Pre-Election Rant-A-Day 7: Most Politics Should Be Local

Blogger’s Note: One more rant after this one, If I can get it together. Feel free to look at the past six, as well, and comment if you like. Or not.

“Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which ‘a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.'”

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 1883

It’s worth looking at the larger context of the quote above before Election Day — it’s food for thought whether you’re Catholic or not. Of particular interest is paragraph 1881 — “Each community is defined by its purpose and consequently obeys specific rules; but ‘the human person . . . is and ought to be the principle, the subject and the end of all social institutions.'” — and paragraph 1885: “The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order.”

Subsidiarity, according to Dictionary.com, means two things, both of which I am personally partial to:

  1. (in the Roman Catholic Church) a principle of social doctrine that all social bodies exist for the sake of the individual so that what individuals are able to do, society should not take over, and what small societies can do, larger societies should not take over
  2. (in political systems) the principle of devolving decisions to the lowest practical level

What we’re talking about, essentially, is local control. Who better than ourselves and our neighbors to solve the problems in our back yards? Who better to rally around the new mother, the unemployed father, the sick child, than friends and family, church and community? Why on earth should we send so much of our resources half a nation eastward to be reallocated when we have plenty to do here at home, and plenty of smart folks with similar goals to do it?

We waste so much time, energy, and money on the national campaigns and the race for governor, and too often can’t name our local reps, school board and city council members, or mayor. We want them to have our backs, but we vote for the state and national policymakers who pass the laws that tie their hands. Those in power take money out of local communities; local communities can either raise property taxes, cut services, or both; and we complain no matter what. Is it any wonder that our local officials who go on to state or national office mold themselves into professional politicians? It’s because that’s what we reward! We expect their service and support for local priorities, and are outraged when they fail or fall…but where are we the rest of the time? How many of us will go to the polls on Tuesday, look at the local races and vote for the two or three people we might know (or whose names we might recognize) and vote “incumbent” or party lines for the rest?

I’m as guilty as most: My big step forward in the last year or so was to cancel our once-a-week subscription to the Sunday edition of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and reinvest a portion of that money into our local weekly, the North Crow River News. I’m slowly beginning to know who’s who and to get involved in community service at home, instead of at work in the Twin Cities. But I still wouldn’t know our mayor by sight and couldn’t name a single city councilperson.

Former Speaker of House Tip O’Neil is credited with the adage, All politics is local. In truth, politics should be local — but these days, most of politics looks coastal and feels feudal. We need to take personal interest in our local elections and vote to keep as much control as we can here at home. We should take care of our own.

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