Social Solutions to Poverty:
America's Struggle to Build a Just Society
A book by Scott Myers-Lipton


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Economic Bill of Rights




In his 1941 State of the Union speech, President Roosevelt had articulated four essential human freedoms that the United States supported at home and abroad. These essential human freedoms were freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of religion. By including freedom from want as an essential human freedom, Roosevelt reinterpreted freedom so as to reduce the tension that has existed historically between rugged individualism and social equity.

As Roosevelt refocused his efforts on domestic issues, he called on the United States to develop an economic bill of rights. Building on his four freedoms speech, he argued that the original Bill of Rights (e.g., the First Amendment rights of free speech, free press, and free worship) had provided Americans with the life and liberty Jefferson had set out in the Declaration of Independence.


However, as industrial capitalism developed, these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness. Roosevelt noted, as Paine did before him, that "necessitous men are not free men since true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence." In order to secure these economic rights, Roosevelt proposed a second bill of frights, which should cover the following areas:


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 every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; The right of every businessman, 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, sickness, accident, and unemployment; The right to a good education.

Myers-Lipton, p. 214

(Excerpted from “Social Solutions to Poverty” © Paradigm Publishers 2006)





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