Margaret Thatcher, there is no society and Mick Philpott

Here\’s the full answer from that interview in which Maggie stated that there is no such thing as society:

Prime Minister

What is wrong with the deterioration? [mistranscription?] I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government\’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and[fo 29] there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation and it is, I think, one of the tragedies in which many of the benefits we give, which were meant to reassure people that if they were sick or ill there was a safety net and there was help, that many of the benefits which were meant to help people who were unfortunate—“It is all right. We joined together and we have these insurance schemes to look after it”. That was the objective, but somehow there are some people who have been manipulating the system and so some of those help and benefits that were meant to say to people: “All right, if you cannot get a job, you shall have a basic standard of living!” but when people come and say: “But what is the point of working? I can get as much on the dole!” You say: “Look” It is not from the dole. It is your neighbour who is supplying it and if you can earn your own living then really you have a duty to do it and you will feel very much better!”

There is also something else I should say to them: “If that does not give you a basic standard, you know, there are ways in which we top up the standard. You can get your housing benefit.”

But it went too far. If children have a problem, it is society that is at fault. There is no such thing as society.[fo 30] There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate. And the worst things we have in life, in my view, are where children who are a great privilege and a trust—they are the fundamental great trust, but they do not ask to come into the world, we bring them into the world, they are a miracle, there is nothing like the miracle of life—we have these little innocents and the worst crime in life is when those children, who would naturally have the right to look to their parents for help, for comfort, not only just for the food and shelter but for the time, for the understanding, turn round and not only is that help not forthcoming, but they get either neglect or worse than that, cruelty.

How do you set about teaching a child religion at school, God is like a father, and she thinks “like someone who has been cruel to them?” It is those children you cannot … you just have to try to say they can only learn from school or we as their neighbour have to try in some way to compensate. This is why my foremost charity has always been the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, because over a century ago when it was started, it was hoped that the need for it would dwindle to nothing and over a hundred years later the need for it is greater, because we now realise that the great problems in life are not those of housing and food and standard of living. When we have[fo 31] got all of those, when we have got reasonable housing when you compare us with other countries, when you have got a reasonable standard of living and you have got no-one who is hungry or need be hungry, when you have got an education system that teaches everyone—not as good as we would wish—you are left with what? You are left with the problems of human nature, and a child who has not had what we and many of your readers would regard as their birthright—a good home—it is those that we have to get out and help, and you know, it is not only a question of money as everyone will tell you; not your background in society. It is a question of human nature and for those children it is difficult to say: “You are responsible for your behaviour!” because they just have not had a chance and so I think that is one of the biggest problems and I think it is the greatest sin.

The strangeness of it is that, by the time you get to the end, there\’s absolutely nothing there that Polly Toynbee could possibly disagree with.

And yet it\’s been one of the most vilified statements that Maggie ever made.

Most odd.

15 thoughts on “Margaret Thatcher, there is no society and Mick Philpott”

  1. Because it is a terrible soundbite. In internet terms, the good stuff is not tl;dr, it isn’t even deemed worthy of communication to the masses.

    Economics analogy – do or don’t companies pay taxes?

  2. Like Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech, most people who have a desire to criticise anyway have never troubled themselves with being aware of the context and most certainly wouldn’t admit their error if they were made aware of it. If anyone claims to have a problem with Mrs Thatcher’s speech, ask them to point to society.

  3. Part of a sentence is taken deliberately out of context by those seeking any justification to condemn a person they have already decided to hate.

  4. I think Polly Toynbee would disagree that there is more to life than money. She has spent her career claiming that if only we take more from the rich and give more to the poor, all will be OK.

    The great thing about Maggie Thatcher was that she was considerably more honest and intellectually consistent than most politicians, and all party leaders bar I think Michael Foot, of my lifetime.

  5. So Much for Subtlety

    It is the Alinsky method copied from Stalinism – Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Do not bother debating the merits of Trotsky-s views. Reduce everything down to two simplistic slogans.

    They were searching for a sound bite to pin on her. They found one. They would have always found one no matter what she did.

  6. It’s the trouble all politicians get into when stuff they have said is taken out of context.

    The reason this has stuck is because many of Thatcher’s critics genuinely believed she was only interested in selfish aspiration and cared nothing for community or institutions. Which is partly true as she had no great love for Town Halls or the BBC or the Universities (which is what the Left thinks of as “society”).

    I suspect Brown didn’t really mean to say that he had saved the world or ended boom and bust. But hey, that’s politics.

  7. The reason the left love that (deliberately misused) quote so much this because it goes to the very heart of the difference between the leftist and rightist views of the world.

    In order for Ritchie and Polly’s view of the world to be correct society and government must be entitled to take private property and distribute it at will.

    The Thatcher quote points out that the state/society doesn’t exist. It is simply us. It’s stuff is our stuff — taken from us by legally sanctioned force. Anything else is pretence.

    Take enough of it and we will stop cooperating. ‘Society’ will then cease to exist or stop

  8. Is it really such a cuddly lefty speech? Leave out the no such thing as society bit, and all that is left is an attack on real or imagined benefit scroungers. (And a bit about the cheeldren and charriddee thrown in at the end.)

  9. Luke: “…and all that is left is an attack on real or imagined benefit scroungers.”

    Gosh! Who’d ever think they should be attacked?

    Why, we should encourage them to sit on their backsides and watch Sky TV with their huge broods while others work to keep them…

  10. JuliaM, I was not commenting on the rightness or otherwise of what she was saying. That is why I said real or imagined. But Tim concluded by saying

    The strangeness of it is that, by the time you get to the end, there

  11. It’s not an attack on benefit scroungers anyway. It’s just saying the obvious that if you demand something of “society” you are demanding it of other people. “Society” does not exist independently of other people. A herd comprises some number of cows. You cannot do something to “the herd” without doing it to the cows themselves. It is basically a rejection of a Platonic essentialist conceptualisation of the State.

    I can understand lefties misquoting and abusing this, because that’s what they are like, but if you read the whole thing it is quite clear what she means.

    ““Look” It is not from the dole. It is your neighbour who is supplying it”

    She’s saying “the dole” doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s your neighbour’s income, transferred. It’s not hard to grasp.

  12. Gordon Gekko’s Greed is Good speech. Most people have either not heard it, or didn’t listen very carefully.

    It specifically includes things like knowledge and love, as well as money.

  13. SMFS @6:

    It is the Alinsky method copied from Stalinism – Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Do not bother debating the merits of Trotsky-s views. Reduce everything down to two simplistic slogans.

    In other words, so much for subtlety?

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