The Second Bill of Rights was proposed by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 11, 1944. In his address, Roosevelt suggested that the nation had come to recognise and should now implement, a second "bill of rights". Roosevelt argued that the "political rights" guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights had "proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness". His remedy was to declare an "economic bill of rights" to guarantee these specific rights:
- Employment (right to work[notes 1]), food, clothing and leisure with enough income to support them
- Farmers' rights to a fair income
- Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
- Medical care
- Social security
These rights have come to be known as economic rights. Roosevelt stated that having such rights would guarantee American security and that the United States' place in the world depended upon how far the rights had been carried into practice. This safety has been described as a state of physical welfare, as well as "economic security, social security, and moral security" by American legal scholar Cass Sunstein. The implementation of these ideals into a global context has been viewed as a continuation of the war effort, in which the success of these proposed values within the U.S were vital to securing global peace.
In the runup to the Second World War, the United States had suffered through the Great Depression following the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Roosevelt's election at the end of 1932 was based on a commitment to reform the economy and society through a "New Deal" program. The first indication of a commitment to government guarantees of social and economic rights came in an address to the Commonwealth Club on September 23, 1932 during his campaign. The speech was written with Adolf A. Berle, a professor of corporate law at Columbia University. A key passage read:
As I see it, the task of government in its relation to business is to assist the development of an economic declaration of rights, an economic constitutional order. This is the common task of statesman and business man. It is the minimum requirement of a more permanently safe order of things.
Throughout Roosevelt's presidency, he returned to the same theme continually over the course of the New Deal. Also in the Atlantic Charter, an international commitment was made as the Allies thought about how to "win the peace" following victory in the Second World War. The U.S' commitment to non-interventionism in World War II ending with the 1941 Lend-Lease act, and later Pearl Harbour attacks resulted in the mobilisation of the war state. The generous terms of the act, in conjunction with the economic growth of the U.S were key in allowing the U.S to establish new global order with the help of Allied powers in the aftermath of war. This motivation to establish a new global order provided the infrastructure for the implementation of an international standard of human rights, seen with the Second Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Akira Iriye's proposition that the U.S desired to transform the post war Pacific after their own image is representative of the wider desire to raise global standards to that of the US, feeding into ideals of American Exceptionalism. The effect of wider democratisation and social reform is divulged upon in Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man.
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 all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
The propositions made by Roosevelt have gone largely unfulfilled. An article featured in the Democratic Left academic journal titled "Corporations Are Destroying Our Economy, Our Environment, and Our Children's Future" provides insight onto how the significance of the bill is largely selective, and has been reduced through "unbridled capitalism". The commodification of education, health care and other areas fundamental to the realisation of Roosevelt's goals is described as being responsible for maintaining vast inequality pervasive within the U.S. This commodification could be representative of the prevalence of libertarianism as an ideology within the U.S. Prominent figures such as Friederich Hayek and Milton Friedman have become renowned for their aversion to increased government spending on social reform.
Today I sent my Annual Message to the Congress, as required by the Constitution. It has been my custom to deliver these Annual Messages in person, and they have been broadcast to the Nation. I intended to follow this same custom this year. But like a great many other people, I have had the "flu", and although I am practically recovered, my doctor simply would not let me leave the White House to go up to the Capitol. Only a few of the newspapers of the United States can print the Message in full, and I am anxious that the American people be given an opportunity to hear what I have recommended to the Congress for this very fateful year in our history — and the reasons for those recommendations. Here is what I said ...
He asked that newsreel cameras film the last portion of the address, concerning the Second Bill of Rights. This footage was believed lost until it was uncovered in 2008 in South Carolina by Michael Moore while researching the film Capitalism: A Love Story. The footage shows Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights address in its entirety as well as a shot of the eight rights printed on a sheet of paper.
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- Bill of Rights
- Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353 (1963)
- Economic democracy
- Four Freedoms, enunciated in Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union Address
- Full employment
- Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970)
- Progressive Utilization Theory
- Public education
- Public Service law of the United States
- Social Security
- Universal health care
- Vernon v Bethell
- This "right to work" is not to be confused with the "right-to-work laws" to which this term usually alludes inside the United States.
- "A Second Bill of Rights". Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
- Sunstein, Cass (June 2004). "We Need to Reclaim the Second Bill of Rights". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 50: B9–B10. ProQuest 214695439.
- Iriye, Akira (1982). Power and Culture: The Japanese-American War , 1941-1945. Harvard University Press. pp. 261–262. ISBN 9780674695801.
- Fukuyama, Francis (1992). The End of History and the Last Man. Penguin. ISBN 9780140134551.
- "State of the Union Message to Congress". Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
- This phrase is found in the old English property law case, Vernon v Bethell (1762) 28 ER 838, according to Lord Henley LC
- "Corporations Are Destroying Our Economy, Our Environment and Our Children's Future". Democratic Left. 38: 2. 2010. ProQuest 755107621.
- David, Kennedy (September 2004). "Unfinished Business". New York Times Book Review. 7: 1. ProQuest 217300398.
- Roosevelt, Franklin D. "Fireside Chat 28: On the State of the Union (January 11, 1944)". Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. Archived from the original on January 14, 2016. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
- "The Best Scenes From Michael Moore's New Movie". The Daily Beast. Sep 22, 2009. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
- Capitalism: A Love Story on IMDb (starting approximately at time code 1:55:00)
- Moore, Michael; et al. (2010). Capitalism: A Love Story (DVD). Traverse City, MI: Front Street Productions, LLC. OCLC 443524847. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
- AA Berle, 'Property, Production and Revolution' (1965) 65 Columbia Law Review 1
- CR Sunstein, The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution--And Why We Need It More Than Ever (2004)
-  FDR Second Bill of Rights Speech Footage - YouTube
- Audio recording of the speech on Youtube
- FDR's Unfinished "Second Bill of Rights" – and Why We Need it Now
1943 State of the Union Address
| Second Bill of Rights
1945 State of the Union Address