In 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a State of the Union Address that was arguably the greatest political speech of the twentieth century. The speech began what Cass R. Sunstein calls the Second American Revolution by giving form and specificity, for the first time, to the concept of human economic rights. Many of the great legislative achievements of the past sixty years stem from Roosevelt's proposal for a Second Bill of Rights. Yet these rights have never been written into the Constitution, and they remain the subject of passionate debate. In recent years they have even lost ground.
Using FDR's speech as a launching point, Sunstein examines the "legal realist" school of thought, which decisively refuted the idea of laissez-faire economics; describes how Roosevelt gradually developed the idea of a Second Bill of Rights; and asks why the Second Bill, which was almost enacted under the Warren Court, has never attained the constitutional status FDR sought for it. The reason, Sunstein maintains, is not anything unique to American culture or temperament but a particular historical accident: the election of Richard Nixon as President in 1968.
This is an ambitious, sweeping book that argues for a new vision of FDR, of constitutional history, and of our current political scene. The Second Bill of Rights is an integral part of the American tradition and the starting point for contemporary political reform....Continua