Margaret Thatcher: There’s No Such Thing as Society

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. During those years, she presided over a social revolution in which nationally owned industries were privatised and the welfare state was drastically reduced in size. Here she speaks of her understanding of the responsibility of the individual.

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 there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.

… [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 … [t]hat was the objective, but somehow there are some people who have been manipulating the system … when people come and say: ‘But what is the point of working? I can get as much on the dole!’

Thatcher, Margaret. 1987. ‘Interview for “Woman’s Own” (“No Such Thing as Society”).’ in Margaret Thatcher Foundation: Speeches, Interviews and Other Statements. London.