Four Freedoms Center
As FDR taught us, ideas matter. Powerful ideas about how our government and economy work have helped the conservative movement define the agenda of American politics for 30 years. But the conservative vision has led to a country out of balance, with radical inequality, deep insecurity, and threats to basic rights.
To win America back, progressives need clear and convincing narratives and paradigms around which to organize. Bold ideas and a compelling vision for the future – grounded in evidence, articulated in policy, and moved up and out into the world – can create the kind of common knowledge that shapes the next political era.
The Four Freedoms Center’s ideas confront conservative dogma without hesitation. We don't think government threatens markets, but that our economy grows and we all do better when a healthy government supports healthy markets. This concept draws on the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist and Senior Fellow Joseph Stiglitz and Senior Fellow Rob Johnson, former Senate Banking Committee chief economist.
Stiglitz, Johnson, and others helped establish the Four Freedoms Center in 2009 as a leading source of ideas and rigorous analysis of the financial crisis. Its Make Markets Be Markets conference set the outlines for the reforms passed in 2010. The Center also worked closely with Elizabeth Warren on conceptualizing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
This initial work established a theme: Roosevelt takes on the biggest challenges that will change the country in fundamental ways:
- The structure of the American economy, and how we create value
- The role of government, and how we can rebuild an active government in which we all participate fully as citizens
- The U.S. role in the world, and how we can all thrive in an increasingly globalized economy
The major initiatives of the Four Freedoms Center, led by our Fellows, focus on what FDR called “the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy.”
- Rediscovering Government, led by Jeff Madrick, is designed to own the idea that government can do good by diagnosing public mistrust and restoring understanding of what it does well.
- The Next American Economy, led by W. Bowman Cutter, examines the emerging trends that will define our economy over the next decade and beyond through a series of high-level meetings and publications.
- Dorian Warren’s Future of Work and the American Worker seeks to ensure a strong middle class.
- Ellen Chesler's Women Rising aims to demonstrate how expanding rights and opportunities for women advance global prosperity.
The Four Freedoms Center Fellows are the rare individuals who connect ideas to public life. On television, in major publications, in the conversation with activists on the Internet, and in partnership with advocacy organizations and community organizers, they provide the tools and arguments for change.
On reform of the tax system, Mike Konczal has been putting forward both breakthrough proposals and a broad defense of progressive taxation. On reform of the political process, including reducing the power of economic inequality over democracy, Fellows including Thomas Ferguson and Richard Kirsch have been illuminating the problem and crafting new solutions. Sabeel Rahman works on progressive values, and Georgia Levenson Keohane connects those values to poverty alleviation. And Stiglitz, Johnson, and Konczal continue to drive issues of financial reform – focusing, as the crisis evolves, on the mortgage overhang, student debt, and the increasingly significant problem of municipal finance. All this work is grounded in accurate historical perspective by our Hyde Park-based Fellow David Woolner.