A New Bill of Rights


By CHARLES W. ELIOT, Director, National Resources Planning Board

Radio Statement "World Peaceways and CBS", Indianapolis, Ind., May 27, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 556-557.

WHEN Hitler surrenders or when he blows his head off, we Americans must know what we are going to do next. In time of war, we must prepare for peace. You have all heard the old phrase, "They knew what they wanted". Do we Americans know what we want after the war?

I think all peoples everywhere want two things above all else—liberty and security. The President's statement of the "Four Freedoms" combines liberty of speech and religion with freedom from want and freedom from fear. The same combination of ideas, liberty and security is contained in the broad sheet issued by the National Resources Planning Board, entitled "Our Freedoms and Rights". The Board, which the President has made responsible for bringing together plans for the Post-War period in the United States has put out a "New Bill of Rights". These are your rights:

1. The right to work, usefully and creatively through the productive years;

2. The right to fair pay, adequate to command the necessities and amenities of life in exchange for work, ideas, thrift, and other socially valuable service;

3. The right to adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care;

4. The right to security, with freedom from fear of old age, want, dependency, sickness, unemployment, and accident;

5. The right to live in a system of free enterprise, free from compulsory labor, irresponsible private power, arbitrary public authority, and unregulated monopolies;

6. The right to come and go, to speak or to be silent, free from the spyings of secret political police;

7. The right to equality before the law, with equal access to justice in fact;

8. The right to education, for work, for citizenship, and for personal growth and happiness; and

9. The right to rest, recreation, and adventure; the opportunity to enjoy life and take part in an advancing civilization.

There are some who say that this is not the time to boast of our rights but rather to stress our obligations. Of course,all rights carry with them obligations just as all freedom carries with it responsibility. Personally, I do not want to see our "rights" watered down to just opportunities; rather I want a program to make our rights actual, effective, and immediate.

We must demonstrate not only our belief in these noble objectives; but also we must make them a part of the life of every American. The other day. I read in the newspaper a story from Germany which some of you may have seen, about organization and labor under the "new order", which ended with a statement that under the Nazi code "nobody has any rights—only duties". I venture to think that if we can make the realization of our rights seem practical and probable in the United States, we can then use this statement of "Our Freedoms and Rights" to arouse hope and faith among the freedom-loving peoples in the conquered countries and even in the Axis countries. Ideas and hope can be just as effective as bullets in winning battles.

In talking with a friend last week, we were discussing how we could present the statement of "Our Freedoms and Rights" more effectively to the public, and we ran into a curious problem. If you know foreign languages, just try yourself to translate "freedom from want" into that foreign language and see if you can find a phrase which goes along with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. You see, the President has combined in the Four Freedoms both liberty and security and thus poses one of the biggest problems that we all face in plans for the post-war world. We cannot be perfectly safe and at the same time free. We cannot be both out on the high seas of great adventure and at the same time safe in a protected harbor.

In making our plans for the post-war world, we must find ways to tie these two objectives together to provide the greatest possible opportunity for freedom of the individual, freedom of private enterprise, and at the same time personalsecurity from fear and from want. We want to leave the largest possible scope and provide the greatest possible assistance for the kind of risk and adventure which has developed our country, built our great railroads, developed our resources, and made our industries the "Arsenal of Democracy." But if we are to guarantee the right of everyone to work at fair wages, there will always be in the background the responsibility of government to provide work through public action if private action won't take the risks itself.

For the last three days here in Indianapolis, the National Planning Conference has been discussing ways and means to make "Our Freedoms and Rights" real and effective, seeking to find some of the lines of action which will combine liberty and security. We have been discussing the future of communities which have been rapidly expanded due to war industry or neighboring cantonments. We have been searching for some of the answers to the conversion of war plants to new peacetime production. The Conference has been working on the best use of our man-power, particularly the problem of demobilization. There has been much discussion of city re-planning "after victory" and the possibilities of large-scale rebuilding of our urban communities. Much concern has been expressed over the action of the Senate in reducing the appropriation for the National Resources Planning Board. In brief, we have been trying to follow the proposal of the President, who sent a message to this Conference which says:

"We need to know our own resources, to understand how to use them, and to plan their full use for the benefit of all the people. Planning is needed by individuals, communities, States, regions, and by the Nation and the United Nations to win this war and to win the peace that follows. All of the free peoples must plan, work, and fight together for the maintenance and development of "Our Freedoms and Rights".