Revisiting FDR?s Second Bill of Rights
Tibor R. Machan
Ever since Cass Sunstein came out with his book, The Second Bill of
Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More Than Ever
(2006), championing Franklin D. Roosevelt?s promotion of transforming
America?s political system into an unabashed welfare state, I have picked
some from the list to examine and comment on. If there is a more insidious
political attempt to destroy the free society than all this talk about a
second bill of rights?which is nothing more than a bunch of entitlements
obtained at the expense of human liberty?I don?t know of it.
Take, for example, ?The right of every family to a decent home.? A right?
Well, a right is something other people must grant?they must respect it
and the legal authorities must protect it. That?s their job?as we learn
from the Founders, ?to secure these rights, governments are instituted? as
they put it in America?s founding political document. So now if every
family has a right to a decent home, this means that other people must
respect such a right and the law must protect it.
How is a right to a home respected? It would be by providing people with
a home. Unlike the right to, say, one?s life or liberty, the right to a
home cannot be secured merely by abstaining from some hostile, aggressive
actions, such as murder or negligent homicide. No, the right to a decent
home would have to be respected by producing homes for others, by devoting
a good portion of one?s life and resources to building one or hiring
builders to do so. This means that to respect such a right, and for the
legal authorities to secure it, would involve placing everyone into
involuntary servitude or serfdom. Even ?slavery? would not be too far off,
if we were required to produce such homes for many people, which means
working day and night for those people as ordered by the government that?s
to secure such a right.
Let?s face it, however nice an idea some people think this list on FDR?s
?Second Bill of Rights? amounts it, in fact it is most insidious. It
entails placing people into servitude, even slavery to other people, by
order of the government.
Why is this missed? It is mainly because those who champion the idea have
managed to mask it by construing it as some kind of generosity or kindness
toward others. Or that justice requires it, a perverse kind of justice at
that. Just as those in government like to pretend that when they tax us
and then provide some group with funds that advance a perfectly
respectable, worthwhile purpose, it is acting compassionately, generously,
or benevolently, the same happens when they tax us and then provide people
with ?a decent home? (or the funds to buy one). But this is not generosity
by a long shot.
Consider that if you go to your next door neighbor?s house while the
family is gone and break in and crack their safe and take their money from
it and then visit another neighbor who is in dire need of something and
hand that money over, where is the charity, generosity, kindness or
compassion in this? And how is what the government does any different by
extorting your resources and handing these over to people so they may have
?a decent home??
Oh, you may say, it is OK to do this because the majority elected the
government. Yet this doesn?t follow at all. The argument would require a
demonstration that what would be morally and even legally wrong for
individuals to do, majorities may and indeed must do. Why is this so?
Surely if we are talking about murder, this doesn?t sound at all right.
Why should it if we are talking about theft or extortion?
The defining feature of a free society is that it is based on laws that
do not violate one?s rights to life, liberty and property, never mind how
many folks might be inclined to do so. Large numbers simply do not reduce
the severity of the violence done to people, even to a single individual.
The ruse perpetrated by FDR?s Second Bill of Rights?and by all those who
are still promoting it?should be crystal clear: they are pretending that
there is a right one has to what others must produce, which means a right
to enslave other people, to conscript them to work for purposes which they
have not chosen to pursue. It is imperative that this idea be rejected,
even when famous law processors support it.