Second Bill of Rights

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The Second Bill of Rights, alternately known as the Economic Bill of Rights, was a proposed legislative effort by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to establish an expected responsibility of the federal government to ensure eight rights were met (though the form those rights were taking did not involve Constitutional amendments). With the US jolted out of the Great Depression by World War II, Roosevelt outlined these in his second-last State of the Union address on January 11, 1944, but never proposed any legislation meant to address them due to an untimely death.

Obviously, it went nowhere since no Congressman decided to pick-up the torch.

The rights in question[edit]

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:

  1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
  2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  4. 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;
  5. The right of every family to a decent home;
  6. The right to adequate medical care 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 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. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.[1]

Legacy[edit]

Although the Second Bill of Rights is widely forgotten in American history, it still holds influence on an international scale. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt managed to sneak a couple of them in when drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.[2] Can it make a comeback?[3]

In one of his better moments, Michael Moore managed to find the only footage of the address while filming Capitalism: A Love Story in 2008.[4] FDR was suffering from the flu at the time and delivered the SOTU via radio at the White House instead.

It also raises the question: what would the US look like now if the bill came to fruition in the 1940s?

See also[edit]

References[edit]