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Posts Tagged ‘chaos’

There’s another article in the New York Times today here on the failure of the process that attempted to right the wrongs of the housing/mortgage debacle. In fact, there have been a number of articles in the last couple of weeks about people who have had their lives turned upside down again and again by our badly flawed banking system. Now this article indicates that the review process itself is so badly flawed that regulators have resorted to a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s another case of “too big”!

Banks were “too big” to fail. Now the problem of the “too big” banks is “too big” to solve by addressing it on a case-by-case basis and thereby dealing with real wrongs done to real people. I’m growing more and more convinced that the Catholics have it right when they advocate for “subsidiarity.” Subsidiarity is one of the key principles of Catholic social thought which contends that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In the papal encyclical Centesimus Annus Pope John Paul II put it this way:

… it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbors to those in need. (Centesimus Annus 48)

How can bank regulators sitting in Washington or in New York really know whether an individual was abused by the system, or whether the individual abused the system – and what is the appropriate measure to rectify the wrong? I do not have any “big” solutions to offer to the quagmire in which we now find ourselves. But I do know that I am more and more drawn to the “local” – I shop as often as I can at small farmers markets where the goods were grown and harvested or produced by my neighbors. I love being in a neighborhood where I can name my neighbors and where I know about them – their gifts and their foibles. When my mother fell on Christmas Eve two years ago, we had three different neighbors in the house within minutes of the arrival of the EMTs. Yes, some of it may have been sheer nosiness – but there was genuine care and concern exhibited as well. And while she was in hospital and in home hospice, our refrigerator was always stocked with meals provided by those neighbors.

In responding to the lawyer’s question,”Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told a story of a “good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37). I find it interesting that those who passed by the injured man lying at the side of the road were more concerned about the social norms (as priest and levite they would both have been fearful of being made unclean by contact with the victim) of the institutions of their day than they were about the real needs of a real human being.

Dr. Kenneth Bailey writes:

The lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” is the wrong query. He is challenged to ask, “To whom must I become a neighbor?” The parable replies, “Your neighbor is anyone in need, regardless of language, religion or ethnicity.” … the ethical demands of this vision are limitless.

Nearly two hundred years ago, Alexis de Toqueville predicted that modern democratic government would degenerate into a huge, paternalistic state which would guide the individual in all of his affairs and insure that all of his needs were met. “For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances; what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?”

In the presence of the huge paternalistic state we become the priests and the levites, and don’t even see the need to ask, “To whom must I become a neighbor?”

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