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Subsidiarity, Foreign and Domestic

Date: February 2, 2013

We Americans like to think of our political arrangements as permanent and unchangeable. The Constitution displayed in temple-like fashion in the National Archives is the very document adopted in 1789 that gave rise to our Republic. But permanence is not a principle of justice.

France is on its fifth republic since that year. Germany in the last century shot from Kaiser, to Weimar Republic, to National Socialism, to democracy and reunification. Orthodox Russia lurched from tsar to atheistic communism to oligarchy (with democratic ornamentation along the way). Both external conquest and internal dissent drive such changes, which are the norm in history.

The U. S. Constitution has been amended and reinterpreted, sometimes dramatically, as we were reminded again on the anniversary of Roe v Wade. The results have been significant over the years – as in the growth of the power and resources of the central government – but gradual.

But that gradualism has come to endanger the fundamental principle of subsidiarity.

There’s a lesson in another country with a record of relative stability in recent centuries: the United Kingdom. Britain has often stood apart from political jostlings and cultural flings across the English Channel.

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