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FDR: "People who are hungry, people who are out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made."
July 16, 2010 3:06 PM   Subscribe

The United States was engaged in the largest two-front war of its, or any nation's history. Though victory was not yet certain, there were discussions on a multi-national level regarding the future peace, and on the President of the United States was looking to the post-war prospects for the nation. With that in mind, the annual address of the President to Congress and the nation was summed up in one word: Security. "And that means not only physical security which provides safety from attacks by aggressors. It means also economic security, social security, moral security -- in a family of nations." This was Franklin D. Roosevelt's third-to-last Fireside Chat, presented on Tuesday, January 11, 1944, which included what he proposed to be the Second Bill of Rights.

Much of the Second Bill of Rights, also called the Economic Bill of Rights, had been discussed by Roosevelt for some while. Roosevelt had spoken on economic rights of the individual since he was chosen as the Democratic candidate for president in the 1932 Democratic National Convention, and elaborating in another speech seven weeks later, including a fable of the American public cast as Alice in Wonderland amidst the delusions of paper profits and increased production and consumption.

In 1941, the United States had not yet entered World War II, but was providing material support against "aggressor nations," and FDR was looking ahead to times of peace to come. In his 1941 State of the Union address, FDR spoke on the Four Freedoms (prev): the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, freedom from want (a healthy peacetime life), and the freedom from fear (in short, a world-wide reduction of armaments). These were freedoms not simply for the United States, but that would cover everywhere and anywhere in the world.

In early January of 1944, the U.S. was engaged around the world, with US forces moving beyond the Battle of Tarawa and Allies moving towards Monte Cassino on their way for Rome, with preparation for Operation Overlord under way. On January 11, 1944, Roosevelt chose to end his State of the Union speech to the nation by talking about a second bill of rights:
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy. More than the winning of the war, it is time to begin plans and determine the strategy for winning a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever known before.

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.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact, however, that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry, people who are 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, or 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 farmers to raise and sell their products at a return which will give them and their families a decent living;

The right of every business man, 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, and sickness, and accident and unemployment;

And finally, the right to a good education.
This would be an an economic bill of rights that Congress might enact through legislation, not a revision to the Constitution.

FDR had two more Fireside Chats with the nation in June of 1944, won the election for a 4th term as President of the United States and was inaugrated on January 20, 1945. Less than three months later, President Roosevelt was dead, and his Second Bill of Rights was in the hands of others.

The Four Freedoms from 1941 was part of the motivation behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, thanks in part to Roosevelt's widow, Eleanor Roosevelt, as a member of the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights. But the Economic Bill of Rights has faded as a cohesive whole.

Progress on the separate elements varies, and interest in the Second Bill of Rights has seen a recent revival of interest in part thanks to a book on the topic by Cass R. Sunstein, discussion by Howard Zinn in an interview, and inclusion in a movie by Michael Moore following research for forgotten footage of FDR that was shot for newsreel (though Moore mis-credits Roosevelt's intentions in saying FDR wanted to amend the constitution).

There is also concern for this rising interest in the Economic Bill of Rights, as it is seen as a "treacherous transformation of human aspirations into enforceable legal rights" and FDr's "massive take over of the U.S. economy." As an interesting note, Ronald Reagan had proposed his own Economic Bill of Rights, which has been recalled recently, even credited as a "Jeffersonian Economic Bill of Rights," due to Jefferson's views on taxation. Tying everything back together, some modern supporters of FDR's Second Bill of Rights see parallels to Thomas Jefferson in Jefferson's letter to James Madison Fontainebleau, in particular citing the following quote: "Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on."
posted by filthy light thief (67 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

 
Our currents Bill of Rights restricts government. That's the whole point of a right. To give you the freedom to do something the government might ordinarily forbid you to do, or to forbid the government from doing something to restrict your freedome. FDR agenda may be something, but it is not a bill of "rights." It's a list of demands for goodies.
posted by Faze at 3:20 PM on July 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


I, for instance, have a right to make typos (see above), without government restriction.
posted by Faze at 3:22 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


THE GOVERNMENT IS STEALING MY RIGHT TO LIVE IN POVERTY AND DIE EARLY OF A HORRIBLE YET TREATABLE DISEASE.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:25 PM on July 16, 2010 [28 favorites]


Wow. Faze nailed it in one.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:26 PM on July 16, 2010


Yeah, this is what I studied in law school when I should have been learning to be a lawyer. I kept looking for a free copy of the American Law Institute's Statement of Essential Human Rights, but could never find it so I never made this FPP. Thanks so much filthy light thief. It's a fascinating subject.

It is my belief that we have to stop thinking of human rights as something that can only be secured at the national and international level. While that is a very important and powerful component, we have to start bringing them home to our families and communities and safeguard them at every practical level. My studies were primarily to do with the right to education, which is enshrined in some form in every state constitution in the United States. Sure, that results in problematic and uneven application. But these socioeconomic human rights are never about the destination, they're always about the journey. That's something to be proud of, and something we should be extending to the other socioeconomic human rights that are of concern.
posted by greekphilosophy at 3:28 PM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heath care, social security, etc. may simply be logically sound goodies", but freedom from unfair competition and monopolies is fundamental. We expect that any government will screw up by creating monopolies, which must then be broken, making that an essential government function.

An approach to correcting these monopolies might be replacing the income tax below multi-millions per year with a progressive VAT, i.e. big companies must charge more sales tax, as well as moving anti-trust legislation to tax court, i.e. you engaged in anti-compeditive tax for 10 years, so you pay 10% more of gross in taxes for 10 years.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:31 PM on July 16, 2010


Our currents Bill of Rights restricts government. That's the whole point of a right. To give you the freedom to do something the government might ordinarily forbid you to do, or to forbid the government from doing something to restrict your freedome. FDR agenda may be something, but it is not a bill of "rights." It's a list of demands for goodies.

I disagree. The Bill of Rights also applies to people aside from the government in guaranteeing rights. Civil law extends far past the reach of the government.
posted by Locobot at 3:31 PM on July 16, 2010


Hey. Have we checked this guy's birth certificate? I think he might be Russian.
posted by schmod at 3:33 PM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


It is NOT a demand for "goodies" at all. It is a demand for the rights and freedoms of all people not just the fortunate. Oh, yeah, those that have the most, get the most will always demand the most. And do, and do, and do. Still. But the most is not the right of a few.

Government is supposed to be, in the words of a Republican president, "for the people", not of the privileged. The American Revolution and the original Bill of Rights, was about limiting the powers of the privileged and the ways they used government.

Now we have a party that uses the word "Liberty" to support the use of the assets of all, the resources of all to demand the exclusion of the few, who ever is not like 'them', and the working class, the middle class shrinks and shrinks and slowly dies, while the rich hoard more of the wealth of the nation, and cry, "it my right." And that "Party", ideology apologizes to the giant corporations that, deliberately or negligently, foul the earth and seas, and they promise them less 'regulation" (more freedom from responsibility.). Oh, that isn't giving them, the already wealthy, 'goodies', is it? No, that's their right, and their workers can rot, and die young, with no rights at all, huh?
posted by Some1 at 3:33 PM on July 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


This is an awesome post, and I think there's absolutely no reason for it to turn into an argument about the semantics of the word "right."

The fact that he was talking about this while the nation was at war blows my mind. Usually those are excuses to revoke rights, not tack on new ones.
posted by soma lkzx at 3:37 PM on July 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Faze I think misses the point. Government is not the only entity which might curtail freedom, and is not the only human institution we need protections against. Anyone who's ever worked at Wal-Mart knows this all too well.
posted by organic at 3:38 PM on July 16, 2010 [21 favorites]


Our currents Bill of Rights restricts government. That's the whole point of a right. To give you the freedom to do something the government might ordinarily forbid you to do, or to forbid the government from doing something to restrict your freedome. FDR agenda may be something, but it is not a bill of "rights." It's a list of demands for goodies.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed".
posted by vorfeed at 3:42 PM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's a tricky thing. At what point does a government say "good luck with life" and when do they step in and say "you've gone too far"?

What's wrong with monopolies? If someone is able to wrangle enough resources and bully everyone out of the way, good for them, right? Even when they jack the price up 400% of what it was when there was still competition? What if that monopoly is on water?

Your health is your own problem, right? What if giving a vaccine to your good-for-nothing neighbors means you don't get sick? What if it's possible to wipe out a disease with a government-funded vaccine and organized vaccination program? If this is a good thing, why is is it bad to provide preventative medication and dental care? Should everyone get something when another person's lack means a potential impact to your life?

Like organic said, government is the only agency that might curtail freedom, impose additional costs to your life, or make things miserable for people. I'd like to think we have enough surplus for everyone to be free from want, but I'm a white-collar idealist, brassy spoon in my mouth (it wasn't silver or gold, that's for sure, but I haven't lived on any really hard times).
posted by filthy light thief at 3:42 PM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is a virtuoso post.
posted by killdevil at 3:42 PM on July 16, 2010


Faze I think misses the point. Government is not the only entity which might curtail freedom, and is not the only human institution we need protections against. Anyone who's ever worked at Wal-Mart knows this all too well.

Is this a fair description of the libertarian world-view, because it seems to me like the most succinct and to the point description I've ever seen. I think libertarians believe not just that the government is the only entity that curtails freedom, but that that is the only thing it can do.
posted by heathkit at 3:43 PM on July 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


Related: Post-War New World Map (see FDR quote about essential human freedoms in lower left corner of map)
posted by desjardins at 3:52 PM on July 16, 2010


Our currents Bill of Rights restricts government. That's the whole point of a right. To give you the freedom to do something the government might ordinarily forbid you to do, or to forbid the government from doing something to restrict your freedome.

No, that's not the point of a "right" nor is that the point of the Bill of Rights or the Constitution in general. It's a social contract that's established to be understood by everyone who wants to be an American as the requirements to live here. It isn't "us versus the government," it's just "us." It's a core document that is backed by the enforcement of the government about how we should treat each other to prevent society from collapsing. That's why the Constitution is amended- we realized as we grew and understood each other better what was a common right for everyone- for example, to not be owned by another human. For children old enough to fight and die in wars to vote for their commanders in chief. That women have the same authority to choose who leads them as men do. That we should choose more of our state representatives instead of indirect legislators.

For those of us who were born with those rights, it was quite easy to, literally, find them self-evident. Any establishment of a right- to vote, to speak, to love, to earn- is considered as a "goody" by someone who was born with it. A century and half ago people argued how much of a loss it would be for them when several million black people were suddenly given the "goodies" of being allowed to choose whether or not to work for someone and daring to want to be paid for it. God willing it will take less time than that for a functioning society to understand the benefits of helping each other not get sick.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:53 PM on July 16, 2010 [37 favorites]


An approach to correcting these monopolies might be replacing the income tax below multi-millions per year with a progressive VAT, i.e. big companies must charge more sales tax, as well as moving anti-trust legislation to tax court, i.e. you engaged in anti-compeditive tax for 10 years, so you pay 10% more of gross in taxes for 10 years.

The idea of antitrust law in the US as it currently exists (post-Chicago, Steve Salop, etc.) is to ensure enough competition to keep consumer surplus relatively high. Tacking on all these other agendas can only dilute the regulatory mission. Existing tools and enforcement powers are generally adequate to ensure this result, when diligently applied.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:07 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It isn't "us versus the government," it's just "us."

When Joe the Plumber stated plaintively that "no one had helped him when he was on welfare," I think it was a sign that our notion of what the government already provides is severely distorted by anti-political propaganda. A friend's mother, who is on Social Security, was not joking when she said she was afraid of government control of her Medicare. I pointed out that she could have more influence as a voter or politician than she ever could as shareholder or a consumer in an insurance company, but this didn't seem to matter. I didn't press the issue that your health isn't something competition works very well for. After you're dead, it's tough to be an informed consumer.

I've been very curious of the response to the following argument: if it can be concluded that social programs produce more wealth than they cost to the economy at large, why should they be ended? I don't think it's coincidence that the developed world, which (exclusive of the US) have socialized health care, education, and technological infrastructure is also the wealthiest by a large margin. And oddly enough, many European and East Asian countries had these policies pushed on them by the victors of WWII around the time of these fireside chats. I think we can take a good look at the level of violence in Japan and throughout much of Europe, and see that Roosevelt has already been proven right. The cost of spreading the risks of life around your whole population is very beneficial just in terms of dollars, let alone the moral triumph of being free of dictators and military thugs.
posted by atypicalguy at 4:35 PM on July 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


The United States Bill of Rights, as I seem them, are nothing more than early clarifications or modifications of the Constitution. If they were called the First Ten Amendments to the United States Constitution, I think people would get less hung up on the Rights afforded in those amendments versus later ones. Those involved with the founding of the United States were not intent on creating a Government that would crush men, but providing a major governing document that could change as deemed necessary.

Is the 13th Amendment any less important than the 3rd? We're not worried about being forced to quarter soldiers, but that's one the "rights" given way back when. It took the country a while to abolish slavery, but the importance is not in question because it's not one of the original 10 amendments.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:40 PM on July 16, 2010


It's people. Government is made out of people. They're making our government out of people. Next thing they'll be asking us to participate government. You've gotta tell them. You've gotta tell them!
posted by ryoshu at 4:46 PM on July 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Excellent post. Thanks, filthy light thief.
posted by homunculus at 4:52 PM on July 16, 2010


The Bill of Rights also applies to people aside from the government in guaranteeing rights.

Since when? I can't think of a single provision of the Bill of Rights that applies to non-governmental actors. Hell, not even all of them apply to state governments, only the federal government. So what exactly are you talking about?
posted by thesmophoron at 4:54 PM on July 16, 2010


Faze is simply incorrect.

Many of the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution are indeed statements describing what the government cannot do to you -- they (at least in theory) cannot pass a law that prohibits the free exercise of your religion, or issue a search warrant without probably cause.

However, the U.S. Constitution most certainly does contain rights describing what the government *must* do. They are not restrictive; they describe the government's role in providing such rights. Examples include the right to speedy and public trial with an impartial jury and the right to vote.

Other rights include things the government can keep *you* from doing, so that you do not infringe upon the rights of others. You cannot own a slave, for example.

So, the idea that a "right" is entirely defined in the U.S. system as what the government cannot do is simply wrong.

In addition, many state constitutions have enshrined additional rights; most have pointed out that the right to an education is in every state constitution.

So, while whether or not something should be enshrined as a right can be debated on its merits, the idea that the government providing something for its citizens is just a "goody" rather than a right is laughable. Oh, how greedy and entitled we must feel thanks to our rights to a trial by jury and education!

Personally, I think the list of rights in the FPP sounds great, although the wording can be debated. Since essentially, it is saying that the minimal necessities for living should be provided for all.
posted by kyrademon at 4:56 PM on July 16, 2010 [19 favorites]


That anyone could look at that list and not agree that in a just and egalitarian society those things would not be desirable is, in technical terms, an asshat.
posted by maxwelton at 4:57 PM on July 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


kyrademon: i appreciate that you recognize the tension between the rights you're listing and the post by Faze, but nothing you say makes him "simply incorrect"

Many of the rights you list as counterexamples (the right to vote, the right not to be a slave) are not part of the Bill of Rights. Since Faze was only talking about the Bill of Rights, discussing those rights is entirely off-topic.

As to the rights that are indeed found within the Bill of Rights -- the right to a speedy and public trail, the right to a jury in criminal matters -- these do not actually "rights describing what the government *must* do." I have tried very hard and I do not think it possible to come up with an example where the government would be required to do those things. Certainly, it is prohibited from doing things it would certainly like to do - put criminals in jail, for example - unless it also complies with those safeguards. But the point you're grasping for is a right not of prohibition but of positive prescription, and at no point does the Executive have some insurmountable obligation to continue a prosecution.
posted by thesmophoron at 5:14 PM on July 16, 2010


That anyone could look at that list and not agree that in a just and egalitarian society those things would not be desirable is, in technical terms, an asshat.

Not everyone considers egalitarianism an important political principle. There can also be a big difference between agreeing that something is desirable and believing that it can be achieved by legislation.

More generally, the problem that some have with these rights is that they are grand statements of intent rather than legislatively achievable goals.

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries, or shops or farms or mines of the nation;


How do you achieve this? Laws can't be woolly statements, they have be enforceable requirements upon certain people or classes of people or organisations. Who will be fined or arrested when not everyone has such a job?
posted by atrazine at 5:19 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Related: Post-War New World Map

Canada lost?
posted by vbfg at 5:23 PM on July 16, 2010


Is this a fair description of the libertarian world-view, because it seems to me like the most succinct and to the point description I've ever seen. I think libertarians believe not just that the government is the only entity that curtails freedom, but that that is the only thing it can do.

If libertarians weren't such assholes, we wouldn't have needed to invent government.
posted by philip-random at 5:36 PM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I mean, isn't that what the Magna Carta was all about?
posted by philip-random at 5:37 PM on July 16, 2010


Thesmophoron, you are correct in pointing out that some of what I was enumerating (but not all) are not strictly speaking from the Bill of Rights, but from later amendments. I personally think this is splitting hairs a bit, but I'll yield the point for now and discuss this on the terms you have laid out, sticking to discussing the rights detailed in the first 10 amendments.

I think arguing that a trial by jury is only a restriction on the government is hard to justify. Yes, of course, the U.S. doesn't strictly speaking have to have any criminal prosecutions whatsoever, but I think it's stretching credulity to assume that anyone ever believed such a situation would actually take place. It's a rhetorical point.

And if there are any criminal prosecutions, then the government is required by the Bill of Rights to set up a fairly elaborate system to deal with it. They must, and have. I suppose it could be argued that they are "restricted" from allowing criminal prosecutions to occur in any other manner, but it's not *only* restrictive -- they are *required* to ensure that criminal prosecutions happen in a certain way. A way that required planning, organization, and laws to realistically occur.

Basically, saying "you have a right to a trial by jury for a criminal offense" is very definitely SOMETHING YOU GET. The government must see that it is provided for you. It is only a restriction on the government insofar as they have been instructed to do things a particular way. It is, as Faze would have it, a "goody".

Now, I would also argue that some (not all) of the further amendments I listed are effectively extensions of the Bill of Rights, but that's a different argument and frankly, I don't need it to make my point.
posted by kyrademon at 5:39 PM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


We expect that any government will screw up by creating monopolies, which must then be broken...

...or duopolies (eg. Democratic and Republican parties).
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:02 PM on July 16, 2010


"People who are hungry, people who are out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made."

I thought dictatorships were made out of people who believed in Communism and Fascism.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:20 PM on July 16, 2010


What I'd like to put my finger on is when The American Way™ shifted from "Liberty and Justice for all" to "Fuck you—you're on your own".
posted by ob1quixote at 7:37 PM on July 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Love this post.

But, please, if somebody else posts one of your links in the next few weeks, don't be the usual MF DICK and "Surely this..." the post off the front page, especially if it's relevant.

I used to love this site, but a lot of "Surely this...." dickheads have turned it into a salon jack-off party.

Raspberries.
posted by rougy at 7:49 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


FDR agenda may be something, but it is not a bill of "rights." It's a list of demands for goodies.

Yes, this is a particularly pernicious misuse of 'right'. Rights are freedom from interference. Entitlements are taking from others.

Other rights include things the government can keep *you* from doing, so that you do not infringe upon the rights of others. You cannot own a slave, for example.

Another way of putting that is that you cannot be held in slavery. It's a restriction, not just on the government, but on all of society. It's not something you're owed, it's something that cannot be done to you.

It involves no taking from anyone; it's a prevention of taking.

Basically, saying "you have a right to a trial by jury for a criminal offense" is very definitely SOMETHING YOU GET.

No, this is a deprivation of power from the government. The right to a jury trial means that the government doesn't have any right to lock you up at all, it can't declare actions criminal and then lock you up for violating them, unless it spends a bunch of money and follows a very specific process.

The government doesn't HAVE TO give you a jury trial. It can just choose not to charge you at all. If it wants to imprison you, however, it has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury of your peers. This involves expense, but it's not "something you get", it's something the government must do to violate your right to liberty.
posted by Malor at 8:17 PM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought dictatorships were made out of people who believed in Communism and Fascism.

That's a funny thought, considering neither Julius Caesar or Emperor Nero were fascists or communists, and yet, both were dictators. Come to think of it, King George--the archetypal American tyrant--wasn't a communist or a fascist either. But you go ahead and keep thinking. You'll figure out how to do it right someday.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:20 PM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a restriction, not just on the government, but on all of society.

A restriction on society secured by what exactly? Oh wait, here's a thought:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men

Surely this language in the Declaration of Independence suggests the government's role was intended to be a tad more active than just sitting back and watching us all get our rights respected by each other while Grover Norquist directs all the energies of the rich to their moral duty to drown the US government in his bathtub.

No? How about the preamble to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

If all the constitution was meant to do was establish what the government shouldn't do, what's the point of this rubbish about "promoting the general Welfare" in the introduction?
posted by saulgoodman at 8:29 PM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can we just set up a fund so that anyone who has a rager for libertarianism can get a one-way ticket to the Libertarian Eden of Somalia, no charge? Imagine what their mad life skills would make of them over there without the man to keep them down!
posted by maxwelton at 8:42 PM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Let's go to the dictionaries, shall we? ...

"Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement. That is to say, rights are normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory."

"That which is due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, moral principles, etc."

"Rights are entitlements to perform (or not to perform) certain actions or be in certain states, or entitlements that others perform (or not perform) certain actions or be in certain states."

"State constitutional rights can also include those entirely unaddressed in the federal constitution, such as the right to adequate education or the right to affordable housing."

Etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

The definition of a right as only being "freedom from interference" with every other definition being a "pernicious misuse" of the word matches no definition or explanation of the term I can readily find.

Can we move on from this silly ideological agenda of defining the word to mean something less than what it actually means now, please?
posted by kyrademon at 8:51 PM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


(PS. The 13th amendment does not say "you can't be enslaved", and by implication you cannot own another citizen as a slave. It says "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude ... shall exist within the United States ..." You cannot be a slave AND you cannot own a slave -- even a slave who is not a citizen of the U.S., because it's illegal for you to *own* one, even the laws of that person's country say it's OK for that person to *be* one. It's not just protecting you from slavery; it's forbidding you from owning a slave in any circumstances, even circumstances that would never possibly affect you as opposed to the other person. If you think this is quibbling, the 14th Amendments draws big huge differences in how it applies to people who are citizens as opposed to those who are noncitizens. The 13th does not.)
posted by kyrademon at 9:02 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


("even *if* the laws of that person's country" gah stupid typos.)
posted by kyrademon at 9:03 PM on July 16, 2010


I have a right to other peoples' stuff. My Senator said so; that's why I voted for him.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:57 AM on July 17, 2010


...and if there's more of us than there are of you, we'll just keep voting ourselves more of your stuff, 'cause you have no right to stop us.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:04 AM on July 17, 2010


Only in the blinkered worldview of the ultra-privileged and ultra-insulated could basics like food, shelter, education, and health (not dying from treatable disease) be described as "goodies". Why do so many want to thrust the rest of us into the life of a Charles Dickens character?
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 5:11 AM on July 17, 2010


The eradication of polio is SOCIALISM!
posted by dirigibleman at 6:00 AM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Government is not the only entity which might curtail freedom, and is not the only human institution we need protections against. Anyone who's ever worked at Wal-Mart knows this all too well.

Is this a fair description of the libertarian world-view, because it seems to me like the most succinct and to the point description I've ever seen.


No. It's much closer to classical liberalism. Modern libertarianism is, by-and-large, a sham.
posted by schmod at 6:06 AM on July 17, 2010


What I'd like to put my finger on is when The American Way™ shifted from "Liberty and Justice for all" to "Fuck you—you're on your own".

1982.
posted by ryoshu at 6:51 AM on July 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


If all the constitution was meant to do was establish what the government shouldn't do, what's the point of this rubbish about "promoting the general Welfare" in the introduction?

saulgoodman, faze didn't claim that about the Constitution; he claimed that about the Bill of Rights. It does make your point a lot easier to make if you can freely put words in his mouth, though.

And, kyrademon, similarly: it really doesn't matter what the dictionary definition of "right" is; faze was only discussing the use of the word in the context of the Bill of Rights.

He's still right: the 10 rights delineated therein are all restrictions on government power. They are like the 10 Commandments: "Government shall not...".

Now, FDR was proposing a list of "entitlements", which admittedly is a pretty loaded word, but I can't come up with a much more neutral one. That doesn't make it wrong, but it is fundamentally different from the Bill of Rights.

It might be government's job to provide these, but that's a fundamentally different idea from the government being prevented from abuses of state power over the individual.

Also, maxwelton:
Can we just set up a fund so that anyone who has a rager for libertarianism can get a one-way ticket to the Libertarian Eden of Somalia, no charge? Imagine what their mad life skills would make of them over there without the man to keep them down!

You've confused "libertarian" with "absolute anarchist." They're similar, in the sense that Sweden's socialist government and Stalin's communist government are similar, but not quite identical.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:23 AM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


an interesting parallel/contrast i think is with the labour campaign from the 1945 UK general election: let us face the future :P

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 7:25 AM on July 17, 2010


And if there are any criminal prosecutions, then the government is required by the Bill of Rights to set up a fairly elaborate system to deal with it.

This is, actually, incorrect;* even if it were correct, your point would still not hold. Saying "Government cannot do X unless it does Y" is a fundamentally different concept from "Government must do Y," even if the political reality is that government will always have a need to do X. Political imperatives are not constitutional imperatives. Procedural rights that place limitations on the government's power to imprison you are still fundamentally limitations on the government's power, not things that a government provides a person that he wouldn't otherwise receive in a state of nature. This is Faze's point, and nothing you have contributed contradicts it in any cogent way.

* Article III makes clear that there is a presumption of parity between state courts and federal courts (by making the very existence of federal courts subject to the whims of Congress); and the protections of the Bill of Rights, as written, only apply to the federal government, not the states. The Bill of Rights leaves open the possibility that the only crime for which a person would be entitled to its protections is treason. Even there, I'm not sure it's entirely clear that a state court enforcing the crime of treason would be required to afford the same procedural safeguards that the federal judiciary would; and since the Judiciary Act was passed by the first Congress, I have a hard time imagining that the question would ever have been at issue before a federal court.
posted by thesmophoron at 7:40 AM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The eradication of polio is SOCIALISM!

The eradication of disease in Africa is CAPITALISM!

(Like shooting fish in a barrel.)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:55 AM on July 17, 2010


In Britain at the same time there was the Beveridge Report that led to the NHS. Both nations were thinking about After in 1944
posted by A189Nut at 8:50 AM on July 17, 2010


IAmBroom: I used to be a legal code editor and I can tell you from experience that amendments to a particular legal document are, under the law, effectively seen as part and parcel of the amended document. When you amend a legal document, you are in effect only extending and/or revising the original document, not creating a new document, so your attempt to draw some meaningful distinction between the constitution on the one hand and the bill of rights on the other, while technically correct, doesn't really make any substantive difference. The bill of rights is simply a name given to a set of amendments to the constitution. Once adopted, amendments to a document effectively become part and parcel of the original, so I don't understand why you think your pedantic point has any significance.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:03 AM on July 17, 2010


Property rights to begin with are a right to something not a freedom from something. Regardless of the side argument about whether the original bill of rights is wholly restrictions on the government, libertarian philosophy at it's heart requires some basic government entitlements. Holding the deed to the land means the government has provided you with the right to use a piece of land to the exclusion of all others, for example.

So unless you are a complete anarchist, everyone is asking the government to entitle them to something, not just to avoid restricting them in certain ways.
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:26 AM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


kyrademon: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude ... shall exist within the United States ..." You cannot be a slave AND you cannot own a slave -- even a slave who is not a citizen of the U.S., because it's illegal for you to *own* one, even the laws of that person's country say it's OK for that person to *be* one. It's not just protecting you from slavery; it's forbidding you from owning a slave in any circumstances, even circumstances that would never possibly affect you as opposed to the other person.

That's actually wrong, because it would be perfectly legal to own slaves abroad. It's saying that people cannot be enslaved within the borders of the United States, that slavery cannot exist here. It's a protection against power, and it has nothing to do with entitlements. It's not taking anything. It is an explicit prevention of taking.

There are quite a number of European societies that say that you're entitled to take food and housing from other people, as long as it's anonymized through the government, even if you provide nothing in return. That has nothing to with liberty; that is taking of property. It's a fundamentally different thing from the Bill of Rights, which is explicitly to grant you liberty and specifically delineate the ways in which that liberty can be infringed, along with a number of ways it cannot.

Nothing in the original Constitution, as far as I can see, involves taking wealth from some people and transferring it to others. It wasn't until the 16th amendment that Congress even had the power to levy an income tax.

Now, it may be a good idea to do so, but using the language of 'rights' in that context is a pernicious mis-framing of the original term, worthy of modern Republican spin.
posted by Malor at 11:32 AM on July 17, 2010


The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;



But maybe this section isn't in your constitution, malor.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:48 AM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's Article I, section 8.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:51 AM on July 17, 2010


Malor seems to be engaging in a bit of a circular argument, justifying his stance against the concepts put forth by the "Second Bill of Rights" by stating that the Constitution does not now contain such provisions.

Also, Malor, the liberty of one always depends on abridging the liberty of another. I am free from being punched in the nose by you because you are prevented from punching me in the nose. You have the freedom of speech, while I lack the freedom to prevent you from saying things that will harm me. (although I may be able to get relief after the fact)

Arguing that some rights are fundamental and do not depend on abridging the freedoms of others seems to be a deliberate misunderstanding.
posted by wierdo at 12:09 PM on July 17, 2010


But maybe this section isn't in your constitution, malor.

Sorry, I should have said Bill of Rights, since we're talking about "rights" in this context.

Also note that even there, it doesn't express the idea of directly transferring wealth from one citizen to another without providing anything in exchange.

Malor seems to be engaging in a bit of a circular argument, justifying his stance against the concepts put forth by the "Second Bill of Rights" by stating that the Constitution does not now contain such provisions.

No, I'm saying that the entire context of a right was 'things that cannot be done to you', and that reframing rights as 'things you are entitled to take from others' is pernicious. Language is important.

And most (all?) real rights are fundamentally based in property. You're not free to hit my nose because it's MY nose, not yours. You're not free to enslave me because it's MY life. You're not free to take my stuff because it's MY stuff. And framing the ability to take things away from people as a 'right' is exactly backwards; why do I have the right to make you work to feed me? I certainly couldn't raid your house at gunpoint to steal food out of your pantry, that would be a profound violation of your property rights, but by doing it through one level of indirection, it's suddenly okay? It's my RIGHT to do so, simply by sending agents of the government to take the food instead? Or somehow it becomes okay if we set up another level of indirection and take your money before you even get it in your paycheck?

I'm not even inherently against many social programs. I think many of them are smart investments. But when we call them rights, we screw up our ability to think about what we're REALLY doing, which is taking things away from people because we think we can use their wealth better than they can. Perhaps that's true, and obviously you have to do a fair bit of that to maintain a civilization, but we should never gloss over what's actually happening.

We should be making the case for the taking on THAT basis, not on some fictitious set of rights to be given free stuff by violating the liberties of others.
posted by Malor at 12:35 PM on July 17, 2010


Malor, you're already raiding my pantry. It's called "tax," something the Constitution has specifically allowed for since day one.

My point, which you so elegantly managed to miss, is that the only reason your property is yours, and not mine is guns. Your claiming it for yourself is just as much an abridgement of my equally valid right to have it as my taking it from you would be of your right to have have it. Thankfully for civil society, we empowered our Government to protect us from people appropriating our stuff.
posted by wierdo at 12:45 PM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of the things you can be taxed in return for is the welfare of the nation, which in a Republic means the welfare of your fellow citizens. What you get in return for your taxes is a government that looks after the welfare of it's citizens. To claim that's nothing, it seems to me, is to fundamentally misunderstand the entire American enterprise.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:50 PM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Its, dammit. (Stupid iPod autocorrect.)
posted by saulgoodman at 12:51 PM on July 17, 2010


the liberty of one always depends on abridging the liberty of another. I am free from being punched in the nose by you because you are prevented from punching me in the nose.

How is nose punching a "right" that is being abridged?

Because most of the times I've encountered this exact argument, it's been from someone who doesn't understand that "Free Will" as a philosophical concept that doesn't mean "Free to do whatever you want."
posted by Cyrano at 7:56 PM on July 17, 2010


In the absence of law, I have the right to do any damn thing I please, so long as I can back it up with force. It may not be polite, advisable, or in any other way a good idea.

It's sort of like property. In the absence of government, we all have the same claim to any land. It's communal, barring the use of force to defend a claim. Government steps in, divvies it up, and enforces your right of ownership.

I like these things that government does, but I'm not under any illusion of inalienable rights that we all just have without doing anything. Rights are what we make them. Thankfully, the basics have been secured by our forbears, who set up a government to keep them for us. All of the declared rights are checks on the freedom of the more powerful. The government can't keep you from speaking your mind, owning/running a printing press, lock you up with a jury trial, and so on. That's taking freedom away from those who are in power, just the same as a right to gainful employment would take freedom away from those who are in power.

Whether you look at the US Constitution as a list of things government may do or a list of things Government cannot do, the effect is the same, taking absolute control from the rich and powerful and ceding much of it to the people as a whole.
posted by wierdo at 8:10 PM on July 17, 2010


saulgoodman, replying to my previous post:
Once adopted, amendments to a document effectively become part and parcel of the original, so I don't understand why you think your pedantic point has any significance.

... My previous post included this part, which is key:
saulgoodman, faze didn't claim that about the Constitution; he claimed that about the Bill of Rights. It does make your point a lot easier to make if you can freely put words in his mouth, though.

You are missing the point, Anti-Pedantic Man (has a kind of ring to it, doncha think?). If you're attacking faze's original statement (you were), it matters what he actually said.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:11 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


"And most (all?) real rights are fundamentally based in property. You're not free to hit my nose because it's MY nose, not yours. You're not free to enslave me because it's MY life. You're not free to take my stuff because it's MY stuff."

Unfortunately, like most libertarians, you've failed to take your argument far enough.

Why is it your stuff?

You can argue, in the tradition of Locke, that it's yours for two reasons: that you mixed your labor with it, or because ultimately God granted it to you. The argument that it's YOUR life comes from the idea that God granted you YOUR life for the reason of salvation. Obviously, that's a pretty hard argument to support in any sort of materialist, empirical, secular way. And as for the argument that property is yours because you have mixed your labor with it, that carries an implicit utilitarian argument that we encourage you to own property because by mixing labor with it, that property increases in wealth, which is a net good for society.

There is also, as alluded prior, the argument that you have stuff because you have the power to defend having stuff.

But arguments from power are never persuasive rationally. And because defending your right to have stuff (and my right, and all our rights to have stuff) requires investment, we again implicitly argue for a utilitarian valuation—we give our stuff to defend your stuff lest all our stuff be subject to risk.

Once you view the idea of property rights as implicitly utilitarian—as most rights conceptions ultimately do, if only because there's no good answer for extreme self-interest aside from utility—there's no inherent limit on abrogations of those rights, even as we can hold that in general abrogations reduce the utility in general. Ergo, if it serves the public good more to provide services for others in the form of health care or public pensions, that's not just a moral good, that's reinforcing your property rights by recognition of your (democratically-mediated) obligation to the public good. To put it crudely, it's cheaper to make sure that everyone has some social safety net than it is to essentially negate the idea of a social contract and encourage everyone to fend for themselves.

It is entirely justifiable to view public (or private) takings with skepticism—not just justifiable, but also healthy—but the idea that simply declaring something yours is the beginning and end of the justification for the American or Enlightenment rights theory is inane.

And one last thing—For all your proclamations about the fundamental concepts of rights, you've missed an important part of the Founding Fathers' conception: Rights aren't granted. Rights are inalienable parts of our human identity, and the constitution only works to constrain the powers of government to infringe upon our inherent rights. But as rights always necessarily conflict, the state also exists to balance those needs within the larger society. Which means that yes, the state does have pretty broad latitude to determine the interpretations of your rights which will be defended or vitiated.
posted by klangklangston at 12:35 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


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