American Exceptionalism and Human Rights

By Michael Ignatieff | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Why Does the American Constitution Lack
Social and Economic Guarantees?

CASS R. SUNSTEIN

The alms given to a naked man in the street do not fulfill the obliga-
tions of the state, which owes to every citizen a certain subsistence,
a proper nourishment, convenient clothing, and a kind of life not
incompatible with health.

—Montesquieu

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength,
under the protection of certain inalienable rights—among them the
right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom
from unreasonable searches. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our economy has grown in size and stature, however—as our
industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inade-
quate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness. … 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,

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.

I ask Congress to explore the means for implementing this eco-
nomic bill of rights—for it is definitely the responsibility of the
Congress to do so.

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

-90-

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