“The Stuff of which Dictatorships are Made”


With those words, Franklin Delano Roosevelt invoked his Economic Bill of Rights during his State of the Union speech on January 11th, 1944:

“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.”

Americans cherish their creed of: “With Liberty and Justice for All” contained within the pledge of allegiance, but that is just one pillar of a society built on true democratic and egalitarian principles. Roosevelt was alluding to his economic bill of rights as being a second bill of rights in this country, needed to advance us to a moral and just society.

But this discussion would not be complete without reference to the French notion of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.” Liberty, equality and brotherhood (or sisterhood). The original pledge of allegiance was written with the words “equality and fraternity” in mind, but those words were rejected due to perceived opposition to the notions in the late 19th century.

Of course, I didn’t lure you all in here for just some trite history lessons. Lizard introduced us to the notion of political nihilism yesterday, which offers a nice segue into some material I’ve been thinking of writing about. And after last week’s springtime meetup between Liz, Pete and I on the deck of the Old Post (thanks Pogo!), their words of encouragement to me to do some writing was taken to heart.

Being a bit of a political nihilist myself, I mentioned that I would have a hard time offering paeans to the democratic party and most of its candidates, including President Obama, and to the theology on the political necessity of the lesser of two evils. What has interested me most about fringe traditional politics this year is the emergence of a new candidate for the Green Party, and no, it’s not Ralph Nader (whom I have voted for in the past).

Jill Stein, this year’s Green Party front runner, has invoked FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, and is sidling up to the French notion (and aborted Pledge of Allegiance credo) of Liberté, égalité, fraternité in her campaign. I thought it might be refreshing to traditional democrats to see some ideas that might inspire a current generation of democrats to embrace.

Of course, even a platform arising out of traditional democrat and american themes now seems too radical for a mainstream democratic party that has drifted aimlessly to the right, attacking any and all efforts to drag it back to its roots. For starters, I’d like to offer up a few tidbits of Stein and the Green New Deal speech she gave for the “People’s State of the Union” earlier this year, that would work to stem the rush to a fascistic dictatorship in this country.

A four part program:

  • “First, we will guarantee the economic rights of all Americans, beginning with the right to a job at a living wage for every American willing and able to work.
  • Second, we will transition to a sustainable, green economy for the 21st century, by adopting green technologies and sustainable production.
  • Third, we will reboot and reprogram the financial sector so that it serves everyday people and our communities, and not the other way around.
  • Fourth, we will protect these gains by expanding and strengthening our democracy so that our government and our economy finally serve We the People.”

The Economic Bill of Rights:

The Green New Deal begins with an Economic Bill of Rights that recognizes our rights to an economy that serves people. This means that everyone willing and able to work has the right to a job at a living wage. All of us have the right to quality education, health care, utilities, and housing. Each of us has the right to unionize, to fair taxation, and to fair trade.”

And this is just the start of a truly progressive plank by which democrats should seek to judge their candidates if they truly believe that the democratic party is of any use to mainstream politics. But it is still only the foundation for a  second of the full tier of rights and moral obligations of civilized nations.

I’ll be back for more in the future. And of course I, and others who support third party alternatives to mainstream political shlock, will most likely take a lot of heat for offering up what will be characterized as political nihilism. And you know what? I’m ok with that.

And if you want to watch a true progressive politician talk about the Green Party vision for this country, the video of Jill Stein’s speech is right after the jump.

People’s State of the Union: A Green New Deal for America from Jill Stein for President on Vimeo.

  1. lizard19

    great post, JC.

    the importance of articulating an alternative to this self-destructive status quo can’t be stated enough.

    it’s like the shock doctrine—disasters are opportunities of systemic disruption, and if we aren’t ready with ideas, then the re-ordering will be implemented by the disaster-arm of capitalism, of which Obama is just one of many loyal servants.

    a recent example is served up by Matt Taibbi, titled Why Obama’s JOBS Act Couldn’t Suck Worse

    The “Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act” (in addition to everything else, the Act has an annoying, redundant title) will very nearly legalize fraud in the stock market.

    In fact, one could say this law is not just a sweeping piece of deregulation that will have an increase in securities fraud as an accidental, ancillary consequence. No, this law actually appears to have been specifically written to encourage fraud in the stock markets.

    Ostensibly, the law makes it easier for startup companies (particularly tech companies, whose lobbyists were a driving force behind its passage) to attract capital by, among other things, exempting them from independent accounting requirements for up to five years after they first begin selling shares in the stock market.

    The law also rolls back rules designed to prevent bank analysts from talking up a stock just to win business, a practice that was so pervasive in the tech-boom years as to be almost industry standard.

    it gets worse, read the whole thing.

  2. Swede Johannson

    Hey, big endorsement. Noam Chomsky.

    “MIT Professor Noam Chomsky has endorsed Jill Stein for President of the United States. He made his endorsement in a letter sent to Green Party members in advance of today’s Massachusetts presidential primary.”

    Can’t wait for Mark T’s comments.

  1. 1 Things One Learns While Traveling « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] That said, if I’m going to throw away my vote on a third party, it will more than likely be the Green Party. […]

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