The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution--And Why We Need It More Than Ever
by Cass Sunstein
From Publishers Weekly
While it doesn't succeed in making Franklin Roosevelt into a constitutional innovator, this disheveled book does bring into focus FDR's forgotten effort to address domestic "security," as WWII neared its climax. Roosevelt's inaugural address of January 11, 1944, asked Congress to adopt a "second Bill of Rights": guarantees of work, adequate housing and income, medical care and education, among others-promises designed to extend the New Deal (and thwart the appeal of communism). The indefatigable Sunstein (Why Societies Need Dissent, etc.) sketches Roosevelt's domestic policies and the logistics of the inaugural address (included in full in an appendix), then debates the never-adopted bill's merits, historically as its ideas kicked around in the post WWII-era, and as it might be taken up today. He tends to be scanty on the bill's potential budgetary toll and on the responsibility for one's own welfare that FDR thought the bill's beneficiaries ought to bear. Sunstein roams widely over legal history and precedent, but is focused and clear in showing how FDR sowed the seeds of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in whose 1948 drafting Eleanor Roosevelt played a crucial role) and energetic in discussing this proposal's further possible legacy.
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In 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a State of the Union Address that was arguably the greatest political speech of the twentieth century. In it, Roosevelt grappled with the definition of security in a democracy, concluding that "unless there is security here at home, there cannot be lasting peace in the world." To help ensure that security, he proposed a "Second Bill of Rights"--economic rights that he saw as necessary to political freedom. Many of the great legislative achievements of the past sixty years stem from Roosevelt's vision. Using this speech as a launching point, Cass R. Sunstein shows how these rights are vital to the continuing security of our nation. This is an ambitious, sweeping book that argues for a new vision of FDR, of constitutional history, and our current political scene.
"Eminently readable and thought-provoking, Sunstein's The Second Bill of Rights is part history, part theory, and part survey of social-rights jurisprudence around the globe." (American Prospect)
"Engaging, thoughtful and original." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"Spirited and perfectly conceived." (Washington Post Book World)
"An ingenious argument." (New York Times Book Review)
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Basic Books (July 3, 2006)
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