3.4.6 The Subsidiarity of Economic Dependence

There is a subsidiarity of economic dependence, with a range of organisations supporting people who are unable to provide for themselves.

People need food and shelter as basic requirements for survival.  They are also deemed to have other ‘socio-economic rights’: including education, healthcare, pensions, sick pay, social care, and unemployment benefit.  If they are not able to provide these basic requirements sufficiently for themselves, through their own creation of wealth, they may be economically dependent upon others.  These rights are established for moral reasons, as described in the next chapter (4.2.4), and they have been negotiated as entitlements even though they are politically contentious (6.7.1).

The subsidiarity of economic dependence ranges from the family to international organisations:

●  Family members who are not in paid work may be dependent upon others within the family who are earning.

●  All governments provide funding for some socio-economic rights, as described earlier (3.2.3).

●  People who claim transfers directly from government-provided funds are subject to rules and conditions. UK means testing for Universal Credit, and the U.S. Social Security Entitlement Requirements, are examples.

●  Local government in poorer areas may be dependent upon central government to provide funds for services that are regarded as standard entitlements within that country.

●  Poorer countries may be dependent upon aid from other countries, as described later in this chapter (3.5.8).

●  Shortfalls in government support at any level of subsidiarity may be remedied by charities or other non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Those who provide for the needs of others are exerting almost unlimited economic power over them.  What might be a simple economic transfer, to meet a widely-agreed obligation, can be used to humiliate people or as leverage to exert political pressure in the case of foreign aid – as discussed later (


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/346a.htm