Margaret Thatcher Reflects on Working Toward Peace
is important to understand that the moral foundations of
a society do not extend only to its political system; they
must extend to its economic system as well. America's commitment
to capitalism is unquestionably the best example of this
principle. Capitalism is not, contrary to what those on
the left have tried to argue, an amoral system based on
selfishness, greed, and exploitation. It is a moral system
based on a biblical ethic. There is no other comparable
system that has raised the standard of living of millions
of people, created vast new wealth and resources, or inspired
so many beneficial innovations and technologies. The wonderful
thing about capitalism is that it does not discriminate
against the poor, as so often has been charged; indeed,
it is the only economic system that raises the poor out
of poverty. Capitalism also allows nations that are not
rich in natural resources to prosper. If resources were
the key to wealth, the richest country in the world would
be Russia, because it has abundant supplies of everything
from oil, gas, platinum, gold, silver, aluminum, and copper
to timber, water, wildlife, and fertile soil.
Why isn't Russia the wealthiest country in the world?
Why aren't other resource-rich nations in the Third World
at the top of the list? It is because their governments
deny citizens the liberty to use their God-given talents.
Man's greatest resource is himself, but he must be free
to use that resource.
In his encyclical, Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II
wrote that the collapse of communism is not merely to be
considered as just a "technical problem." It is
a consequence of the violation of human rights. He specifically
referred to the rights to private initiative, to own property,
and to act in the marketplace.
The pope also acknowledged that capitalism encourages
important virtues, such as diligence, industriousness, prudence,
reliability, fidelity, conscientiousness, and a tendency
to save in order to invest in the future. It is not material
goods, but all of these great virtues, exhibited by individuals
working together, that constitute what is called the "marketplace."
Freedom, whether of the marketplace or any other kind,
must exist within the framework of law. Otherwise, it means
only freedom for the strong to oppress the weak. Whenever
I visit the former Soviet Union, I stress this point with
students, scholars, politicians, and businessmen-in short,
with everyone I meet. Over and over again, I repeat: Freedom
must be informed by the principle of justice in order to
make it work between people. A system of laws based on solid
moral foundations must regulate the entire life of a nation.
This is an extremely difficult point to get across to
people with little or no experience with laws except those
based on force. The concept of justice is entirely foreign
to communism. So, too, is the concept of equality. For more
than seventy years, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union
had no system of common law. There were only the arbitrary
and often contradictory dictates of the Communist Party.
There was no independent judiciary. There was no such thing
as truth in the communist system.
What is freedom without truth? I have been a scientist,
lawyer, and politician, and from my own experience I can
testify that it is nothing. The third-century Roman jurist
Julius Paulus said, "What is right is not derived from
the rule, but the rule arises from our knowledge of what
is right." In other words, the law is founded on what
we believe to be true and just. It has moral foundations.
Once again, it is important to note that the free societies
of America and Great Britain derive such foundations from
a biblical ethic.
Democracy never is mentioned in the Bible. When people
are gathered together-whether as families, communities,
or nations-their purpose is not to ascertain the will of
the majority, but the will of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless,
I am an enthusiast of democracy because it is about more
than the will of the majority. If this were not so, it would
be the right of the majority to oppress the minority. The
Declaration of Independence and Constitution make it clear
that this is not the case. There are certain rights that
are human rights and which no government can displace. When
it comes to how Americans exercise their rights under democracy,
their hearts seem to be touched by something greater than
themselves. Their role in democracy does not end when they
cast their votes in an election. It applies daily. The standards
and values that are the moral foundations of society are
also the foundations of their lives.
Democracy is essential to preserving freedom. As British
historian Lord Acton stated, "Power tends to corrupt,
and absolute power corrupts absolutely." If no individual
can be trusted with power indefinitely, it is even more
true that no government can be. It has to be checked, and
the best way of doing so is through the will of the majority,
bearing in mind that this will never can be a substitute
for individual human rights.
I often am asked whether I think there will be a single
international democracy, known as a "new world order."
Though many may yearn for one, I do not believe it ever
will arrive. We are misleading ourselves about human nature
when we say, "Surely we're too civilized, too reasonable,
ever to go to war again," or "We can rely on our
governments to get together and reconcile our differences."
Tyrants are not moved
by idealism. They are driven by naked ambition. Idealism
did not stop Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin. Sovereign nations'
best hope is to maintain strong defenses. Indeed, that has
been one of the most important moral as well as geopolitical
lessons of the twentieth century. Dictators are encouraged
by weakness; they are stopped by strength. By strength,
I do not merely mean military might, but the resolve to
use that power against evil.
The West did show sufficient resolve against Iraq during
the Persian Gulf War, but failed bitterly in Bosnia. In
this case, instead of showing resolve, it preferred "diplomacy"
and "consensus." As a result, more than 250,000
people were massacred. This was a horror that I, for one,
never expected to see again in my lifetime, but it happened.
Who knows what tragedies the future holds if we do not learn
from the repeated lessons of history? The price of freedom
still is-and always will be-eternal vigilance.
Free societies demand more care and devotion than any
others. They are, moreover, the only ones with moral foundations,
and those are evident in their political, economic, legal,
cultural, and, most importantly, spiritual life.
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.
Others before us have done so. Yet, 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 that of our children,
so they may build a better future that will sustain the
responsibilities and blessings of freedom over the wider
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