The 2nd Bill of Rights

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The Second Bill of Rights was a list of rights asserted by President Franklin D. Rosevelt during his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944. He claimed that the rights established in the Constitution were inadequate to assure equality in the pursuit of happiness. He asserted an economic bill of rights:

  • Employment with a living wage
  • Food, clothing and leisure
  • Farmers' rights to a fair income
  • Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
  • Housing
  • Medical care
  • Social security
  • Education

He stated that the guarantee of these rights by the government would better guarantee the security of the U.S. and enhance our position in the world.

The founders of the United States were explicit in repudiating such rights - not naming them one by one, but by being careful to make clear that "equality" meant that every person enjoyed a fundamental set of "unalienable rights" which did not imply equality of resource of any kind, of happiness, or of outcome.

American economists and social scientists have argued both sides of the issue. John Kenneth Galbraith has been one of the most prolific supporters of such a second set of rights - primarily in three books.[1] George Gilder and Charles Murray have provided some persuasive arguments that such intentions on the part of government violate morality and have unintended consequences that completely reverse the intended goals. [2][3] The many books of Milton Friedman and the writings of Friedrich Hayek also provide arguments about the practical ineffectiveness and long term dangers of government policy that seeks to guarantee such rights.

This debate is central to issues that are important to Americans today. There are things about each side of the debate that should be understood by the American electorate. Therefore, it deserves attention in CW and will be the subject of a number of articles.

  1. Galbraith, John Kenneth. The Affluent Society. 1958, The New Industrial State. 1967, and Economics and the Public Purpose. 1973. New York. Houghton Mifflin
  2. Gilder, George. Wealth and Poverty. New York. Basic Books, Inc. 1981
  3. Murray, Charles. Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 New York. Crown Forum. 2012