A good deal of my dissertation is concerned with notions of security, and insecurity, in informational environments. While my primary concern is with young people’s experiences and understandings of cyber(in)security, I’ve also taken an interest in contemporary and historical discourses of security (e.g. Seven Takes on Security). So, I was excited to see Michael Moore discuss Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Economic Bill of Rights” in his new documentary. In his final 1944 State of the Union speech, with the U.S. near the end of WWII, FDR called for “a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all.” What’s more, the focus on security is often related to “our children” — he describes “a sacred obligation to see to it that out of this war we and our children will gain something better than mere survival” in the 4th sentence.
In summarizing his diplomatic discussions with “Mr. Hull,” “the Generalissimo,” “Marshal Stalin,” and “Prime Minister Churchill,” FDR defines a new supreme objective for the future:
The one supreme objective for the future, which we discussed for each Nation individually, and for all the United Nations, can be summed up in one word: Security.
And that means not only physical security which provides safety from attacks by aggressors. It means also economic security, social security, moral security—in a family of Nations. (emphasis added)
The speech, which you can read in full at TeachingAmericanHistory.org, concludes with a call for a “second Bill of Rights” to ensure such economic, social, and moral security:
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.
Among these are:
- 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.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being. (emphasis added)
It’s notable that he links the expansion of our industrial economy with a need for new rights to ensure equality in the pursuit of happiness. I rarely hear “security” discussed in terms of ensuring happiness. I also find his “Necessitous men” quote notable (4th paragraph above). The FDR American Heritage Center includes a footnote for this quote, from The Public Papers & Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt Vol XIII, that states:
“Necessitous men,” says the Lord Chancellor, in Vernon v Bethell, 2 Eden 113 (1762), “are not, truly speaking, free men; but, to answer a present emergency, will submit to any terms that the crafty may impose on them.”
Security, to FDR, is thus physical, economic, social, and moral. It is necessary for the equal pursuit of happiness in an industrial economy. And, it affords citizens the freedom to resist terms imposed on them from the “crafty” during emergencies.
Of course, FDR’s “Economic Bill of Rights” never materialized in America and his declaration that “we shall not repeat the excesses of the wild twenties when this Nation went for a joy ride on a roller coaster which ended in a tragic crash” was unfortunately proven false. America – Fuck Yeah!