Sunday, July 5, 2015

Four Freedoms

A typically thoughtless response to the
minimum wage discussion.
Discussion about assistance efforts often ends in judgement and criticism.  The unaddressed issue:  why bother with assistance efforts in the first place?
Why might government behave as though they had a responsibility to those in need?

As an individual, am I responsible for others in the community who are less fortunate than I?  Should that which I've earned be given without my consent to others who didn't earn it?  No, of course not.

I've given my consent, however, so there's no problem as long as I remember that.  As a nation, we've acknowledged that our participation in this country's community and benefits includes support for basic human rights which include freedom from want.  I am my brother's keeper.

One of the historical threads:

In the recovery years after the Great Depression when millions had suffered so severely at the hands of the wealthy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his state of the union address declared four fundamental freedoms that everyone should enjoy.
"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
  • The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
  • The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
  • The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
  • The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb." ~ FDR 1941 State of the Union Address
This declaration of the four freedoms was echoed through the war years and emerged in the international community through the United Nations universal declaration of human rights.

Underneath the formalities, we find the basic purpose of human existence; not just the survival of the strongest, but that we would live graciously together, that we would care for one another and do as we ourselves hope would be done for us.  Sound familiar?

Roosevelt's declaration of freedom was not without substance.  He lists the benefits of democracy, including economic opportunity, employment, social security, and the promise of "adequate health care".  The first two freedoms, of speech and worship, are protected by the First Amendment in the United States Constitution.  His inclusion of the latter two freedoms went beyond the traditional values protected by the U.S. Bill of Rights. Roosevelt endorsed a broader human right to economic security and anticipated what would become known decades later as the "human security" paradigm in social science and economic development. He also included the "freedom from fear" against national aggression before the idea of a United Nations for this protection was envisioned or discussed by world leaders and allied nations.

The essential addition to today's debate is regarding how we might effectively accomplish these goals.  Or, as a culture and nation, we might abandon such humanitarian intent entirely; that's on the table as well.