Cover image for The second bill of rights : FDR's unfinished revolution and why we need it more than ever
The second bill of rights : FDR's unfinished revolution and why we need it more than ever
Sunstein, Cass R.
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Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
294 pages ; 25 cm
The speech of the century -- The myth of laissez-faire -- Rights from wrongs : Roosevelt's constitution -- The emergence of the second bill -- A puzzle and an overview -- The oldest constitution on earth -- American exceptionalism and American culture -- America's pragmatic Constitution -- How the Supreme Court (almost) quietly adopted the second bill -- Citizenship, opportunity, security -- Objections : against the second bill? -- The question of enforcement -- Roosevelt's incomplete triumph.
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KF3300 .S863 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a State of the Union Address that was arguably the greatest political speech of the twentieth century. The speech began what Cass R. Sunstein calls the Second American Revolution by giving form and specificity, for the first time, to the concept of human economic rights. Many of the great legislative achievements of the past sixty years stem from Roosevelt's proposal for a Second Bill of Rights. Yet these rights have never been written into the Constitution, and they remain the subject of passionate debate. In recent years they have even lost ground.Using FDR's speech as a launching point, Sunstein examines the "legal realist" school of thought, which decisively refuted the idea of laissez-faire economics; describes how Roosevelt gradually developed the idea of a Second Bill of Rights; and asks why the Second Bill, which was almost enacted under the Warren Court, has never attained the constitutional status FDR sought for it. The reason, Sunstein maintains, is not anything unique to American culture or temperament but a particular historical accident: the election of Richard Nixon as President in 1968.This is an ambitious, sweeping book that argues for a new vision of FDR, of constitutional history, and of our current political scene. The Second Bill of Rights is an integral part of the American tradition and the starting point for contemporary political reform.

Author Notes

Cass R. Sunstein is a law professor at Harvard Law School and is the most cited law professor in the United States.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

While it doesn't succeed in making Franklin Roosevelt into a constitutional innovator, this disheveled book does bring into focus FDR's forgotten effort to address domestic "security," as WWII neared its climax. Roosevelt's inaugural address of January 11, 1944, asked Congress to adopt a "second Bill of Rights": guarantees of work, adequate housing and income, medical care and education, among others-promises designed to extend the New Deal (and thwart the appeal of communism). The indefatigable Sunstein (Why Societies Need Dissent, etc.) sketches Roosevelt's domestic policies and the logistics of the inaugural address (included in full in an appendix), then debates the never-adopted bill's merits, historically as its ideas kicked around in the post WWII-era, and as it might be taken up today. He tends to be scanty on the bill's potential budgetary toll and on the responsibility for one's own welfare that FDR thought the bill's beneficiaries ought to bear. Sunstein roams widely over legal history and precedent, but is focused and clear in showing how FDR sowed the seeds of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in whose 1948 drafting Eleanor Roosevelt played a crucial role) and energetic in discussing this proposal's further possible legacy. Agent, Sydelle Kramer. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Continuing his analysis of post-New Deal constitutionalism (see, e.g., Designing Democracy), Sunstein (Karl Llewellyn Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, Univ. of Chicago Law Sch.) suggests expanding basic democratic ideas to restructure how government treats citizens. This revision of rights "attempts to protect both opportunity and security, by creating rights to employment, adequate food and clothing, decent shelter, education, recreation and medical care." President Franklin Roosevelt proposed this new conception of rights in 1944 as an extension of his New Deal policies and as a means of defining America's commitment to social justice in a free society. Sunstein calls for a broader definition of freedom in which the Constitution and legislation will insure that rules favor broad segments of the populace rather than representatives of interest groups or officials. He further argues that many societal problems can be solved by expanding the ideals of the U.S. Constitution without violating the constitutional limits of the rule of law. A thoughtful and provocative analysis; strongly recommended for both public and academic libraries. Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

The Second Bill of Rightsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Part I Roosevelt
1 The Speech of the Centuryp. 9
2 The Myth of Laissez-Fairep. 17
3 Rights from Wrongs: Roosevelt's Constitutional Orderp. 35
4 The Birth of the Second Billp. 61
Part II America
5 A Puzzle and an Overviewp. 99
6 The Oldest Constitution on Earthp. 109
7 American Culture and American Exceptionalismp. 127
8 America's Pragmatic Constitutionp. 139
9 How the Supreme Court (Almost) Quietly Adopted the Second Billp. 149
Part III Constitutions and Commitments
10 Citizenship, Opportunity, Securityp. 175
11 Objections: Against the Second Bill?p. 193
12 The Question of Enforcementp. 209
Epilogue: Roosevelt's Incomplete Triumphp. 231
Appendix I Message to the Congress on the State of the Union Address, January 11, 1944p. 235
Appendix II The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (excerpts)p. 245
Appendix III International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (excerpts)p. 247
Appendix IV Excerpts from Various Constitutionsp. 253
Notesp. 263
Bibliographical Notep. 279
Acknowledgmentsp. 281
Indexp. 283