Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech launching "Free Enterprise Week"

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Europa Hotel, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: CCOPR 648/75
Editorial comments: 1300. Press release marked "immediate".
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1118
Themes: Arts & entertainment, Conservatism, Industry, Energy, Labour Party & socialism

Recently you have changed your name from Aims of Industry to Aims for Freedom and Enterprise. I welcome that change—it is timely and it is vital.

Free Enterprise is an essential part of Britain's future. Free Enterprise provides the jobs—nearly three quarters of all employment—and my goodness we need those jobs. Free Enterprise provides the exports—nearly 95%; of all we sell abroad—and my goodness we need those exports. Free Enterprise creates the wealth—nearly three thousand million pounds were paid in taxation last year—and my goodness this Government needs money. Free Enterprise provides the inventiveness—there would be no North Sea Oil without Free Enterprise who found it and developed it. (What a curious fact it is that it was Tony Benn who turned on the first drop of free enterprise oil. His appointment is the only known example of pouring trouble on oily waters.)

Yes—jobs, exports, wealth and inventiveness. These four—they are the basis of our prosperity. They depend on Free Enterprise.

All you need now is a Government that believes in it. A Government that would encourage a flourishing, profitable free enterprise which produces the goods. Jobs, exports, wealth and inventiveness. Certainly important enough matters to be celebrated on a special day. [end p1]

Free Enterprise Day is dedicated to the destruction of one of the most dangerous of modern myths. There is an increasing belief that freedom is divisible. That you can have political freedom and economic slavery. That you can preserve intellectual freedom and destroy commercial independence. That you can fight for freedom of speech and yet overthrow freedom of enterprise.

No myth is more dangerous. Freedom is indivisible. Once the State controls the means of production, distribution and exchange, all of us become dependent upon it. The whole nation becomes dependent upon the decisions of the bureaucracy and the politicians. And it is obviously so. If the State is the only source of capital, then only those ideas, those people, and those aims which are approved by the State can get the money for development.

If the State is the only source of patronage, then only those causes, those ideals and those charities which commend themselves to the State can raise the money that they need.

If the State is the only employer, where is the real freedom to choose of the employer?

If the State is the only provider of housing, where can the tenant look for alternative accommodation?

If the State is the only shareholder, where can the director the manager or shop-floor worker look for independent support? [end p2]

But, they say, you are putting forward an extreme choice. You are talking about total state takeover. That could not happen here. Couldn't it?.

Is not the real fact that this Government is taking the country faster towards the centralised state than any previous Government?

Month by month, almost day by day, the freedom of free enterprise is curtailed and the power of the State enhanced.

That is why we have a two-fold purpose today.

First, to say “STOP” to the extension of State control, and second, to start the extension of freedom.

But, say the opponents of free enterprise you have to restrict economic freedom to gain political freedom.

You have to control private enterprise in order to give more power to the people. What nonsense.

Not one single measure produced by any Socialist Government has extended power to the people. [end p3]

They have given much more power to bureaucrats, much more power to extremists, much more power to Socialist Ministers.

But it is power to the people which only free enterprise can provide.

Power is primarily the power of choice.

Choice in small things, and in big things—the food you buy, the house you rent or the home you own; the clothes you wear or the holidays you choose. Where you invest—the risks you take.

All these individual choices are a fundamental part of freedom, and free enterprise makes them possible.

The ideal of freedom has been part of our history since history began.

That of enterprise has been with us as long.

Free enterprise has been the engine which created the wealth which freed hundreds of millions of people from the day-long struggle; every day a battle merely to keep body and soul together.

It has enabled the arts to flourish. And to become, not just the preserve of the rich, but to be enjoyed by men and women from every walk of life.

It has created the wealth to finance science and technology; to continue the struggle to overcome the scourges of poverty and disease (not least in the third world).

Beyond these benefits, priceless in themselves, free enterprise has enabled the creative and aquisitive urges of man to be given expression in a way which benefits all members of society. [end p4]

Any man may test his skill, his capacity and his will to work, his tenacity and his vision against the demands of the market place and the customer.

The captains of industry and the stall-holders in the market place are both parts of the free enterprise system. They both exist to serve their customers, you and me, and those like us overseas.

They each know that success or failure depends upon how well they serve us.

So free enterprise benefits the customer in satisfying his demands.

It benefits the entrepreneur, in giving him an outlet for his skills and drive.

It benefits the worker, not only as a consumer, but by creating profitable firms and well paid jobs.

It benefits Britain by creating that surplus of wealth which improves not only material standards but the cultural and artistic standards of life too.

It benefits the poor, the old, and the handicapped by creating that wealth which alone can pay for their care.

Who then, opposes free enterprise—who wishes it ill and works for its destruction.

Those who hate free enterprise and those who have no patience with ideas of individual freedom.

Those who would end freedom of choice for the customer—and freedom of choice of employer, for the employee too.

Once the customer is dependent on the State for all his needs; [end p5]

Once the worker can turn only to the State for work;

Once there is no possibility of the promotion of the Arts except by patronage of the State;

Then, not only Enterprise, but freedom itself is destroyed.

The trouble is the first steps down that road are tempting.

It is so easy to believe that freedom means giving greater power to politicians and officials of the State.

It is so easy to believe that by punishing the creators of wealth, the pains of poverty can be eased.

Britain has been tempted too far down that path.

So let free enterprise fight back now, not for itself but for all those who value freedom itself.

That is why today is a day of such significance.

Free Enterprise Day—July 1st 1975 marks the beginning of the fight back for freedom.

It is a battle we dare not lose.