1944 January 11

FDR Calls for a Second Bill of Rights

 

In his 1944 State of the Union address on this day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for a Second Bill of Rights, guaranteeing a broad range of social and economic rights. FDR did not push the issue, however, and the idea quickly vanished. In 2004, law professor Cass Sunstein published a book (see below) arguing that the failure to pursue FDR’s call for a second Bill of Rights was a great missed opportunity in American social and economic history.

The President: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; The right of every family to a decent home; The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; The right to a good education.”

Read FDR’s complete speech: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=16518

Read: Cass Sunstein, The Second Bill of Rights: FDR’s Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need it More Than Ever (2004)

Listen to FDR Reading the Speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iHKtrirjlY\

Learn more about FDR and civil liberties, including his Second Bill of Rights speech: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

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