How to Understand the Second Rights of the Second Bill of Rights
In terms of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness“, “First Rights” of the Bill of Rights are rights to life and liberty, “Second Rights” are rights enabling the pursuit of happiness.
Below we discuss “Second Rights” (the Rights contained in FDR’s Second Bill of Rights and other documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), then we’ll discuss “The Problem of Second Rights”.
What Are Second Rights? What is the Second Bill of Rights?
The most famous example of a Second Bill of Rights is the one suggested by Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR).
Thus, FDR suggested that we declare an “economic bill of rights” to guarantee:
- Employment, Food, clothing, and leisure with enough income to support them
- Farmers’ rights to a fair income
- Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
- Medical care
- Social security
“As I see it, the task of government in its relation to business is to assist the development of an economic declaration of rights, an economic constitutional order. This is the common task of statesman and business man. It is the minimum requirement of a more permanently safe order of things.” – FDR
FDR Second Bill of Rights Speech Footage.
TIP: Other nations, like the U.K., actually already have Second Bills of Rights based on existing international frameworks guaranteeing the rights of all people in all countries. Human rights standards generally do not become enforceable in the United States unless and until they are implemented through local, state, and/or federal law. Oddly, or not, the U.S. is behind other countries in declaring Second Rights, even though it was a leader in declaring First Rights. With that in mind Wilson’s New Freedom, FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society Programs, and other laws like Obama’s Affordable Care Act have expanded many Second Rights to citizens of the United States. Democrats have notably had a better track record with Second Rights in the 20th century. With that in mind, prior to the Wilson era Republicans had a good track record with Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism and the Lincolnian Republican’s Reconstruction Amendments.
The Economics of Second Rights – The Problem of Second Rights
The concept of why Second Rights are complex to implement and agree on is easy to explain.
The right to a fair trial is a right, confirmed by the Bill of Rights, that we can all happily confirm without having to break out our balance sheets.
Meanwhile, we don’t all agree that things like healthcare and education are human rights. These “Second Rights” have a unique property that free speech and fair trials don’t, they have vast governmental and economic implications.
Thus, “Second Rights” are things that “ought to be” (a metaphysics term) human rights, but have physical barriers.
In Kantian terms (see an explainer), they are rights born from metaphysic morals, they are “what ought to be”, they are philosophically rights, but they have socioeconomic implications (they have problems of logic and physics).
To understand the degree to which we should sacrifice morals for economics, or economics for morals, we can utilize ethics and logic.
Through ethics and logic we can help to bridge the gap between our morals and our economics to find the degree to which we can offer the citizens of a nation “Second Rights” without creating major economic or political issues.
In other words, Second Rights are rights that have economic implications and are somewhat idealistic.
Thus, we must consider both morals and economics to find a common ground.
Right now (2017 America) we are debating “is healthcare a right?”, but ethically speaking, we would be taking a much more moral stance by saying “healthcare ought to be a right, but it has economic complexities, so how can we make it work by working together?”
That is the gist, below are some resources on Second Rights.
FDR Exposes The Oldest Republican Trick. FDR describing tactics that would be used again in the Sixth Party Strategy, but in his day, it was tactics used against the New Deal Coalition by the Conservative Coalition. This video leans left, the other one below by Friedman leans right-Libertarian. The idea is to offer the reader a range of perspectives (as again, my theory is that we should be working together, and to do that we must know both views).
Milton Friedman – The Social Security Myth. It isn’t simple, we need to consider both sides here. I also suggest watching other Friedman videos, like Milton Friedman on universal health care.
OPINION: To say one slightly biased thing before moving on, I would note, that in terms of working together toward a sensible middle ground, we wouldn’t be looking for rhetoric, we would be looking for honest conversation and real solutions that bridge the gap between left and right. “Repairing” the Affordable Care Act by taking away Medicaid, or “repairing” Medicare by privatizing it, all without reaching across the aisle for a real bi-partisan solution, is pretty far from the ideal here. There is a general sentiment on the paleo-socially-conservative right that can be said to be a desire to undo all programs since New Freedom, this is essentially an attempt to undo the “Second Bill of Rights Liberal Welfare State”, each side taking a hardline stance doesn’t produce the same result as working together toward an ideal mean.
Roosevelt’s January 11, 1944 Speech on the Second Bill of Rights
During Roosevelt’s January 11, 1944 message to the US Congress on the State of the Union, he said the following: 
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.
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.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Here is the common standard of human rights created in 1948 (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). The United States hasn’t fully embraced each plank in an official Bill of Rights, however, it should be noted again (as it is above) that we have confirmed most of these rights to some extent via programs like the New Deal and Great Society Programs.
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Second Bill of Rights
- Human Rights and United States Law
- State of the Union Message to Congress January 11, 1944