And please, let’s keep it that way.
In P.J. O’Rourke’s book, Don’t Vote, It Just Encourages the Bastards, he writes:
“When rights consist of special privileges and material benefits, rights kill freedom. Wrong rights are the source of political power.”
O’Rourke is right.
On Facebook recently, a friend of mine shared an image that depicts a proposed “Second Bill of Rights” that President Franklin Roosevelt outlined in his 1944 State of the Union speech.
Thankfully, much of this proposal died with him.
According to what would later become Newsweek, the footage was thought lost until liberal icon/September 11 truther Michael Moore found it.
Thank goodness Moore put aside conspiracy theories for a moment to share with us footage of more of FDR’s economic malarkey.
Newsweek, excuse me, The Daily Beast, quoted Pulitzer prize winning author and content borrower Doris Kearns Goodwin’s views on the “Second Bill of Rights”:
Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, told The Daily Beast that Moore “is absolutely right” to focus on FDR’s second Bill of Rights. She said she has never seen a film clip of Roosevelt describing his proposal.
“It was a radical proposal, suggesting a positive role for government in protecting people against the vagaries of the market, and had he lived, it is fascinating to wonder how much of these ideas might have been translated into policy,” Goodwin said in an email.
Remember, aspiring writers, when caught using a person’s work without proper attribution, the question is not whether you should lose your job, rather, “the larger one.”
As Kearns Goodwin put it:
“The larger question for those of us who write history is to understand how citation mistakes can happen.”
But what do I know? I’m not pretentious enough to posit that I “write history.”
What is it that’s so bad about FDR’s proposed second bill of rights? Why is it so bad?
The first line in this proposed new bill of rights is that “every American has a right to __________.” The graphic proposes assigning these six news rights to every American.
The seventh — I am told from some very tenuous deep background sources — is that FDR also wanted to propose a right for Americans never to be killed by your government abroad by a robot airplane without pesky warrants, arrests and trials. You know, the whole justice system thing.
But after detaining ethnic minorities — citizens no less — in “containment camps” FDR didn’t want to limit his successors. At least he was forward thinking.
The first new proposed right is a right to a job. As it currently stands, many Americans aren’t in possession of this proposed right since lots of them are unemployed.
I’ll admit, America would be pretty swell if we all had jobs. And West Highland Terriers. But how would we go about implementing such a new right? Let’s flesh it out with a few ideas:
- The government employs everyone. (See: Communism.)
- The government employs everyone who cannot find a job in the private sector (See: Socialism and related variants.)
- The government forces employers to hire people (See notes in #2.)
As O’Rourke said, conferring new rights kills freedom. Either by telling people how to run their businesses, or by taking taxes from them to achieve those ends.
Same goes with the second guarantee — an adequate wage and a “decent” living, however defined. What’s decent living to New Yorkers might seem third worldly to people in the deep south these days. Four people to a closet in a hostel? Why not have a McMansion for the same price? No “big” 20 oz drinks? Come get a supersized 84 0z drink at Confederacy Mart.
A right to a decent home? How would the government implement this? Heavily subsidize housing to ensure more people get it? That worked out great in recent years! Everybody has decent housing…. Right? Or is that just me?
Well, maybe instead of using government (read: taxpayer and China’s) money to encourage people to buy homes, we try to artificially game the market and set prices on housing.
You know, rent control, like in New York.
In New York, rich people with second houses get rent controlled apartments. Kids lie to the government about their residency so when grandma dies they’ll get her posh apartment. (And they never break residency or voting laws, that’s for sure!) Best of all, if you’re a former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, you get a couple rent controlled apartments. I think that is in New York’s state constitution somewhere.
Smart kids with a Master’s degree get to live with three other people in a closet for $750 a month per person. Rent control is awesome.
The government, if unshackled by those greedy free marketeers, could do so many great things to make housing affordable. If given more power, imagine how much more affordable housing could be in places like New York! Everyone could be just like Ted Mosby in How I Met Your Mother.
From what I can tell, impoverished people love government solutions that make housing affordable. Government does such a great job. (Unless, of course, you’re a greedy landlord.)
Which brings me to medical care. Every American has the right to medical care? Close the book on this one, guys. Even before Obamacare, this already was the law of the land.
Oh wait. You mean they had to pay for it? Like, by finding jobs? Choosing appropriate housing? Where is the fun in that?
We’re not done yet. There are two more, so stay with me.
Number five is the right to “Economic protection during sickness, accident, old age or unemployment.” Sounds a lot like Social Security Disability Insurance and Unemployment. Well, those have already been implemented to varying degrees.
Social Security Disability Insurance runs out of money in a mere six years. In 2018 the trust fund will be broke and recipients will have their benefits cut unless Congress pours more money in. Most state unemployment funds are broke, too, borrowing money from the feds.
Well, it’s not like a guarantee of such benefits (or perceived entitlement of them) makes the system susceptible to fraud. No way!
I don’t know about you, but I know at least five people who have, or are currently, committing some level of fraud. People feel entitled. To them it’s not fraud, rather, it’s just getting their money back. (Which means I know at least five people who would make great citizens in Greece.)
The last is a right to a good education. I grew up in a town that spent ungodly amounts on education, and my parents (and those of my friends) spent more money to send us to what would appear to be an inferior Catholic school.
Yes, my grade school alma mater is a recipient of a Blue Ribbon School Award. How is it that my school, where we dissected chicken wings instead of dead pigs like the kids at public school (seriously!) produce better results (on average) than kids whose education cost multiples of mine?
I got a better education for a fraction of the price (not including taxes for those public schools that produced flunkie yuppies and drug addicts), and the really poor kids three miles east of me got a worse education for five times the cost.
How did that happen? Well, just trust government a little more and presto chango, outcomes will change. Oh, right, they need more of your money, too, so pay up.
You cannot guarantee a “good education” It’s a pipe dream of false government promises.
It’s up to teachers, parents, students and the like to ensure people get a good education.
The late — not great — FDR’s proposed second bill of rights are nothing but feel good platitudes that don’t give serious thought to the issues and the unintended consequences. Which might explain why unions like them.
In America you have the right to pursue or obtain these things. But they shouldn’t just be given to you by other people. A decent education, for example, takes effort from you. So does finding a job, and using its wages to pay for housing and medical care.
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had a job? Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had an adequate wage and decent living? Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had a decent home and medical care, economic protection during sickness, accident, old age or unemployment, and a good education? And a West Highland Terrier.
The Beach Boys were right — wouldn’t it be nice?
One thing FDR either didn’t consider is that you can’t realistically promise these things to people. And you shouldn’t. Or, a more sinister version is that he knew such promises were dumb but did it for political gain anyway.