Presenter Information

Scott P. Kelley Ph.D.


Scott Kelley raises the question of what a Catholic, Vincentian perspective brings to poverty studies that is unique. He answers it by exploring the debate between the developmental economists Jeffrey Sachs and William Easterly, examining the principle of subsidiarity in Catholic social teaching, and describing Frederic Ozanam’s approach to poverty alleviation. Contemporary solutions for poverty reduction are also discussed. The Sachs-Easterly debate is about whether wealthy nations should end world poverty through aid efforts to foreign governments (as Sachs contends), or whether better results come from working toward smaller goals with poor persons themselves (which is Easterly’s perspective). Easterly points out that, among other problems, foreign aid is often inefficiently managed or even pocketed by corrupt governments. Since it is not administered with input from poor persons relative to their needs, it perpetuates colonialism. Catholic social teaching advocates three principles that make up the greater idea of subsidiarity: non-arrogation, empowerment, and collaborative pluralism. These terms are all defined in detail. Taken together, they affirm the state’s obligation to help the poor but also the need for “sub-political groups” that are “intermediate between person and state” to act in partnership with poor persons. Subsidiarity is rooted in Ozanam’s work.