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The Second Bill Of Rights: FDR's UNfinished Revolution-- And Why We Need It More Than Ever Hardcover – June 29, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (June 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465083323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465083329
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
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"[Designing Democracy is] a nuanced but spirited journal across a broad terrain of constitutional issues.... This approach brings a fresh perspective to many of the well-worn but still vital issues of American constitutional debate."

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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The professor makes an excellent case.
Common Sense
As Sunstein clearly points out, most modern constitutions provide the rights FDR sought in 1944.
His analysis of Laissez-Faire economic philosophy is the most practical I've ever read.
Nonfiction Steve

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Stephen J. Jaros on February 14, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I won't bore you with all the things that are good about this book (as usual, Sunstein's scholarship is first-rate, his prose is easy on the eyes even as the ideas are challenging to the mind). I'll get straight to my two problems with the substance of his advocacy of Roosevelt's "Second Bill of Rights", which encompass social-welfare rights not included in our actual Bill:

1) While Sunstein is careful to thoroughly review just about all possible objections - political, economic, legal, and moral - that one could throw at the idea of an expanded array of social-economic rights, the one he spends most of his time on is an attack on the "laissez-faire" idea that classic first-bill rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, property rights, and freedom of contract, are cost-free and don't require an active "government".

Sunstein shows that they do. But, the problem here is that he is demolishing a straw-man. I don't know of *any* modern "conservative" thinker who would disagree with the idea that a free market requires a significant amount of government - an elaborate legal system to enforce contracts, remedy fraud, document transactions; police and military forces to protect property, etc. Sunstein even quotes key free-market philosophers, such as Friedrich Hayek, to that effect. The only ones who truly believe in a literal absence of government are anarchists, and most conservative thinkers despise anarchists as much as they do leftists. No, the issue isn't whether we should have government or not have it, the issue is how *much* government we should have. By attacking an opponent who does not (or at least no longer) exists, Sunstein dodges that issue.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By history man on July 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
book does a good job of analyzing many arguments for and against FDR's proposal. Only thing I thought it lacked was a thorough analyses of the consequence of not accepting FDR's bill as law. FDR's bill of rights needs to be realized in order for all Americans to exercise our existing bill of rights. Especially that of the right of pursuit of happiness. Because, in the current system that nurtures individual greed, majority of the people are just too busy pursuing to secure shelter, health care, decent education, job etc and has no time to pursue happiness. these things should be a basic right of all so that people can truly pursue happiness instead of wasting a life time on securing the basics. If FDR's bill of right does not become a reality, sooner or later people will realize that they are in a hopeless situation created by the super rich and start a revolution.....If the super rich are smart, they should work hard to make FDR's bill into law, because this will make it possible for them to enjoy their riches for a long time without the threat of revolution where their amassed riches will be taken away by force as well as make them more rich because it will create more consumers to consume products and services produced by their industries.

If FDR's 2nd bill of rights does not become policy of this nation; it will surely be overthrown by a revolution. Revolution is just that; the have-nots will rise up and take away the haves wealth and the whole thing will start over. Many generations down the line; the new group of have-nots will overthrow the haves of that time and start another revolution. Just like the term "revolution" indicates; The current system is a perfect recipe of continual Revolutions; around and around.
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gderf on March 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is an enigma. It's very interesting, well written, thoughtful and totally wrong. Of course this review is argumentative, but so is the book. The ideas originate in FDR's inaugural address in 1944, promising social and economic rights by force of law. FDR began with four basic "rights": speech and religion from the original B of R with additions of freedom from want and fear. It all sounds very good until we consider the attendant cost and great expansion of government. I see it more as a hijacking of the first Bill of Rights, rather than an expansion and updating and expression of a living document as egalitarians like Sunstein are fond of saying. It all must have sounded wonderful in 1944. But we all, even Sunstein, could see by 2004 the failure of government as the agency to distribute social welfare.

FDR didn't want to incorporate his "rights" into the Constitution, reasoning that he needn't take a chance on states voting down an amendment. FDR was parlaying his war popularity and power and saw no need to share authority with the judiciary branch. In 1944 he could count on the SC to ratify whatever he proposed. He and future presidents could then expand "rights" as desired, relying only on executive power. As we are a product of our history, this is an excellent view int the origins of the modern progressive movement towards socialism as economic "rights" are given the force of law.

FDR was not an ideologist, but Sunstein is. LBJ and liberals that followed have used the ND ideals of equal opportunity and social safety net as cover for egalitarian motives intending a redistribution of wealth to the point of equality of wealth and income that has resulted in our current system of entitlements and redistribution. FDR was a pragmatist.
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