Acton Institute Day 3

Yesterday I wrote a rather long post about the previous days sessions that I attended.  The sessions of day 3 were just as good but one really stood out and that was the one that centered on Subsidiarity and Serving the Poor.

The session was led by Ismael Hernandez whose father was the founder of the Communist Party in Puerto Rico.  Ismael himself had been part of the Party and he joked about the size of his FBI file.  But he came to the US of A and had an awakening and eventually became part of an organization in Florida that works to break the cycle of poverty.

Mr. Hernandez spoke to us from his experience about his 20 plus years working with the poor here in America.  He had some very hard words to say and for some in the room, including yours truly, they were hard to hear.

“We need to help the poor help themselves.”  Okay not real radical but still it sort of flies in the face of what we do.  We provide meals, clothing, food stamps, etc. but do we do anything that will break the cycle of poverty?  Do we provide anything that will help them pull themselves up?  We have to allow them to do the work; we cannot do it for them.

“The poor do not need us to feel sorry for them they need us to walk side by side with them as they help themselves.”  He added to this by saying, “We need to have respect for the poor.  So much respect that we will let them fail.”  We cannot force them to do anything, we can only be there to help.  Tough love in other words.

But what about subsidiarity?  I mention this a bit in yesterday post as well and I admit I am not an expert on this concept and I need to do more reading but I will leave you with some of the information from handout from the class.

Michael Novack, in his book The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism defines subsidiarity this way;

“Human life proceeds most intelligently and creatively when decisions are made at the level closest to the concrete reality, and when next-higher levels of decision making are invoked only as a last resort.”

This sounds to me like one of the principals of Classical Liberalism or perhaps even Libertarianism.  Allow decisions to be made at the lowest level.  The Federal Government cannot solve all problems and it is not a one size fits all situation.  This needs more thought I think.

The largest problem, as I see it, is that we have moved from a sense of the group or the community if you will, to a sense of individualism.  Its all about me, it cannot be about you because it is all about me.  We saw some of this in the occupy Wall Street movement.  College Students wanted their college loans forgiven so they could start fresh.  All about me, entitlement.

The bottom line in all of this is a new way of thinking.  We have tried it a certain way for a long time and it is not working.  There are more poor people today than there has been in the past so the system is not working.

We need to continue what we are doing to help but we also need to look at alternatives and we cannot be afraid to change.  The poor need our help, a hand up if you will, but we need to let them do the hard work.

1 Comment

Comments are closed.

error: Content is protected !!