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Margaret Thatcher

Prime Minister of England from 1979 to 1990, Dame Thatcher succeeded in reversing England's calamatous decline after years of influence by the British Labour Party and the governments it ran. Author of The Downing Street Years (1995) and other works.

Book by Margaret Thatcher
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Collected Speeches of Margaret Thatcher (1997)
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Socialism's results have ranged between the merely shabby and the truly catastrophic - poverty, strife, oppression and, on the killing fields of communism, the deaths this century of perhaps 100 million people. Against that doctrine was set a contrary, conservative belief in a law-governed liberty. It was this view which triumphed with the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. Since then, the Left has sought rehabilitation by distancing itself from its past.

Oct. 1, 1999 - from "Well Done Tony! You've Given William His Chance!", published in the London Daily Telegraph, re-published at margaretthatcher.com
Even I sometimes find it hard to remember how truly dreadful conditions in socialist Britain were. Inflation then at over 25 per cent; now under three per cent. Top rate income tax then at 83 per cent - 40 per cent now. Nationalised industries then losing £50 million a week; privatised industries now contributing nearly £60 million a week to the Exchequer. Industrial relations transformed. Productivity transformed. Reputation transformed.

Apr. 1, 1997 - outlining the successes of her government in "The Boneless Wonder of New Labour", published in the London Daily Telegraph, re-published at margaretthatcher.com
Let us look... at what the collectivists call "public enterprise." ... Invariably the enterprise took place years ago. The state merely takes over a going concern, usually when all the enterprise has been knocked out of it.

Jul. 1, 1975 - from "Competitive Enterprise or State Bureaucracy", published in the London Guardian, re-published at margaretthatcher.com
Politicians must be... wary of political ideologies. It is not our business to plan the educational system as a sociological abstraction... "Equality of opportunity" is a poor guide if it means the same mediocre schooling for all.

Jan. 30, 1975 - from "My Kind of Tory Party", published in the London Daily Telegraph, re-published at margaretthatcher.com
The political and economic structure in which we live has been changing in a way which seems to take less account of people and more of economic theories and systems... Central control, statistical returns, regulations, taxes, levies and demands from the Government for yet more information are part of the daily round. What place is left for the individual?

Feb. 20, 1969 - from "Participation - in what?", published in the London Daily Telegraph, re-published at margaretthatcher.com
Any party should be wary of making too many detailed promises of a non-political nature.

Feb. 1, 1969 - from "Consensus or Choice?", published in the London Daily Telegraph, re-published at margaretthatcher.com
In the Conservative Party we have no truck with outmoded Marxist doctrine about class warfare. For us it is not who you are, who your family is or where you come from that matters, but what you are and what you can do for your country that counts.

1984
For those of you waiting with baited breath for the favorite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say... U-turn if you want to, the Lady's not for turning.

1980 - from a speech to the Conservative Party conference
Let me give you my vision: A man's right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, to have the state as servant and not as master. These are the British inheritance. They are the essence of a free country, and on that freedom all of our other freedoms depend.

We should back the workers, not the shirkers.

attributed
... the unconditional supply of social benefits to those who were thought incapable of coping undermined the incentive to work and undercut the family unit. It promoted habits of idleness and delinquency. It permitted single-parenthood to become a financially sustainable, alternative way of life. By undermining the self-respect of so many of the most vulnerable members of society -- the respectable poor struggling for decency against the odds -- the dependency culture weakened society as a whole.

Dec. 22, 1997 - from a speech at the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine
Be warned. A powerful, radical left-wing clerisy is bent on destroying what every past generation would have understood to be the central purpose of education -- that is, allowing (in the words of Edmund Burke) individuals to 'avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations, and of ages.' A society needs only one generation to abandon the task of learning and transmitting its culture, for that culture to become an alien, lifeless irrelevance.

Dec. 22, 1997 - from a speech at the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine
We must learn again to be one nation, or one day we shall be no nation.

1978 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
We do not believe that if you cut back what Government does you diminish its authority. On the contrary, a government that did less, and therefore did better, would strengthen its authority.

Oct. 14, 1977 - from a speech at a Conservative Party conference, quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
... I am an enthusiast for democracy ... I take that position, not because I believe majority opinion is inevitably right or true - indeed no majority can take away God-given human rights - but because I believe it most effectively safeguards the value of the individual, and, more than any other system, restrains the abuse of power by the few. And that is a Christian concept.

May 21, 1988 - from "Christianity and Wealth", a speech to the leaders of the Church of Scotland
I do think we have accomplished the revival of the philosophy and principles of a free society, and the acceptance of it. And that is absolutely the thing I live for.

from a speech to the Centre for Policy Studies in London
Any set of social and economic arrangements which is not founded on the acceptance of individual responsibility will do nothing but harm. We are all responsible for our own actions. We cannot blame society if we disobey the law. We simply cannot delegate the exercise of mercy and generosity to others.

May 21, 1988 - from "Christianity and Wealth", a speech to the leaders of the Church of Scotland
Pennies don't fall from heaven - they have to be earned here on earth.

Nov. 01, 1979 - quoted in The Sunday Telegraph
The legal system we have and the rule of law are far more responsible for our traditional liberties than any system of one man one vote. Any country or Government which wants to proceed towards tyranny starts to undermine legal rights and undermine the law.

1966 - from a speech at a Conservative Party conference, quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
... conservatives above all should never forget, there is more to politics than economics. Indeed, if government is small enough (or even weak enough), the infinite inventiveness of human talent will see to it that, in general, the economics take care of themselves.

Dec. 22, 1997 - from a speech at the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine
Many of our troubles are due to the fact that our people turn to politicians for everything.

1979 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
I donít believe they [the voters] want a government to be so flexible it becomes invertebrate. You donít want a government full of flexi-toys.

1985 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
No theory of government was ever given a fairer test or a more prolonged experiment in a democratic country than democratic socialism recieved in Britain. Yet it has been a miserable failure in every respect. Far from reversing the slow relative decline of Britain vis-a-vis its main industrial comepetitors, it accelerated it. We fell further behind them, until by 1979 we were widely dismissed as 'the sick man of Europe.'

1995 - from The Downing Street Years
Why do you climb philosophical hills? Because they are worth climbing... There are no hills to go down unless you start from the top.

Aug. 8, 1986 - quoted in the Wall Street Journal
Not every capitalist had my confidence in capitalism. I remember a meeting in Opposition with City experts who were clearly taken aback at my desire to free their market. 'Steady on!', I was told. Clearly a world without exchange controls in which markets rather than governments determined the movement of capital left them distictly uneasy. They might have to take risks.

1995 - from The Downing Street Years
Conservative governments which increase taxation lose elections.

Dec. 22, 1997 - from a speech at the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review
Like a giant refrigerator that had finally broken down after years of poor maintenance, the Soviet empire in its collapse released all the ills of ethnic, social and political backwardness which it had frozen in suspended animation for so long. ... The moral vacuum created by communism in everyday life was filled for some by a revived Orthodox Church, but for others by the rise in crime, corruption, gambling, and drug addiction - all contributing to a spreading ethic of luck, a belief that economic life is a zero-sum game, and an irrational nostalgia for a totalitarian order without totalitarian methods.

Mar. 09, 1996 - from her John Findlay Green lecture delivered at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri
If your only opportunity is to be equal then it is not opportunity.

Nov. 28, 1986 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
In a Socialist society, parents should be seen and not heard.

Oct. 10, 1975 - from a speech at a Conservative Party conference, quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
Freedom under the law must never be taken for granted.

1975 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
Communist regimes were not some unfortunate aberration, some historical deviation from a socialist ideal. They were the ultimate expression, unconstrained by democratic and electoral pressures, of what socialism is all about. ... In short, the state [is] everything and the individual nothing.

Mar. 08, 1981 - from a speech
We want a society in which we are free to make choices, to make mistakes, to be generous and compassionate. That is what we mean by a moral society - not a society in which the State is responsible for everything, and no one is responsible for the State.

Mar. 14, 1977 - from a speech at Zurich University, quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot.

1991 - from a speech to the Heritage Foundation
I believe politicians must see that religious education has a proper place in the school curriculum. The Christian religion - which, of course, embodies many of the great spiritual and moral truths of Judaism - is a fundamental part of our national heritage. For centuries it has been our very lifeblood. Indeed we are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible. Also, it is quite impossible to understand our history or literature without grasping this fact. That is the strong practical case for ensuring that children at school are given adequate instruction in the part which the Judaic-Christian tradition has played in molding our laws, manners, and institution. How can you make sense of Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, or of the constitutional conflicts of the seventeenth century in both Scotland and England, without some such knowledge?

May 21, 1988 - from "Christianity and Wealth", a speech to the leaders of the Church of Scotland
We who are living in the west today are fortunate. Freedom has been bequeathed to us. We have not had to carve it out of nothing; we have not had to pay for it with our lives. But it would be a grave mistake to think that freedom requires nothing of us. Each of us has to earn freedom anew in order to possess it. We do so not just for our own sake, but for the sake of our children, so that they may build a better future that will sustain over the world the responsibilities and blessings of freedom.

[Brian Mulroney] As leader of the Progressive Conservatives I thought he put too much emphasis on the adjective and not enough on the noun.

1993 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
I am not a consensus politician - Iím a conviction politician.

1979 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
Hope is no basis for a defense policy.

Oct. 14, 1988 - from a speech to a Conservative Party conference
Marxists get up early to further their cause. We must get up even earlier to defend our freedom.

May. 01, 1978 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.

... conservatives applaud attachment to the values and institutions which unite us -- and that means promoting and protecting a sense of national identity.

Dec. 22, 1997 - from a speech at the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine
Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be near to understanding the problems of running a nation.

May. 08, 1979 - quoted from The Observer in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
With free trade you can have both large-scale economic efficiency and small-scale political decentralization.

1991 - from a speech to the Heritage Foundation
You can strike your way down, but you have to work your way up.

1983 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
The Labour Party believes in turning workers against owners; we believe in turning workers into owners.

1987 - from an election rally speech
Iím extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.

There is no such thing as Society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.

1987 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
[Pierre Trudeau] Pierre, youíre being obnoxious. Stop acting like a naughty schoolboy.

1981 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
Object to merit and distinction, and you're setting your face against quality, independence, originality, genius against all the richness and variety of life. When you hold back the successful, you penalize those who need help.

1973 - cited by Penny Junor in Margaret Thatcher (1983), Sidgwick and Jackson
Popular capitalism is on the march ... Of course, there will always be people who, in the name of morality, sneer at this and call it 'materialism'. But isn't it moral that people should want to improve the material standard of living of their families, by their own effort? Isn't it moral that families should work for the means to look after their old folk? Isn't it moral that people should save, so as to be responsible for themselves? ... And it is for Government to work with that grain in human nature to strengthen the strand of responsibility and independence: it benefits the family; it benefits the children; it is the essence of freedom.

1987 - from a speech to the Scottish Conservatives
No one would remember the Good Samaritan if heíd only had good intentions. He had money as well.

1986 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
Iron entered my soul. You need a touch of steel. Otherwise you become like India rubber.

Mar. 01, 1980 - from an interview on BBC Radio, quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
Let our children grow tall, and some taller than others if they have it in them to do so.

1975
... you have to watch and make sure you donít frighten people in politics. The power of fear is very great. Youíve got to know that. People have reason to fear the actions of the government, no matter what the government, so always factor in fear.

Feb. 10, 2000 - from a speech at a Claremont Institute dinner
... the undermining of our traditional educational systems, which has gone on longer in Britain but which in the New Age of political correctness seems to have gone into overdrive [in North America], is now a grave danger. It threatens the collective memory of our society, from which its habits and even its identity flow. When a Stanford University English professor describes Milton as 'an ass [and] ... a sexist pig,' and when Shakespeare is on the syllabus of Duke University (in the words of another professor) only to illuminate the way seventeenth-century society mistreated women, the working class, and minorities -- we can say that university education is effectively coming to an end.

Dec. 22, 1997 - from a speech at the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine
In the United States, conservatives are concerned about the judicial imperialism of the courts and the sweeping social and economic changes they have imposed on the country. [They] are right to be so. The idea of courts as independent agencies of social and political change is inconsistent with democracy. The framework within which this controversy takes place is different in Britain. We see an even more far-reaching attack launched by the New Labour government and its left-wing allies on the foundations of our Constitution. One part of this program of rationalizing change, significantly, is the extension of that judicial review which is causing so much trouble here. Another is the attempt to replace our traditional first-past-the-post electoral system by those who would prefer to have horse-trading politicians choose governments, rather than leave that choice to voters.

Dec. 22, 1997 - from a speech at the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine
Freedom is not synonymous with an easy life. ... There are many difficult things about freedom: It does not give you safety, it creates moral dilemmas for you; it requires self-discipline; it imposes great responsibilities; but such is the nature of Man and in such consists his glory and salvation.

from Right Thinking
I was brought up by a Victorian Grandmother. We were taught to work jolly hard. We were taught to prove yourself; we were taught self reliance; we were taught to live within our income. You were taught that cleanliness is next to Godliness. You were taught self respect. You were taught always to give a hand to your neighbour. You were taught tremendous pride in your country. All of these things are Victorian values. They are also perennial values. You donít hear so much about these things these days, but they were good values and they led to tremendous improvements in the standard of living.

1983 - LBJ Radio, quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
If I were to sum up the international conservative position today I would say it was sound but unimaginative. It is sound because there is no need for a fundamental re-thinking of basic principles, as had to happen in the 1970s. It is unimaginative because conservatives have been slow and timid in applying those principles to the new threats that face us today.

Dec. 22, 1997 - from a speech at the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine
It pays to know the enemy, not least because at some time you may have the opportunity to turn him into a friend.

... it is not the creation of wealth that is wrong, but love of money for its own sake. The spiritual dimension comes in deciding what one does with the wealth. How could we respond to the many calls for help, or invest for the future, or support the wonderful artists or craftsmen whose work also glorifies God, unless we had first worked hard and used our talents to create the necessary wealth?

May 21, 1988 - from "Christianity and Wealth", a speech to the leaders of the Church of Scotland
Socialists have been able to persuade themselves and many others that a free economy based on profit embodies and encourages self-interest, which they see as selfish and bad, whereas they claim socialism is based on, and nurtures, altruism and selflessness. This is baseless nonsense in theory and practice. ... For man is a social creature, born into family, clan, community, nation, brought up in mutual dependence. The founders of our religion made this a cornerstone of morality. The admonitions 'Love thy neighbour as thyself' and 'Do as you would be done by' express this. They do not denigrate self, or elevate love of others above it. On the contrary, they see concern for self and responsibility for self as something to be expected, and ask only that this be extended to others.

quoted in Margaret Thatcher by Peggy Junor, Sidgewick and Johnson, London
Wars are not caused by the buildup of weapons. They are caused when an aggressor believes he can achieve his objectives at an acceptable price.

Feb. 20, 1985 - from a speech to the U.S. Congress
Choice is the essence of ethics. If there were no choice there would be no ethics, no good, no evil. Good and evil only have meaning in so far as man is free to choose.

1977 - quoted in As I Said to Denis: The Margaret Thatcher Book of Quotations, edited by Iain Dale
The West is not just some Cold War construct, devoid of significance in today's freer, more fluid world. It rests upon distinctive values and virtues, ideas and ideals, and above all upon a common experience of liberty.

Mar. 09, 1996 - from her John Findlay Green lecture delivered at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri