Occupy 2011 evokes President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (1933–1945) certainty that government should protect the people from the despotism of the economic royalists who, of course, believe that the government has no business defending the people from economic slavery. FDR often warned that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.
PoliticusUSA writers weigh in round table style with responses to the enduring relevance of FDR’s reclaiming of economic freedom and liberty.
FDR could have been standing on Wall Street speaking yesterday, and his words could not have been more relevant. But he was speaking in 1936, and to read them today is to send chills up our spines, because we realize that the tyrants subdued by FDR in 1932 have returned like Tolkien’s Dark Lord Sauron and his orkish minions to torment the Earth’s people again.
“For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor – other people’s lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.”
And as FDR said, it is not the government that is our enemy, though a government can be and has been, most notably under George W. Bush’s administration. But only the government is in a position to protect the people from tyranny. In 1941 those enemies would be foreign, but in 1932 as in 2011, those enemies are domestic:
“Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people’s mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.”
The interests FDR identifies as “royalists of the economic order “ were willing to concede political freedom but maintained a right to economic and “denied that the government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.” But as FDR said then, and as we must insist upon now, on Wall Street and in cities across this nation, “Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.”
Quote from FDR’s speech: “For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor, other people’s lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness”
1936 — 2011 not much has changed. FDR’s words were true then and true today. If we do not take action, take positive steps to eradicate the economic inequality in this country we will be Greece in a short period of time; the Republicans will get their way and there will be revolution — although I doubt they really want that type of revolution. Let us take up the fight, put on our capes, bear our standards and battle the economic injustice in this country and promote Obama’s jobs bill ceaselessly and band together to get this President elected again in 2012. Hurrah.
FDR said the enemies of peace were business monopolies (corporations) and speculators (Wall Street) who promote class antagonism (warfare), and they consider the Government an appendage to their own affairs. His assertion that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mobs describes the situation we face today. The difference is that the neo-conservative movement (Republicans, Libertarians, Christian Fundamentalists, and corporations) is working to transform the Government as we know it into a Christian theocracy and a private, for profit enterprise owned and operated by billionaires. At least during FDR’s era, there were leaders who had a modicum of compassion for the welfare of the people. Today, conservatives have contempt for the American people, and with their wealthy corporate backing will certainly achieve their goal of plutocracy. Even FDR could not prevent this eventuality today; there is no hope that a free, prosperous America will survive.
D. L. MacKenzie:
Even among American Presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt stands apart. He succeeded as no other President in modern American history has, not only in his accomplishments as President during a debilitating global depression, and as Commander-in-Chief during a horrifying world war, but as a tireless and outspoken advocate for the forgotten American moral code of equality under the law, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He led America in a second revolution against powerful, privileged “royalists of the economic order,” and we won again, vanquishing widespread poverty and ushering in a sustained American Renaissance which has taken decades for economic royalists to undermine. But Roosevelt’s greatest legacy remains in the spirit of shared sacrifice and shared freedom he so indelibly etched on our national psyche, our commitment to the proposition that “freedom is no half-and-half affair.” As the battle lines are drawn once again, that legacy can and must sustain us once again.
Quote from FDR’s speech: “Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people’s mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.”
Roosevelt was speaking of conditions that are strikingly similar to those we face today. High unemployment and with it poverty, while wealth is rapidly concentrated in the hands of a few. We also face a similar political struggle between those who argue that government is the problem. 1929 is comparable to 2008, with similar devastating results. We are in a similar philosophical struggle with those who would deny that government has a role in protecting people’s right to work and do so at a living wage. If we ignore the lessons of history, it will not only be at the peril of the unemployed and working poor, ultimately, it will also be at the peril of those who favor “small” government.
FDR’s mother’s name was Sara (Ann Delano), so clearly there’s a connection here:-) Quote from FDR’s speech: “This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny. It is not alone a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.”
Today the privileged Princes of Wall Street control our government for the sole purpose of enriching themselves at our expense. They may not wear crowns, but with the USA teetering on the precarious cliff of a completely corporate controlled government, this is certainly no longer the democracy the founders imagined.
This is not America’s first fight against economic royalists, nor will it be the last. Today, as in the past, we fight not just for economic equality but also for the very soul of our country. FDR’s Rendezvous with Destiny speech speaks to the challenges we face today, and articulates perfectly that the fight is not one of class warfare, but rather of American liberty.
This article is dedicated with great appreciation to our Editor-in-Chief, Jason Easley, whose passion for economic freedom and belief in an American way of life that offers dignity and respect to the working class drives PoliticusUSA. Happy Birthday, Boss! Thanks for all that you do for us and for the site.