Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us

Palin, Subsidiarity, And Death Panels

04/27/2010 Comments (12)

Subsidiarity.  Learn it. Live it. Love it.

Last year during the run up to the eventual passing of the Obamacare bill, President Obama had to take to the airwaves several times to promote the bill.  One significant reason why was the dextrous dubbing of care rationing panels as ‘death panels’ by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

When Palin gave a name to the fear, the poll numbers for the bill really began to crash.  President Obama and his supporters were livid.  They ran to any network that would put them on air to decry the use of the term and to personally ridicule Palin for saying it.  They said over and over and over again, there is no such thing as a Death Panel.

So now the deed is done and guess what?  President Obama’s Director of OMB says that the unelected Medicare advisory panel can and will make binding decisions on how much care is too much.  A death panel.

Avoiding such monstrous and murderous machinery is why the Church has advocated the principle of subsidiarity as an organizing principle in the affairs of man. Simply stated, subsidiarity “is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.”

Wikipedia (yeah I know, but it is right in this case) “Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum and holds that government should undertake only those initiatives which exceed the capacity of individuals or private groups acting independently.”  Even if government does get involved, the principle still applies, the smallest, lowest, and least powerful government should be employed to get the job done.

I do not think it is plausible to argue that health care can only be achieved by a huge centrally and federal elephantacracy.  Which brings us back to death panels.  In a world where subsidiarity rules the day, the damage of such a death panel would be limited.  In the world in which this principle is routinely ignored—our world—the damage that can be wrought by such budgetary barbarity is limitless.

When Pope Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum, it was intended to alleviate “the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class” and it rightly criticized the effects of unrestricted capitalism.  Ironically, many of the same Catholics who hail Rerum Novarum as a milestone in Catholic social teaching were instrumental in electing President Obama and continue to support his agenda including his health care plan.

What they miss however is that Pope Leo also warned against unrestricted government.  I believe that death panels are the inevitable fruit of ignoring the principle of subsidiarity.  Ignoring this important principle is a two-edged sword and we are about to get cut by the other side of the blade.

Think unrestricted capitalism was cold-blooded?  We are about to meet its much nastier older brother.

Filed under

About Pat Archbold

Pat Archbold
  • Get the RSS feed
Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company. Patrick, his wife Terri, and their five children reside in Long Island, N.Y.