The Best Quotes From Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Statecraft’


(On Who Got Credit For Ending The Cold War) “The role of Ronald Reagan had been deliberately diminished; the role of the Europeans, who, with the exception of Helmet Kohl, were often keen to undermine America when it mattered, had been sanitized; and the role of Mr. Gorbachev, who had failed spectacularly in his declared objective of saving communism and the Soviet Union, had been absurdly misunderstood.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 5

“(Gorbachev’s) remarks in Prague seemed to me, to say the least, of doubtful validity. Yet nor should they be lightly dismissed. They represent the articulation of a strategy, common to the left in many countries, of seeking to escape all blame for communism and then going on to take credit for being more pragmatic, modern, and insightful about the world which those who actually fought communism have created. It is a pressing necessity to expose and defeat both distortions.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 8

“As the former dissident Vladimir Bukovsky one remarked — referring to the Russian proverb to the effect that you cannot make an omlette without breaking eggs — he had seen plenty of broken eggs, but had never tasted any omlette.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 13

“If…many influential people have failed to understand , or have just forgotten, what were up against in the Cold War and how we overcame it, they are not going to be capable of securing, let alone enlarging, the gains that liberty has made.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 15

“I too have a certain idea of America. Moreover, I would not feel entitled to say that of any other country, except my own. This is not just sentiment, though I always feel ten years younger – despite the jet-lag – when I set foot on American soil: there is something so positive, generous, and open about the people – and everything actually works. I also feel, though, that I have in a sense a share of America.” — Thatcher, P. 20

“It is important not to allow ever wider coalition-building to become an end in itself. As we saw in the Gulf War of 1990, international pressures, particularly those exerted from within an alliance, can result in the failure to follow actions through and so leave future problems unresolved.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 37

“The West as a whole in the early 1990s become obsessed with a ‘peace dividend’ that would be spent over and over again on any number of soft-hearted and sometimes soft-headed causes. Politicians forget that the only real peace dividend is peace.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 40

“…The defence budget is one of the very few elements of public expenditure that can truly be described as essential. This point was well-made by a robust Labour Defence Minister, Denis (Now Lord) Healey, many years ago: ‘Once we have cut expenditure to the extent where our security is imperilled, we have no houses, we have no hospitals, we have no schools. We have a heap of cinders.’ — Margaret Thatcher, P. 44

(On Putting Women in Combat) “Women have plenty of roles in which they can serve with distinction: some of us even run countries. But generally we are better at wielding the handbag than the bayonet.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 45

“When we hear (as we sometimes do) that (Russia’s) economic output is about half the level of a decade ago or that real incomes have fallen sharply, it is worth recalling that economic statistics under the Soviet Union were hardly more reliable than any other official statements. Moreover, a country that produces what no one wants to buy, and whose workers receive wages that they cannot use to buy goods they want, is hardly in the best of economic health.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 85

“It is always important in matters of high politics to know what you do not know. Those who think that they know, but are mistaken, and act upon their mistakes, are the most dangerous people to have in charge.” — Margaret Thatcher, P 104

“The application of collective guilt, running from one generation to another, is a dangerous doctrine which would leave few modern nations unscathed.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 131

“When in August 1793 a British delegation showed their hosts a terrestrial globe, it turned into a diplomatic incident, for the Chinese were furious to see that their empire covered so little of it. For centuries the Chinese had thought of themselves as ‘The Middle Kingdom’, that is the centre of the civilized world. To see otherwise was a shock.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 162

“It can be argued – and rightly – that Taiwan is not just another regional issue: after all, the Chinese regard it as part of China. But Taiwan is also a regional issue for three reasons. First, the overthrow or even the neutering of democracy in Taiwan, which is what Beijing effectively demands, would be a major setback for democracy in the region as a whole. Second, if the Chinese were able to get their way by force in Taiwan, they would undoubtedly be tempted to do the same in other disputes. And third, there is no lack of such disputes to provoke a quarrel.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 182

“Rogue states never turn out to be quite the pariahs they are deemed. They are only able to cause, or at least threaten to cause, mayhem because they enjoy the covert support – usually by means of technology transfers – of one or more major powers within the charmed circle of global ‘good guys’.” — Margaret Thatcher, p. 208

“As a motive for terror, religion has more often than not required a good deal of lubrication by lucre.” — Margaret Thatcher, P 221

“It is recorded how towards the end of the eighteenth century a Muslim visitor to England was taken to see the House of Commons at work. He later wrote of his astonishment at finding the that the British Parliament actually made laws and fixed punishments for their infraction – because unlike Muslims the English had not accepted a divine law revealed from heaven and therefore had to resort to such unsatisfactory expedients. Muslims still understand the expression ‘the rule of law’ very differently than do most Westerners.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 222

“The Iraqis had paid a terrible price for Saddam’s folly (in the Gulf War). But looking at the devastation they left behind (in Kuwait), my sympathy was limited.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 227

“President Numeiri of Sudan is said to have remarked of Gadaffi that he was ‘a man with a split personality – both of them evil’. — Margaret Thatcher, P. 234

(On the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict) “(Not) even the US can impose peace: it has to be genuinely accepted by both parties involved.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 246

“Israel must never be expected to jeopardize her security: if she was ever foolish enough to do so, and then suffered for it, the backlash against both honest brokers and Palestinians would be immense – ‘land for peace’ must also bring peace.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 246

“…Conservatives have excellent credentials to speak about human rights. By our efforts, and with precious little help from self-styled liberals, we were largely responsible for securing liberty for a substantial share of the world’s population and defending it for most of the rest.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 249

“The Nuremburg trials were attacked at the time as ‘victor’s justice’. And this is precisely what they were – and were intended to be.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 258

(On The International Criminal Court) “For the victors of the Cold War to submit to an unelected, unaccountable, and almost certainly hostile body such as that envisaged would be the ultimate irony.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 262

(On The International Criminal Court) “Major international interventions are doomed unless the US is directly or indirectly involved. But if American politicians, officials and servicemen are to be put at risk of arrest and prosecution, the United States will be most reluctant to act in order to curb aggression or prevent genocide. So the effect of the court may well be to diminish, not increase, the numbers of (in the words of the UN Secretary General) ‘innocents of distant wars and conflicts’.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 265

“It is in a country’s interests to keep faith with its allies. States in this sense are like people. If you have a reputation for exacting favors and not returning them, the favours dry up.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 267

“Left-wing zealots have often been prepared to ride roughshod over due process and basic considerations of fairness when they think they can get away with it. For them the ends always seems to justify the means. That is precisely how their predecessors came to create the gulag.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 273

“Whether it is in the United States or in mainland Europe, written constitutions have one great weakness. That is that they contain the potential to have judges take decisions which should properly be made by Democratically elected politicians.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 275

“Whether at home or abroad, the task of statesman is to work with human nature warts and all, and to draw on instincts and even prejudices that can be turned to good purpose. It is never to try to recreate Mankind in a new image.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 283

“I do believe that political arrangements which are based upon violence, intimidation and theft will eventually break down – and will deserve to do so.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 307

“Bribing regimes to comply with requirements which they should have acknowledged in the first place is not a process that appeals to me.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 316

“During my lifetime most of the problems the world has faced have come, in one fashion or other, from mainland Europe, and the solutions from outside it.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 320

“It is one of the great weaknesses of reasonable men and women that they imagine that projects which fly in the face of commonsense are not serious or being seriously undertaken.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 325

(On The European Union) “What we should grasp, however, from the lessons of European history is that, first, there is nothing necessarily benevolent about programmes of European integration; second, the desire to achieve grand utopian plans often poses a grave threat to freedom; and third, European unity has been tried before, and the outcome was far from happy.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 327

“If one generation is expected to carry an excessive burden on behalf of another, it will seek by every means to avoid it. It will either demand that past promises are broken, or it will not work, or it will not pay taxes, or the most talented people will leave. Socialist governments which have tried to tax ’till the pips squeak’ have ample experience of that.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 334

“The European single currency is bound to fail, economically, politically and indeed socially, though the timing, occasion and full consequences are all necessarily still unclear.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 355

“If the Europeans truly wish to improve their NATO contribution they can show it simply enough. They can establish professional armed forces, like those of the UK. And they can acquire more advanced technology. Indeed, unless that happens soon the gulf between the European and US capabilities will yawn so wide that it will not be possible to share the same battlefield. Alas, I do not think that sharing battlefields with our American friends – but rather disputing global primacy with them – is what European defence plans are truly about.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 358

“(A unified) ‘Europe’ is the result of plans. It is, in fact, a classic utopian project, a monument to the vanity of intellectuals, a programme whose inevitable destiny is failure: only the scale of the final damage done is in doubt.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 359

“To be free is better than to be unfree – always. Any politician who suggests the opposite should be treated as suspect.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 394

“(I)t is highly questionable whether when ‘Europe speaks with one voice’, as we are so often told it is doing, anyone is really listening. Europe’s reputation as a serious player in international affairs is unenviable. It is a feeble giant who desperate attempts to be taken seriously are largely risible. It has a weak currency and a sluggish inflexible economy, still much reliant on hidden protectionism. It has a shrinking, ageing, population and, with the exception of Britain, rather unimpressive armed forces and, not excepting Britain, muddled diplomacy.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 395

“Countries trade with each other – or to be more precise people buy and sell from each other across frontiers – because that is the way to advance their interests. We do not need to beg people to trade with us – as long as we have something that people want, of a quality they expect and at a price they are prepared to pay.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 403

“Whether manufactured by black, white, brown or yellow hands, a widget remains a widget – and it will be bought anywhere if the price and quality are right. The market is a more powerful and more reliable liberating force than government can ever be.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 421

“Yet the basic fact remains: every regulation represents a restriction of liberty, every regulation has a cost. That is why, like marriage (in the Prayer Book’s words), regulation should not ‘be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly’.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 423

“The right-of-centre parties still often compete with left-of-centre ones to proclaim their attachment to all the main programmes of spending, particularly spending on social services of one kind or another. But this foolish as well as muddled. It is foolish because left-of-centre parties will always be able to outbid right-of-centre ones in this auction – after all, that is why they are on the left in the first place. The muddle arises because once we concede that public spending and taxation are than a necessary evil we have lost sight of the core values of freedom.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 424

“…(T)he larger the slice taken by government, the smaller the cake available for everyone.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 425

“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 426

“Socialists have always spent much of their time seeking new titles for their beliefs, because the old versions so quickly become outdated and discredited.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 427

“The accumulation of wealth is a process which is of itself morally neutral. True, as Christianity teaches, riches bring temptations. But then so does poverty.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 430

“With all due respect to the drafters of the American Declaration of Independence, all men (and women) are not created equal, at least in regard to their characters, abilities and aptitudes. And if they were, their family and cultural backgrounds – not to mention the effect of mere chance – would soon change that. On one thing, nature and nurture agree: we are all different. If this is unjust, then life is unjust. But, though one hears this expression – usually in the form of the complaint that ‘life is unfair’ – it really means nothing. In the same vein, someone once said to Voltaire, ‘Life is hard.’ To which is replied: ‘Compared with what?'” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 431

“There is much to be said for trying to improve some disadvantaged people’s lot. There is nothing to be said for trying to create heaven on earth.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 432

“When all the objectives of government include the achievement of equality – other than equality before the law – that government poses a threat to liberty.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 433

“To the extent that the West is to blame at all for the ills of the Third World it is to the extent that the West created Marx and his successors, among whom must be numbered many of those who advised the Third World leaders in post-war years.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 439

“In a system of free trade and free markets poor countries – and poor people – are not poor because others are rich. Indeed, if others became less rich the poor would in all probability become still poorer.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 440

“The Third World is very much like the First World – just poorer: what works for the West will work for the rest as well.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 444

“Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ is not above sudden, disturbing, movements. Since its inception, capitalism has known slumps and recessions, bubble and froth; no one has yet dis-invented the business cycle, and probably no one will; and what Schumpeter famously called the ‘gales of creative destruction’ still roar mightily from time to time. To lament these things is ultimately to lament the bracing blast of freedom itself.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 462

“Individualism has come in for an enormous amount of criticism over the years. It still does. It is widely assumed to be synonymous with selfishness…But the main reason why so many people in power have always disliked individualism is because it is individualists who are ever keenest to prevent the abuse of authority.” — Margaret Thatcher, P. 468

All quotes are from ‘Statecraft‘.

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