore, the ordinating principle of the relationships between communities in society. Each community (for example, a family) should be allowed to contribute to the public good without interference from other communities or their ruling institutions and, at the same time, receive aid when it needs it. Politicians and political theorists such as Althusius, Montesquieu, Locke, Tocqueville and Abraham Lincoln have used the concept of subsidiarity in their work (Carozza, 2003). In the nineteenth century, political theorists invoked the concept of subsidiarity as a balancing criterion to bridge the opposing aspirations of those who advocated for decentralized markets and those who believed in centralized planning.2 Subsidiarity offered a viable criterion to avoid the totalitarian solutions advocated by those two extreme views of society. The Catholic Church renewed its interest in the idea of subsidiarity and started applying...