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The Four Freedoms and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights: How High Will Senator Sanders Aim?

March 10, 2016

By John F. Henry
Levy Economics Institute
On January 6, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union Address to Congress. It was a perilous stage in world history, and Roosevelt used his annual address to urge U.S. entry into the war then raging. Against the isolationists in Congress (and in the general population), Roosevelt contended that the main objective of U.S. entry was to fight for the universal freedoms that all peoples of the world should possess. These “four freedoms” were freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. It is the third freedom—freedom from want—with which we are here concerned.
In the economic organization within which we live—call it capitalism, free enterprise, entrepreneurial—the majority of the population must find employment that provides sufficient income to allow a life free from want. The reality, however, is that many, and sometimes very many as in the “Great Depression” of the 1930’s, cannot secure employment, and, even if successful in finding a job, the income generated is insufficient to escape a life of want. It is somewhat ironic that the economic system requires that most people must secure jobs at sufficient wages, but that same system does not require that such jobs are available.

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