In `1944, Franklin Roosevelt introduced an economic bill of rights. I think that this fine document deserves a new look, and some reworking.
Of course, this is in addition to the original bill of rights, which is actually the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. I looked over the original bill of rights, and think that 9 of the 10 are okay. The one which is not okay, as we probably all know, is the second amendment, which accords the “right to bear arms” to a “well regulated militia.” In my opinion , this amendment should either be removed, or revised to clarify that gun ownership is contingent upon reasonable gun regulations, including safety training, background checks, and the banning of weapons designed to kill large numbers of people quickly.
At this point, we will concentrate on revising Franklin Roosevelt’s economic bill of rights, a set of rights which has never been codified into law, sadly, nor ever really become part of the United States’ economic approach, since it clashes with corporate profit taking. Nonetheless, I believe that we must have hope if not faith, that such reforms will ultimately be instituted.
Here is the text of FDR’s speech about his economic bill of rights:
January 11, 1944, often referred to as the “Second Bill of Rights”
Excerpted from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s message to Congress on the State of the Union. This was proposed not to amend the Constitution, but rather as a political challenge, encouraging Congress to draft legislation to achieve these aspirations. It is sometimes referred to as the “Second Bill of Rights.”
“It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people — whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth — is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.”
“This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights — among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.”
“As our nation has grown in size and stature, however — as our industrial economy expanded — these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.”
“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.
“All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.”
“America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens”
Here is a link to a website which includes this and many other historic documents, some of which I am using in this “The Heart is on the Left” series of posts (The Economic Bill of Rights (ushistory.org)).
There are a total of 8 rights mentioned in this document (the eight “bullet points.”
Here are my preliminary rewordings of these rights.
1. The right of every worker, to a socially useful and adequately paid job, whether employed by others, or self-employed.
2. The right of every citizen to have adequate income to provide a decent standard of living, including food, housing, clothing and recreation (universal basic income).
3. The right of every citizen to engage in productive and socially useful activities which promote self-sufficiency, and peaceful gift giving and exchange with family, friends and neighbors — whether by homegrown food, fishing, hunting and gathering, energy production, et cetera.
4. The right of every business person to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition or unfair advantage and domination by monopolies or large businesses at home or abroad.
5. The right of every family to a decent home, with adequate social support for a family’s physical, psychological and emotional needs.
6. The right to adequate, inexpensive medical care, as provided by or supplemented by, government services, and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.
8. The right to live in an atmosphere of safety throughout society, without fear of being victimized by violence.
9. The right to a free education which provides unfettered instruction based on current knowledge.
10. The right to enjoy equal economic and social opportunities, and freedom from discrimination, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation or sexual identity.
This is a preliminary version of a progressive bill of rights. I invite people to “brainstorm” and provide any helpful addition or revisions to this list. I reworded 7 of the 8 original items, only leaving number 7 intact, while adding 2 additional ones – numbers 9 and 10. (As you can see, I also numbered them.)
Hopefully, having a set of progressive goals and principles such as these, will be helpful toward pursuing and attaining those goals. Also, my hope in drawing attention to the economic bill of rights is to help educate people regarding them. Many of us probably have been unaware of their existence, in fact.
It is my belief that without adequate economic rights and justice, society will be unable to achieve any other sort of justice, social or otherwise. This is why we must fight for economic justice and keep these principles in our hearts.
Here’s your homework!