In the early days of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his famous Four Freedoms Speech, in which he articulated those fundamental freedoms that should be realized by people the world over. The first two freedoms, freedom of speech and expression and freedom of religion, were drawn directly from the United States Constitution. The third and fourth, freedom from want and freedom from fear, articulated FDR’s desire to forge a lasting peace predicated on a structured international system institutionalized as the United Nations.
Key to this new international order was the need to fundamentally re-order the global economy. Indeed, it was the economic deprivation of the 30s that allowed fascism and totalitarianism to metastasize and shatter the fragile peace that followed the first Great War.
The following statement, made by Vice President Henry A. Wallace to the Chicago United Nations Committee to Win the Peace on September 11, 1943, seeks to further articulate the third of the Four Freedoms – the Freedom from Want.
The time has come for a new declaration of freedom, which adds to and makes secure, in an age of airplanes, radio and abundance, the freedoms for which our fathers fought. Our new declaration must go on to cover freedoms we haven’t got now but which we must have.
Three of the President’s famous four freedoms deal with freedoms which we in the United States have long enjoyed. The fourth freedom, which must be the essence of the new declaration of freedom, is freedom from want, which I would spell out as follows:
- Freedom from worry about a job.
- Freedom from worry about a dependent and poverty-pinched old age.
- Freedom from unnecessary worry about sickness and hunger.
- Freedom from strife between workers and businessmen, between farmers and businessmen, and between workers and farmers.
- Freedom from strife between the races and creeds.
- Freedom from fear of bankruptcy caused by overproduction of necessary materials.
- Freedom for venture capital and for inventors of new ideas to expand production of needed goods without fear of repressive cartels, excessive taxation or excessive government regulation.
Above everything, we are fighting for peace. But the peace will not last long if it doesn’t bring to the Common Man everywhere these seven freedoms. Neither will it last long if it is made before the Allied Armies reach Berlin and Tokyo.
The preceding passage was taken from the publication: War and Peace Aims: Extracts from Statements of United Nations Leaders, Special Supplement No. 3 to the United Nations Review, April 30, 1944.
Greg Chaffin is a research assistant for the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London.