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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
It’s rather shocking to think just how much we’ve devolved socially in the 67 years since FDR first proposed his 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.
Americas 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.
But those were very different times. Out of the widespread desperation of the Depression there grew a sense of solidarity which simply doesn’t exist today. Realizing that they’d been sold out by corporate and banking interests, the masses began to the notion of a common good was firmly cemented in the minds of the masses, and for perhaps the only time in our history the government existed as a tool to enable the prosperity and well-being of its citizens.
We are facing similarly dreary times today, but that sense of solidarity is virtually non-existent. The economic boom of the post-war era and subsequent rise of the middle class served to destroy the notion of a common good so painfully acquired during the Depression, and entire generations were indoctrinated with the idea that capitalism and social Darwinisms were sacred principles, never to be violated.
It didn’t matter when things started to go sour for the working and middle classes, beginning in the 70s and continuing until now – noting, of course, the brief respite provided by the Dot-com bubble. The idea of American wealth being grounded in hard-working, individualistic enterprise had been so firmly embedded in the minds of the masses by the modern corporate media machine that any economic woes were immediately attributed to other factors. If ordinary citizens were struggling to get by, it was because they were asking for too much from the government – lower taxes for all, particularly the rich, was nearly always the solution.
With comfort comes apathy, and although the last few decades have been tough economically on the majority of Americans, real poverty has hardly reached the scale that it did in the era of the Great Depression. And believing as they do that one day they too will strike it rich, even the poorest among us often harbor feelings of great antipathy towards any perceived expansion of government. So the Second Bill of Human Rights, propounded more than three generations ago, remains unrealized in the wealthiest country in the history of the planet.
Necessitous men may not be free, but as long as they believe they are the system of corporate enslavement will remain.