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Thread: What if US President Franklin D. Roosevelt succeeded in passing his Second Bill of Rights?

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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar I am your sovereign now
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    Default What if US President Franklin D. Roosevelt succeeded in passing his Second Bill of Rights?

    For those who don't know much about Franklin D. Roosevelt, America's president during most of the Great Depression and World War II, here's a small documentary about the man to bring you up to speed for this conversation:

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    WARNING: minor moments of violence/blood, but all the swear words are censored/bleeped, so not really a TOS violation from what I can tell:



    Whew! Now, with that out of the way, let's cut to the chase: FDR's January 11th, 1944 proposal for a Second Bill of Rights to the US Constitution in an address to Congress as well as a "fireside chat" radio broadcast to the general public on the same day, with newsreel footage that was apparently lost until rediscovered in South Carolina in 2008. In it, FDR - who signed the GI Bill into law guaranteeing free higher education for military veterans and enacted Social Security for the elderly - outlined what he believed should be the economic rights of every American. These included the following, a right to:

    *Employment (right to work), food, clothing and leisure with enough income to support them
    *Farmers' rights to a fair income
    *Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
    *Housing
    *Medical care
    *Social security
    *Education

    FDR believed that the original Bill of Rights as enshrined by the nation's founders in the late 18th century "proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness". If all of these measures were enacted well before the present day, how different would the United States of America look right now and in the previous decades like the 1970s, 80s, and 90s? There certainly wouldn't be any candidate like Bernie Sanders running in the Democratic party primaries in 2016 and 2020, if we already had something like Medicare for All and public-funded tuition-free college. We would just be taking those things for granted right now.

    We also wouldn't have an issue with homelessness, so that means no bums asking me for spare change every time I visit DC.

    The bit about farming is interesting in light of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s but also how big agro-corporations are pushing small landholding farmers into bankruptcy and oblivion, gobbling up their lands in the process. It's kind of like the massive aristocratic latifundia landed estates of the late Roman Empire or the feudal estates that arose at the end of China's ancient Eastern Han dynasty, replacing almost all the small but independent landowning Chinese peasantry that had existed in the previous Western Han era and leading to societal unrest, swelling of urban poor and displacement. Here's an article from back in 2016 talking about the decline of small family-owned farms in favor of gigantic corporations who swallow them up and basically receive taxpayer subsidies to do so while the little guys often do not.

    Feel free to talk about present-day politics a little bit if necessary, but this thread should be focused on how FDR's proposed economic rights would have transformed the United States even as far back as the 1950s and how that would have affected the economy, international relations and/or state policies. We shouldn't forget that FDR had in mind foreign affairs when he proposed this as well, since he wanted the US to serve as a model for other nations recovering from the Second World War...so, basically an extension of the idea of "American Exceptionalism" especially as the US geared up to replace Japan as the dominant power over the Pacific. LOL. Ironically, today, Japan's social welfare programs like universal healthcare aligns more with FDR's Second Bill of Rights than the US does 70 years after it was proposed.

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    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: What if US President Franklin D. Roosevelt succeeded in passing his Second Bill of Rights?

    My guess would it been carried through the US would look a bit more like a European democracy. National health care would have been implemented at time when it would have much easier to do. The focus on anti trust action in the constitution would have prevented the backsliding of the recent 30 years into more less ignoring the concept. Putting education in might have had a massive effect since it could well have shifted funding to predominantly the federal government and not the localities which would have reduced the massive disparities in resources the US struggles with its schools. Employment is a bit vague but maybe it would have made the Taft–Hartley Act impossible and the labor movement would not have been gutted. Farm rights are tricky again but perhaps the government would have worked harder to sustain smaller farms in down turns and not just let them rolled up by corporations. Also I suppose it would certainly stop the vertical integration where Hormel owns your animals and you have to follow their playbook and sell to them. It would likely also mean the price of meat or eggs might be a tad higher but long term health of the American farmland and small towns would also enormously better. The right to housing might do California some good since NIMBY-ism might not be able to stop affordable housing being built for the people who need it and don't have 6 figure pay checks.

    A good thing as far as I can see. Also it stick a fork in the tired concept of orginalism for good.
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

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    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar I am your sovereign now
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    Default Re: What if US President Franklin D. Roosevelt succeeded in passing his Second Bill of Rights?

    Good point about the trust-busting, which I didn't even mention in my OP. I also agree about public higher education, which has been crumbling since the 1980s as far as state and local governments are concerned. That's also largely in response to Reagan era tax cuts. Also, thanks for bringing up the anti-union Taft–Hartley Act, which Truman tried to veto in vain. One must wonder how much more effective the general strike would have been in this country without that legislation acting as a stumbling block.

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    conon394's Avatar hoi polloi
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    Default Re: What if US President Franklin D. Roosevelt succeeded in passing his Second Bill of Rights?

    Its also important to note the US could have afforded social change. With the war about to be over the US was in a position of unprecedented ascendancy, security and wealth and the war and great depression had also put the US in a surprising place of equity of both wealth and income. FDR's alterations might also have helped jump start desegregation and voting rights. An LBJ would maybe would not have felt the need to be strong on communism (Nam) to get his great society.
    IN PATROCINIVM SVB Dromikaites

    'One day when I fly with my hands - up down the sky, like a bird'

    But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place; some swearing, some crying for surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left.

    Hyperides of Athens: We know, replied he, that Antipater is good, but we (the Demos of Athens) have no need of a master at present, even a good one.

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    Marble Emperor's Avatar Civis
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    Default Re: What if US President Franklin D. Roosevelt succeeded in passing his Second Bill of Rights?

    We would live in a massive gumdrop forest of lollipops and rainbows for all obviously.

    No but in all seriousness though, I think that centralizing any great amount of power in one place always leads to corruption. That is inherently the problem with Communist/Socialist societies that always seems to lead them down the road to authoritarianism and tyranny. If Roosevelt had passed the second "bill of rights," I think we probably would have an even more entitled population than we already do, and politicians ready to promise anything more readily than they already do with even less justification.

    I'm all for trust-busting and anti-monopolistic legislation, but I am very hesitant about taking tax money from people and redistributing it, as this leads to a secondary problem with 'paying for votes.' There is a clear externality that arises when one side of the political aisle is promising government services if elected and the other side is arguing against it. Regardless of what is actually healthier in societal terms, many people will always vote for what they think is in their immediate personal interest, regardless of whether it will screw them later. This is hardly different than just handing the poorer segments of the population cash in exchange for their votes.

    Last point, in response to the 'hard on communism bit,' I think if anything we were too soft on communism, not too hard. The communist countries of the twenty first century were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people, and atrocities that occurred on almost every continent. The 'Red Scare' is not comparable in my mind to the sheer evil on display in the communist countries at the same time. The Russians are estimated to have killed or enslaved up to 20 million people, the Chinese may have been responsible for 30 million deaths (hard to tally that one), and somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 Million people in Cambodia, this is far less excusable to me than the estimated 2 million deaths due to military intervention in Vietnam.

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    Default Re: What if US President Franklin D. Roosevelt succeeded in passing his Second Bill of Rights?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    Good point about the trust-busting, which I didn't even mention in my OP. I also agree about public higher education, which has been crumbling since the 1980s as far as state and local governments are concerned. That's also largely in response to Reagan era tax cuts. .
    I don't see where the Reagan tax cuts played a role in higher public education, since universities and colleges are mostlynrun by the states, not the federal government. The decline has been more due to states reducing support to univerisities and colleges, not due to anything Reagan did. Ths political radicalization of higher public education is also a factor, since the near unanimous support of left wing causes in public education alienated support among the large number of more conservative populace.
    Also, thanks for bringing up the anti-union Taft–Hartley Act, which Truman tried to veto in vain. One must wonder how much more effective the general strike would have been in this country without that legislation acting as a stumbling block.
    The US could have suffered the same decline as Britain, where powerful unions helped crushed many British industries. Britain was a leading car manufacturer and a leader in the aircraft industry, and Britain doesn't have any domestic car manufafturers left and its aircraft industry is a shadow of its former self. Had Roosevelt been able to pass his Second Bill of Rights, the US would.look much more like western European countries, having more socialist policies in place. Universal national healthcare would be in place, since the Supreme Court would have ruled it as a constitution right under the amendment. All workers would have paid sick leave and vacation days, and the minimum wage would be a higher, living wage. Companies would no longer be able to skirt paying workers benefits by declaring them just part time workers, and so deserving no benefits. Affordable higher public education would be a result too, since the Supreme Court would likely rule that college and university education was a right.

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    Lord Oda Nobunaga's Avatar 大信皇帝
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    Default Re: What if US President Franklin D. Roosevelt succeeded in passing his Second Bill of Rights?

    Why does FDR hate Liberal Capitalism so much? He must be a Fascist. I think he is a closet Fascist.

    Well obviously FDR was not a Fascist but the term was constantly being thrown around even back then. A lot of his economic policies were described as Fascist despite the fact that FDR never actually went the full way. FDR once described his economic policy as wanting to seem Socialist without actually being Socialist. So in that regard he completely disappointed Lord John Maynard Keynes, who was advocating for FDR to go all the way and completely take over the Corporations for example. This completely triggered rich businessmen and at least according to one senile marine corps general, were plotting to start a coup and install a Fascist dictatorship (the Business Plot). I don't know about a Fascist coup attempt but FDR's policies did anger the businessmen, although I wouldn't call them Fascists, that doesn't make any sense. But many of them were very much in line with Corporate Capitalism and were suspicious of anything resembling Socialism or Communism, and who were obsessed with the gold standard taking a hit. That said some of FDR's policies were similar to Italian Fascism and German National Socialism, such as the road building programs, the disregard for the gold standard, more or less creating money from thin air, putting more value on labor than the currency itself, and things like forcing the unemployed and homeless to go work. As I would not say that FDR was necessarily inspired by Hitler and Mussolini but I could be wrong, the similarities were due to both of these being influenced by Keynesian economics. These being an outright challenge to Classical Economics and monetary theory, in favor of Labor Theory, not the Marxist concept per se but in some ways similar.

    But you are asking me what would happen if FDR did it? Probably the Conservatives in the Republican party and the Liberalists within the Democratic party, the businessmen, maybe MacArthur and his officers, would try to take power through some legal means or loop hole or make the sitting president unable to pass anything through Congress etc. MacArthur marching on Washington was often suggested during the 1930's (hence the epithet American Caesar). I can't see it actually becoming violent or leading to the army taking action, but certainly the organs of government would attempt to impeach or neutralize the POTUS. Quite possibly, if FDR did go through with all of his plans then Truman might not win the election. Keep in mind that the GOP candidate was Thomas E. Dewey, who almost won the 1944 election against FDR, and almost won the 1948 election against Truman. 1948 was such a flustercluck that the Dixiecrats (CSA secessionists) won 4 states, voters which generally went to FDR but who didn't support Truman. As soon as FDR croaks they would try their hardest to overturn this challenge to the existing Anglo-American Classical Economics.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Plot

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critic...n_D._Roosevelt
    Last edited by Lord Oda Nobunaga; May 16, 2020 at 03:02 PM.

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