Economic Rights, then Zen on the Peace & Justice Report, Wednesday, July 5 at 9am.
Written by Tom Walker on Monday, July 3, 2023
Our first guest this Wednesday will be Mark Paul. Now teaching economics at Rutgers University, Mark until recently taught at New College. His new book is The Ends of Freedom – Reclaiming America’s Lost Promise of Economic Rights. It’s an urgent argument for an Economic Bill of Rights and its “potential to confer true freedom on all Americans.”
More about Mark Paul’s book:
Since the Founding, Americans have debated the true meaning of freedom. For some, freedom meant the provision of life’s necessities, those basic conditions for the “pursuit of happiness.” For others, freedom meant the civil and political rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights and unfettered access to the marketplace—nothing more. As Mark Paul explains, the latter interpretation—thanks in large part to a particularly influential cadre of economists—has all but won out among policymakers, with dire repercussions for American society: rampant inequality, endemic poverty, and an economy built to benefit the few at the expense of the many.
In this book, Paul shows how economic rights—rights to necessities like housing, employment, and health care—have been a part of the American conversation since the Revolutionary War and were a cornerstone of both the New Deal and the Civil Rights Movement. Their recuperation, he argues, would at long last make good on the promise of America’s founding documents. By drawing on FDR’s proposed Economic Bill of Rights, Paul outlines a comprehensive policy program to achieve a more capacious and enduring version of American freedom. Among the rights he enumerates are the right to a good job, the right to an education, the right to banking and financial services, and the right to a healthy environment.
Replete with discussions of some of today’s most influential policy ideas—from Medicare for All to a federal job guarantee to the Green New Deal—The Ends of Freedom is a timely and urgent call to reclaim the idea of freedom from its captors on the political right—to ground America’s next era in the country’s progressive history and carve a path toward a more economically dynamic and equitable nation.
And here are FDR’s words, from his fireside chat of January 11, 1944:
…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.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact, however, that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry, people who are (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, or 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) farmers to raise and sell their (his) products at a return which will give them (him) and their (his) families (family) a decent living; The right of every business man, 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, and sickness, and accident and unemployment; And finally, 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.
America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world. One of the great American industrialists of our day — a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis — recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this Nation. Any clear-thinking business men share that (his) concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop — if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920’s — then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of fascism here at home.
I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights — for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress so to do, and the country knows it. Many of these problems are already before committees of the Congress in the form of proposed legislation. I shall from time to time communicate with the Congress with respect to these and further proposals. In the event that no adequate program of progress is evolved, I am certain that the Nation will be conscious of the fact.
Our fighting men abroad — and their families at home — expect such a program and have the right to insist on (upon) it. It is to their demands that this Government should pay heed, rather than to the whining demands of selfish pressure groups who seek to feather their nests while young Americans are dying. I have often said that there are no two fronts for America in this war. There is only one front. There is one line of unity that (which) extends from the hearts of (the) people at home to the men of our attacking forces in our farthest outposts. When we speak of our total effort, we speak of the factory and the field and the mine as well as (of) the battlefield (ground) — we speak of the soldier and the civilian, the citizen and his Government. Each and every one of them (us) has a solemn obligation under God to serve this Nation in its most critical hour — to keep this Nation great — to make this Nation greater in a better world.