Fill out the brief form below for access to the free report.
Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, died this week. Like Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and others she embraced the blessings and responsibilities of her own liberty and projected leadership that helped topple Soviet tyranny. Much will be written and said about Margaret Thatcher in the coming days. I’d prefer to share some of her own words on freedom.
In October 1979, only five months into her first term as prime minister, Thatcher went to Luxembourg to deliver the Winston Churchill Memorial Lecture. In that speech she aimed to “say something about my view of the meaning and obligations of liberty; about how these condition my vision of Europe and the European Community; and about our present problems.” By “present problems” she largely meant challenges to liberalism at home and abroad, and their impact on peace and prosperity.
Among other things, Thatcher’s speech was one of extraordinary clarity about the threat of Soviet communism. In the global war of ideas between dictatorship and democracy, between war and peace, between poverty and economic opportunity, she clearly took the side of individual freedom. It was also her belief that “political leaders, and the citizens of our democracies, have the duty to act.” These are timeless words, as relevant to today’s struggles between tyranny and freedom as they were more than 30 years ago.
Below is the definition of liberty that Thatcher offered in her speech. To read the full text, and many others, visit the excellent online archive of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.
Margaret Thatcher’s Definition of Liberty:
Modern liberty rests upon three pillars. They are representative democracy; economic freedom; and the rule of law….
Representative democracy goes far to solve the difficult problem of combining the liberties of the subject with the necessary authority of the modern state. If a democratic government does badly, the people can change it. If a democratic leader proves inadequate, he or she can be replaced without bloodshed. If individuals wish to associate peacefully for a common purpose, they may do so….
Dictatorships have succeeded in doing few if any of these things. Democracy may be less than perfect but, as Churchill forcibly pointed out, all the other systems so far devised by man are much worse.
Representative political institutions cannot alone guarantee our liberties. It is economic liberty that nourishes the enterprise of those whose hard work and imagination ultimately determine the conditions in which we live. It is economic liberty that makes possible a free press. It is economic liberty that has enabled the modern democratic state to provide a decent minimum of welfare for the citizen, while leaving him free to choose when, where, and how he will make his own contribution to the economic life of the country. If the economic life of the country is dominated by the state, few of these things are true….
The third guarantee of liberty is the Rule of Law. The idea that all are equal under the law is deeply rooted in our democratic systems and nowhere else….The thought that no one in the state can escape the law is, after all, a daring one….This is not a thought which the powerful can easily accept. Those who hold sway in totalitarian states take good care that the Rule of Law does not challenge their authority."
Amanda Schnetzer is the Director of Human Freedom at the Bush Institute.
Amanda Schnetzer is Director of Global Initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas. In this role, she is responsible for developing innovative research, programmatic, and policy efforts to advance societies rooted in political and economic freedom and to empower women to lead in their communities and countries. Previously she served as the Bush Institute’s founding director of the Human Freedom Initiative.
Amanda has twenty years of experience in the international arena and a background in public policy research and analysis, public affairs, and management of diverse, high-level stakeholders. As senior fellow and director of studies at Freedom House in New York, Amanda guided research for the organization’s definitive studies of freedom. She began her career at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, supporting research on U.S. foreign policy and international politics. Amanda is a published writer and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
Chinese Prisoner’s Death Holds a Message for Americans and China
Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner died this week. His death holds a message for Americans and for China.
Release of Chinese Political Prisoner a Timely Reminder to Support Freedom Advocates Abroad
More than half the world’s population still lives in countries where basic political rights and civil liberties are only partly respected, if at all.
Bringing Freedom to the Forefront of 21st Century Politics
Is the global liberal democratic order in danger? Purposefully constructed in the aftermath of World War II, this order -- and the American leadership that is central to its success --has contributed to securing peace and expanding prosperity in the United States and around the world. Today, that order appears to be dissolving. This crisis is not new or sudden; it has been mounting for several years. Global challenges like authoritarian capitalism, violent extremism, demographic pressures, and displaced populations have placed global freedom in decline. Fraying traditional alliances united by core values of freedom are increasingly weak to respond. It is alarming that the downdraft in democratic resilience over the past decade or more includes countries that have long been part of the consolidated democratic West. This is democratic deconsolidation. In much of the Western world, we see a rise in demagogic populism, illiberalism, nationalism, protectionism, and waning conf
The Importance of Speaking Truth to Tyrants
What the president of the United States says matters. Even during the realpolitik policies of détente under Richard Nixon, it was still clear that American policy was based on a set of core values. Nixon’s practical goals of reaching deals with America’s adversaries was never based on the “great chemistry” with himself or praising the Soviet or Communist Chinese leadership doing a “fantastic job.” When the president aligns himself with the autocrats and dictators, he aligns America with their oppression. He sends a message that corruption and brutality are not our concern. Contrast that with how Ronald Reagan defied much of world opinion in calling out the brutality of the Soviet system. Natan Sharansky, then a refusenik imprisoned in a Soviet gulag, later wrote for the Weekly Standard of his thoughts on Reagan’s pronouncement that the USSR was an evil empire: “It was the great, brilliant moment whe