The Second Bill of Rights

Posted: 8 Jun 2004

See all articles by Cass R. Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)


On January 11, 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered a speech that might well count as the greatest of the twentieth century. In this speech, Roosevelt called for a Second Bill of Rights, including the right to education, the right to be free from monopolistic practices, the right to a decent home, the right to adequate medical care, the right to a job, and more. Roosevelt's Second Bill has had an extraordinary international influence, but it is largely forgotten today, both at home and abroad. This book traces the rise of the Second Bill of Rights and explores its place in American history. It explains that the Second Bill was the product of a national encounter with the Depression, the war against Fascism, and the legal realist attack on laissez-faire. It shows that no one is truly opposed to government intervention and that claims to this effect are enmeshed in a tangle of confusions. It investigates a number of explanations of why the Second Bill continues to lack constitutional status, showing that the Supreme Court was moving in Roosevelt's direction in the 1960s but that the election of President Nixon stopped the movement in its tracks. Following Roosevelt, the book contends that the Second Bill of Rights deserves to have the status of the Declaration of Independence - as a statement of the nation's most fundamental commitments.

Note: This is a description of the paper and not the actual abstract.

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., The Second Bill of Rights. Available at SSRN:

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

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