04 February 2010

FDR's economic bill of rights speech

In the post below I linked to an excerpt from Franklin Roosevelt's 1944 State of the Union address, in which he set forth a new 'economic' bill of rights. Reading it over, I think it's important enough to quote in full:
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.
Would that the Democratic party stood for these principles today, 66 years later.

I find it a little hard not to wonder, wistfully, what the world would have been like had Franklin Roosevelt survived the end of the war, and overseen the implementation of his program for our country.


  1. Thank you for posting FDR's generous dream for the American people. Some attempts were made after the war to implement some of these. Much of it got hijacked later by land lust and corporate greed, but housing sprouted up all over and education via the GI Bill. So much of it got distorted by the military industrial congressional cathect tho that it was all but unrecognizable by the mid seventies.
    Yours truly, Nancy S

  2. Yes, and no doubt had FDR lived these fine words would have been compromised and whittled away at; but still, don't you have to stand a bit in awe of a President referring to being "prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being"?


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