An Economic Bill of Rights

In his wartime State of the Union Address of 11 January 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put forward a social liberalism embodying a fundamental economic program integral to liberal-democratic juridical and political rights, to which critics of capitalism can have no objection. Described as Roosevelt’s unfinished revolution, this 2nd Bill of Rights is needed now more than ever in the late neo-liberal era to undo the damage done to society and the public sector in Australia as elsewhere.

The historic moment of 1944, as victory seemed assured and only needing to be ground out on the battlefield, saw Roosevelt’s strategic vision turn to winning the peace. What had all the bloodshed been for? In Roosevelt’s mind, the answer was clear, the gaining of a lasting peace with democratic prosperity for the all the masses. This was necessary to complete the Freedoms in the name of which the War had been fought. Mere political rights had proven inadequate to assure the liberty of equality of the pursuit of happiness. `We have come’ he told the nation and the world `to the clear realization that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. `Necessitous men are not free men.’’ Roosevelt called for a 2nd Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity could be established for all, regardless of class, race or creed. The articles of this modern charter were to be:

#          The right to a useful, meaningful and remunerative job in the industries, shops, farms or mines of the nation.

#          The right to the means to provide adequate, clothing and recreation.

#          The right of every farmer to a return on his produce sufficient to guarantee a decent living.

#          The right of the self employed to conditions of fair competition in the market place.

#          The right to decent shelter.

#          The right to a decent education.

#          The right to adequate protection from the economic fear of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.

Many of these principles were to be embodied in the UN Charter of Human Rights, to which Australia is a signatory, which accordingly have force as an international obligation in Australian law. To these we would add the right of labour to collectively bargain and withdraw labour in defense of its rights.

It is submitted that Left Unity should discuss and adopt these concepts as a minimum program.

 

David Faber Convener May 2018

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