Subsidiarity principle as starting point for a political economy offers more respect for people and environment

In times of globalization, digitalization and climate change, the subsidiarity principle can be functional for good governance in a complex political economy. It could result in more dignity of individuals and protection of vulnerable people in smaller circles, argues herman Kaiser. He will receive his doctorate on May 3, 2023 at Tilburg University. Kaiser’s dissertation makes the connection between Augustine’s classical thinking and thinking about social coherence in modern political economy.

Last month, the Dutch Raad van State (Council of State) advised the government to sometimes choose not to do something and to let society solve more problems by itself. PhD candidate Herman Kaiser examined precisely that work of societal groups from a theological and economic perspective, possibly with government support: the principle of subsidiarity.

The principle of subsidiarity is part of Catholic social thought, in which responsibilities should in principle be left at the level of small-scale social connections. The government exercises public authority and acts when necessary for the common good. Kaiser raises questions about under what conditions institutions may then influence the natural social freedoms and responsibilities of individuals and social connections.

Subsidiarity is essential to the ordering of the political economy in which the dignity and subsistence of human beings and the common good are paramount. It can serve as a unifying element between scientific theories and social philosophies that seek to contribute to the humanity of political economy. Kaiser draws on the ideas of Augustine, broad welfare theory and the social encyclicals of the Catholic Church, among others. In particular, he examines the topicality of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti.


In an ideal situation, the subjectivity of the person and of the community correspond to each other. But when these differ too much, alienation occurs. People lose the natural connection with each other. Society and political economy must then be organized so that social relations can remain intact in the provision of public goods or in the realization of economies of scale that promote social welfare.

PhD Defense

Herman Kaiser will receive his doctorate on May 3, 2023 at 2 p.m. in the university’s auditorium. His dissertation is entitled: In ordinata concordia: The principle of subsidiarity and ordered unity in political economy. Supervisors: Prof. P.J.J. van Geest, Prof. S.C.W. Eijffinger.