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Feb 5, 2013









FDRFDR’s Second Bill of Rights

January 11, 1944

Introduction

President Franklin Roosevelt used his 1944 State of the Union address to advance his “Second Bill of Rights”: a broad vision of the role of government in making lives more secure through expanded government programs. The recurring theme throughout is “security” and the necessary action called for is unrelenting war against the enemies of the New Deal, both foreign and domestic.

“Necessitous men are not free men,” FDR proclaims. Since “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence,” the original Bill of Rights must be supplemented by eight rights that “spell security.” The proposed rights include the “right to a useful and remunerative job”—not the right to work, but the right to demand a job, and a well-paying one at that. “Farmers have the right to obtain “a decent living” from their toil, and businessmen have the right to be free of “unfair competition and domination by monopolies.” There are as well rights to “adequate medical care,” education, and the “right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.”

While no Congress has formally adopted these as rights, legislation has expanded the meaning of these benefits such that we now speak of rights to health care, work, education, housing, and salary levels. In what sense are these goods rights? The original Bill of Rights supposed that self-government required certain civic traits and freedoms, so it declared these activities, such as the freedom of speech, to be protected from federal government interference. By contrast, Roosevelt’s rights require ever-expanding federal government programs for them to exist. The right to “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment” is a right to be free of an anxiety. Yet, if one is free of fear of unemployment, will one ever want work? How much does one need to earn to enjoy “adequate…recreation”? What is a right to “a good education,” a “decent home,” or “good health”? The questions never end, because the standards of what is “good,” “adequate,” or “decent” constantly rise.

Moreover, the new Bill of Rights requires a redistributionist state that demands an ever-expanding bureaucracy with increasing budgets. The wealth of some pays for others’ newly coined rights. The new conception of rights diminishes the older notion, in particular an individual’s claim on his own property and even his own conscience and intellect, as life becomes more socialized in all its spheres.

Roosevelt made it clear what might be the consequence should Congress fail to adopt his Second Bill of Rights. “[I]f history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.” Should Americans elect Presidents such as Calvin Coolidge they would have become allies of Hitler.

Roosevelt tenaciously expanded the state at home, even as he battled America’s enemies abroad. He saw these battles as two fronts in one war to achieve a more secure world.


http://www.heritage.org/initiatives/first-principles/primary-sources/fdrs-second-bill-of-rights




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Posted: Tuesday February 5, 2013, 10:11 am
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