It is an early draft of The Atlantic Charter , the 1941 statement composed by United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill outlining their vision for the post-World War II world. The historical value of the Atlantic Charter is the subject of another post. In this instance, we shall focus on a key edit Sir Winston made to that charter which ought to have changed the course of history. It did not.
In the draft pictured, Mr. Roosevelt had incorporated the third of his “Four Freedoms” – “Freedom from Want” - rather prominently in the Charter’s fifth statement regarding the future global economic field. As you will note (click image to enlarge), Sir Winston struck through this statement and attached it as mere afterthought to the far more vague and aspirational sixth statement.
This is not an insignificant edit. Mr. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms introduced in his January 1941 State of the Union Address just months before issuance of the Atlantic Charter, were all the rage at this time.
1. Freedom of Speech and Expression
2. Freedom of Religion
3. Freedom from Want
4. Freedom from Fear
The first two of Mr. Roosevelt’s freedoms had, of course, been brilliantly articulated and secured a century and a half prior by the American Founders, the culmination of some 600 years of English Common Law. It is the second two “freedoms” which demonstrate FDR’s contribution, if you will, to the American ethos. They have since become central tenets of modern American liberalism, i.e. Leftism, and, we shall argue, will prove the undoing of the free world if not stuck through once and for all.
Freedom from want and freedom from fear. Want and fear are subjective states of mind. To be free from them is something only the “wanter” or “fearer” can achieve for themselves.
Consider want. One may want with equal desperation for the basic necessities of life as for a weekend bang-fest in Vegas with Spitzer-vintage whores. Regulating either the degree or the object of another man’s want is not only impossible but generally necessitates extraordinary levels of brutality in the attempt. History is replete with examples. What can be regulated are the actions men take in their efforts to gratify – and thus free themselves of – their wants. This is already done. It is called “The Rule of Law.” You cannot kill. You cannot rape. You cannot steal. In other words, you cannot take what is not yours without the consent of its owner, no matter how severe your want.
Within legal parameters, citizens in free market economies are otherwise free to seek to gratify their wants till the cows come home. If these citizens find they, nonetheless, “Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” we recommend they seek the counsel of their local priest, rabbi, or swami, for this is a personal spiritual dilemma. This is not the purview of government. Only those entertaining sadomasochistic fantasies of Orwellian behavioral modification techniques could seriously suggest it ought to be.
Ditto for fear.
Surely FDR had none of this in mind when penning his Four Freedoms speech. He merely sought a catchy slogan for declaring his earnest desire that no one ought be poor and no one ought live their lives in fear. We applaud politely at Mr. Roosevelt’s kind sentiment but disagree profoundly with the suggestion that these wishes constitute rights, particularly rights equal to those of freedom of speech and religion which government is obliged and able to honor.
One here notes the careful wording in America’s founding documents concerning these matters. The Declaration of Independence specifies the pursuit of happiness as an unalienable right, not happiness itself. The Constitution ascribes to government the responsibility of promoting the general welfare, while it must provide for the common defense. The choice of verbs is no accident and the distinction is not insignificant.
To have declared that their new government, or any government, were capable of protecting its constituents from want and fear would have struck the Founders as hilarious, and that it sought to do so as terrifying. For only a government assuming for itself the authority of an all-powerful, over-protective, over-bearing mother could wish to achieve such a thing. Behold the Nanny-State.
Sadly, in 1948, Lady Roosevelt saw to it that her husband’s grotesque add-ons to the Founder’s genius were prominently incorporated within the preamble of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Sir Winston had little say in the matter.
In the sixty years since, the free world has dutifully supplanted civic and historical education with nanny-state nonsense adorned in the raiment of “human rights” and “social justice.” Is it any wonder that today a formidable number of free persons seek to relinquish their freedom, running like sobbing toddlers into the open, all-powerful arms of government, promising to protect them not only from foreign and domestic molestation, but hospital bills, mortgage payments, and second hand smoke as well?
These central tenets of American liberalism are dangerous lies. There is no such thing as freedom from want and freedom from fear. There is only self-control. The consent of free men ought be given only to those governments which require and honor self-control. That would be the essence of self-government i.e. the very object of the American experiment.
In 1941, Sir Winston – the British Prime Minister (though half American by birth) - said all this and more with the stroke of his pen. Unfortunately, sixty-plus years of cultural devolution have eroded his mark.
“It is better to perish than live as slaves,” he once said, echoing the conviction of liberty’s champions before and since. At one time it was understood as essential that this conviction be cherished in the hearts and minds of all free men in order for them to remain truly free. Today, it is smirked off as so much draconian melodrama as we hand over our personal sovereignty piece by piece. Liberty is not enough. We want total freedom: freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom from responsibility, freedom from choice, freedom from ourselves.
“You shall have it,” promises the Left, like The Pied Piper of Hamelin leading generations to the second childhood they’ve been cultivated to covet. “All you need to do is listen to the music … and follow.”