Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise
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Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni

The recent era of economic turbulence has generated a growing enthusiasm for an increase in new and original economic insights based around the concepts of reciprocity and social enterprise. This stimulating and thought-provoking Handbook not only encourages and supports this growth, but also emphasises and expands upon new topics and issues within the economics discourse.
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Chapter 36: Subsidiarity and new welfare

Pier Luigi Porta


The notion of subsidiarity involves different aspects and several levels of analysis. A historical reconstruction probably affords the best route to understanding its meaning and the way it has come to be used today, mainly in support and defence of the institutional set up of the European Union. It is well known that the principle of subsidiarity is a natural companion of all forms of federalism. In the American case the 10th amendment of the Constitution states that the ‘powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people’ following the earlier provision of the Articles of Confederation that ‘each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled’. The European Union is not of course a federal state in its present shape, which makes it perhaps curious that so much talk about subsidiarity today should be provoked by the European experience, rather than by the proper forms of federalism. This may be interpreted as a sign of a possible road to federalism. However, in most cases, the idea has been put to contrary use precisely in the European case, i.e. of denying or dismissing any federal project or intention.

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