Published at 77 Fordham Law Review 555 (2008).

Document Type



This essay explores the ways that the Four Freedoms were intended to address the dire circumstances of the Second World War. It analyzes the historical context of the 1940s in which the Four Freedoms first emerged, how they formed the basis of the International Bill of Human Rights, and how they evolved over the decades that followed. This essay argues that, restored to their proper place at the center of U.S. policy, the Four Freedoms promise a more principled and more effective grand strategy than the “Global War on Terrorism.” Part I introduces the argument that the Four Freedoms remain both solid law and wise policy. Part II describes the historical origins of the Four Freedoms. Roosevelt proposed them as a package based on his faith in the merits of American civil rights and his experience facing widespread want and fear. Part III examines the ways in which definitions of the Four Freedoms—particularly the Freedom from fear—drifted during the Cold War Era, plucked apart by those seeking to promote one or another freedom, ignoring FDR’s original formulation of the Four Freedoms as a package. Part IV further develops the proposition that the Four Freedoms present a compelling paradigm for peace and security today. The essay concludes by returning to the Anglo-American security partnership which forged the Four Freedoms in 1941 and calls for a recommitment to the vision of a peaceful world articulated by FDR and embraced by Winston Churchill, among others. When the Four Freedoms are treated as a package, they offer not only inspiration but also a well-balanced framework for formulating effective policies, addressing such issues as sustainable development, trade, and inequality, as well as dealing with the threats posed by radical jihad.