On the Other Hand...

A Bill of Wrongs

by Jim Davies

Last April 12th, the 50th anniversary of his death, I heard his granddaughter Anna read part of a speech made to Congress by F D Roosevelt in 1944. He had called it his "Economic Bill of Rights", and towards its end he confidently - and rightly - predicted that if his hearers didn't do something fast about putting them into law, the country would "take note of it". So, they did.

As I listened, I almost froze up. His words were slow, deliberate, relentless, emphatic, poison! Lights went on all over; this immensely powerful man, at the height of his career and popularity, had left this country a desperately evil heritage, and if words have meaning, he knew exactly what he was doing. I've long known that FDR was bad news for America; I'd never before understood how full and deep and deliberate was the damage he did.

The theme of the speech was that the Bill of Rights (free speech, jury trials, etc) was fine and dandy, but that Americans needed and deserved a good deal more - hence this list of "Economic Rights" that was this New Dealer's legacy.

If I'd not frozen up I'd have hit the "Record" button and taken complete note of that list, but I do recall a few of the examples that he gave. They will suffice to give you the flavor.

"The right to a decent job" was one of them. For farmers, "the right to a decent standard of living for their families" was another; and from that flowed later all the nonsense about farm subsidies that now have the Pols a-wriggle.

There was "the right to an education"; where have I heard that lie before? And then "the right to health care." Hillary knows about that one.

The point about all these is not that they are bad - on the contrary, they are all highly desirable things and are delivered in spades by a truly free society - but that FDR solemnly described them as "rights". That is 100% wrong.

You see, for you and me to have a "right", someone else has to pay for it. Now, the wise men who wrote the real Bill of Rights did it properly. There is not one of those Rights which costs anyone any more than to leave us in peace; it's a list of things that government can NOT do. So the only cost it lays on anyone is to restrain the politician's natural impulse to suppress dissent, corrupt religion, disarm the people, spy on them, throw them in jail without a jury trial, etc, etc.; so if that class of person will just live and let live, he pays nothing at all. Those Framers knew exactly what real Rights are!

But Roosevelt - who, alas, also knew what he was doing - did the opposite; every one of the "rights" he proposed laid a heavy burden on someone other than the favored groups whose admiration - and votes - he was courting.

A "decent job"? Yes; for if Joe Blow has the right to one, his employer will be forced by law to provide it, regardless of whether or not Blow is performing any useful work. Logically, a law that would enforce FDR's absurd "right" would oblige employers to hire everyone and pay them even if no work was being done, and so go broke. Such "full employment" was practised in the Soviet Union for 70 years; the marvel is that it lasted so long. But sure enough, when the end came, it was a basket case. Standard Operating Procedure in the workplace became, long before the ultimate collapse, "I'll pretend to work, and you'll pretend to pay me." That's exactly what FDR's "right to a decent job" leads to.

How about a "right to an education"? Well, that fiction is 90 years older than FDR, but we can now begin to see the appalling wreckage that, too, has caused. The right to learn (at one's own expense) is of course guaranteed by the true Bill of Rights, e.g. Amendment #9; government is not authorized to prevent us. The obscenity in FDR's ideal is that someone - taxpayers - should be forced to pick up the tab. The consequence lies before us, and will stay there until the alleged "right" is repealed, no matter how "public schooling" may twist & turn.

As I listened, fascinated, to this speech - surely one of the great, polluted fountainheads of Socialism in America - I had to admit how clever FDR and his fellow autocrats had been; for he had a willing audience. Americans had, in 1944, been pummelled into giving a more than sympathetic ear to such evil. They had just come through a decade and a half of savage deprivation and war. The "rights" that FDR said they should have were the very things they were desperate to acquire.

But for that decade and a half, our grandparents would never have given such nonsense the time of day. Everything about the American ideal told them that decent jobs and health care and education and the rest of it were theirs to earn; that while nobody had a right to be handed them, everybody has a right to work for them, and then to keep them. That was the American Dream.

But in the 1920s, government used its newly-grabbed power over the currency to inflate it, and the surplus "money" caused a collapse of the stock market in 1929, and then for five years the Feds deflated it again so as to cause wave upon wave of bank failure and catastrophe and poverty, and then FDR finagled the US into a major, non-defensive war to distract people from those troubles by showing them something even worse... no wonder so many of them swallowed whole his lies about "Economic Rights"! By 1944, the entire population was punch drunk from 15 years of Federal savagery - over almost all of which FDR had himself presided.

Today, it should be a very different matter. That savagery has been exposed. There is, supposedly, a new broom in Congress. The New Deal and the Great Society have all failed, and have been shown to have failed, and why.

But in the place where it counts heavily - the medium watched by the most influential people in our society, PBS - no such thing is shown. The MacNeill Lehrer News Hour showed Anna Roosevelt reading this benighted speech April 12th 1995 without a syllable of criticism. Just as if it were true, then or now.

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 114

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