Source: The Guardian
Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought to redefine freedom in the face of war. The Green New Deal imagines goals for a colorful democracy
One of the biggest challenges of climate politics is that the solutions seem scarier than the problem. We worry that to truly decarbonize, we’d need an authoritarian government or endless austerity. But a big and bold enough Green New Deal could finally make us truly free.
The principles that animated the New Deal are often associated with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proposed (but never fully enacted) Economic Bill of Rights. These included rights to employment, medical care, housing, education, and social security. Those goals are tragically unrealized for many Americans, and any just version of the Green New Deal must start there. They’re familiar goals for the left, ones we’ve been fighting over for decades. But we also need to rework another New Deal-era statement of principles – FDR’s Four Freedoms.
In the twilight hours of 1941, as New Deal progress stalled in the face of white southern resistance to federal power, and the war against Hitler intensified in Europe, FDR sought to describe freedom in new terms. He was struggling to bolster support for his faltering domestic agenda and anticipated foreign one; the Four Freedoms were eventually mythologized and sentimentalized in paintings by none other than Norman Rockwell.
We’re not trying to reclaim American patriotism or generate support for a coming world war. But the task of reimagining freedom is critical. In 1941, the Four Freedoms idea was a bridge between the New Deal’s unprecedented federal activism, pressed forward by a huge wave of labor and community militancy, and the wartime mobilization that followed, whose speed and scale now inspire the vision of a Green New Deal.
The right has claimed the language of freedom for decades. But their vision of freedom as your right as an individual to do whatever you want – so long as you can pay for it – is a recipe for disaster in the 21st century, when it’s clearer than ever that all our fates are bound up together. Freedom has to mean something more than the capitalist’s freedom to invest or the consumer’s freedom to buy.