The principle of subsidiarity and COVID-19: how a moral assessment of public policy success can contribute to learning

Informa UK Limited
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Political Science, 2021, 56, (4), pp. 393-409
Issue Date:
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Much has been written about the public policy success of measures taken in response to COVID-19 from health, political and economic perspectives. However, considerably less effort has been put into evaluating the coronavirus public policy responses according to moral frameworks. This seems somewhat surprising given that coronavirus responses were principally motivated by moral considerations–especially concern for the vulnerable. The main contribution of this study is to show how the inclusion of a specifically moral lens can contribute to new learning and policy refinement. To do so, I employ the natural law principle of subsidiarity which is chiefly concerned about what is required to balance human dignity against the common good–precisely the values most in tension during the pandemic. I conclude with some observations on the importance of adopting a moral lens as part of a broad multidisciplinary approach to assessing public policy.
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