Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to the Industrial League of Orange County

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Anaheim Marriott Hotel, Los Angeles
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: 1050-2115 followed by questions until 2135.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2273
Themes: Defence (general), Economic policy - theory and process, Public spending & borrowing, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Religion & morality, Defence (Gulf War, 1990-91)

Mr. Chairman,

It is always a pleasure to come to the United States.

But especially so when the worries of the Gulf War are over.

We appreciate the more the peace we took so much for granted.

We are deeply grateful for the bravery of our armed forces, for the brilliance of their generals and the excellence of their equipment.

It is indeed a time for thankfulness, a time for patriotism.

A patriotism you rightly do not hesitate to show and which Theodore Roosevelt expressed so well in former times when he said—

“we have room in this country but for one flag, the Stars and Stripes— one loyalty, to the United States, one language—the English language”
[end p1]

And if I may add as a representative of another English speaking people, how proud we were to be a reliable ally and the first.

You can count on Britain to defend liberty.

And perhaps we should learn the lesson Winston Churchill taught us—

“it is in the years of peace that wars are prevented—peace will not be preserved by pious sentiments expressed in terms of platitudes—it will not be preserved by casting aside in dangerous years the panoply of war-like strength—there must also be faithful perseverance and foresight. Greatheart must have a sword and armour to guard the pilgrims on their way.” (8 March 1946, General Assembly of Virginia.)

That was less than a year after the end of the Second World War. we didn't know what lay ahead but— —we did keep up our defenses —we did invest in the latest research and technology —we were able to defeat aggression

May we have the same foresight so that the next generation will be as secure [end p2]

Economic situation

And it is good to be back in California, not only because of your friendliness, which I experienced so powerfully when I attended President Reagan 's 80th birthday party—and what a lot of today's success we owe to decisions he took—but also because this county, with its infinite variety of industry and commerce, demonstrates so well two principles: —first, that prosperity and security come not from clinging to outdated industries but by building the new.

John Gardiner put it well when he said:

“A nation is never finished. You can't build it and then leave it standing like pyramids. It has to be built and rebuilt. It has to be recreated in each generation.”

As with the nation, so with industry. —second, that nations are rich not so much in proportion to their natural resources, but according to the enterprise of their people. [end p3]

Switzerland, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and several European countries—all very successful—have few natural resources but a great spirit of enterprise.

Other countries with rich deposits of raw materials, most notably the Soviet Union, have nevertheless been poor because their kind of government did not allow the talent and ability of its people to flourish and so lacked successful commerce and industry.

Here the spirit of enterprise, optimism and “can do” bubbled over and has created the prosperity you now enjoy.

But there is a third principle:

that in the midst of change some values transcend the vagaries of time and circumstance. They are relevant to every generation.

A) The right to freedom under a rule of law—which your constitution calls inalienable rights. [end p4]

B) High standards of business ethics at home.

C) And doing what is morally right in international affairs.

D) Prudence especially in dealing with financial matters. Recently I came across a comment made eighteen months ago to the effect that too many people and institutions had “neglected to judge their finances by the only prudent test: “What happens if things turn sour” !

Some call that hindsight—but you will never have foresight unless you learn from hindsight. And what a lot of anguish would have been saved had we stuck to the prudent path.

Speaking for myself I don't like deficits. So the government I led resolved to keep firm control on public spending, and where we couldn't reduce it as fast as we wished, we covered our spending by taxation to avoid building up problems for the future.

For the last three years we have had a budget surplus, although we had increased spending on defence. That surplus has been used to redeem government debt. We believe that government expenditure should not crowd out private investment. [end p5]

We've been able to do this because our government has a majority in Parliament—otherwise it wouldn't be the government! if 1776 hadn't happened—you might have had the same system! I am sure matters would have been handled better if there had been a woman Prime Minister in Downing Street in those days! [end p6]

The Soviet Union-East West Relations

Of the two great international questions of our time, the first is East-West relations and the future of the Soviet Union.

Whereas fifty years ago the peace of Europe was shattered by the sound of armies on the march, today Eastern Europe resounds once more to the voices of people enjoying their new found freedom.

The message is clear.

When people are free to choose, they choose freedom.

They turn their backs on a system which has been discredited—not by Western propaganda but by first hand experience.

An Lincoln SteffensAmerican writer visiting the home of Communism in 1919 remarked:

“I have seen the future and it works”

Seventy years on we know that it doesn't. [end p7]

We are experiencing the culmination of a battle of ideas, a battle which has been fought out over more than a century.

A contest between two fundamentally different political philosophies.

On the one side liberty, human rights, a rule of law, and a belief that the task of government is to serve the nation.

On the other, a doctrine which holds that government should have a central plan to cover every aspect of life, and that people should conform whatever their personal wishes.

A doctrine that makes the state all powerful and the individual count for nothing.

There is no doubt where we stand. But our fundamental beliefs came to be questioned by some people.

Particularly during the great depression of the 1920s and 30s, when they began to wonder whether the alternative system, the system of Communism, would be the wave of the future. [end p8]

For more than 20 years after the last war we were told how the Soviet Union would overtake the United States, how Communism would eventually bury Capitalism and how the worldwide victory of socialism was inevitable.

Some were mesmerized by this propaganda.

The West felt itself on the defensive.

The diplomatic talk was not of the spread of freedom, but of the containment of Communism.


President Reagan gave confidence back to America and the whole of the Western world. He ended the psychology of defeat and retreat and went out to spread the message of liberty and democracy. Enormous credit is due to him.

President Bush is continuing that great campaign with his own brand of leadership and sense of purpose. [end p9]

And do not underestimate the boldness and vision of President Gorbachev. Or what he has done:— —given the countries of Eastern Europe the freedom which Communism had denied them for so long. —begun the withdrawal of Soviet troops —stopped supporting Communist revolutionary groups across the world —accepted arms reduction for the first time —brought freedom of speech and worship and of open debate to the peoples of the Soviet Union

But political reform is easier to bring about than economic reform.

And while the former has proceeded apace, living standards have fallen and queues have lengthened. Now, evidence is accumulating that reform in the Soviet Union is being slowed, almost halted, by the ‘hardliners,’ and the bureaucrats.

And ‘hardliners’ are not conservatives. They are hard left Communists. [end p10]

Perhaps we underestimated the enormous task of reforming the Soviet Union. A country with no experience— —of democracy —of the sense of responsibility freedom requires —of a rule of law and independent judiciary

And with no understanding of what economic liberty involves, that the purpose of business in not to dictate what the customer should have, but to produce what he wants to buy, and that can only be done by free enterprise.

How do you persuade people that higher living standards can only be attained at the short term price of higher unemployment?

How do you tell a people brain-washed by egalitarian propaganda for over seventy years that they must accept inequalities that come from talent and successful enterprise?

And how do you teach them that if there are no property rights, there will be no human rights. Or that the essence of liberty is limitation of government, and not all powerful government?

And how do you do it while all those who gained under the Communist system are waiting to pounce and discredit everything the reformers do? [end p11]

Mr. Chairman—of course there are difficulties, but there are also great opportunities.

If reform succeeds in the Soviet Union we shall have democracy all the way from the Atlantic coast of Europe to the Pacific coast of the Soviet Union. A prize of inestimable value to future generations.

Not only for the peoples of those countries but for all countries.

For democracies bring peace as well as a better quality of life. They do not go to war with one another—their peoples are too busy building a better future, valuing peace for the advantages it brings.

In creating more democracies we are building a more secure peace.

And the peoples of the Soviet Union are not being asked to invent a new form of government—what they seek flourishes in the West. It is a living example for them to follow. Devolving powers from the central government to the states has been done in many different ways. [end p12] Bbuilding a rule of law, financial institutions, deregulation, a tax system with incentives—these are part of the familiar way of life in the West.

What is required that we can't provide, is that all the reformers sink their differences and pull together.

If they allow their efforts to be fragmented, they are helping the hardliners, if they unite and press ahead faster with genuine reform, the prize is within their grasp.

May American values, and the American dream continue to inspire not only citizens of the West but millions of souls throughout the Soviet system until their dream of peace with freedom and justice comes true. [end p13]

Middle East

And the second problem of our time is how to resolve the deep seated conflict of the Middle East.

Coalition troops are still in Iraq and rightly so, for that country is in turmoil and not yet free of Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime. We cannot resolve the internal problems of Iraq, but we hope the people of Iraq will deal with Saddam Hussein, who has wreaked havoc and disaster upon them, in the same way as the Argentineans dealt with Galtieri after the Falkland Islands were recovered.

Nevertheless, it is the right time, both to look again at the issues which have so long divided the peoples of the Middle East and to define the steps required for a secure peace.

A. Iraq must renounce her claim to Kuwait, which is not well founded in law. Iraq has accepted the present borders twice before—once in 1932, and again in 1963 when Kuwait joined the United Nations. [end p14]

B. We must be satisfied by direct observation that chemical, biological and nuclear weapons which remain have been “destroyed” . The United States was absolutely right to issue a stern warning against any further use of chemical weapons.

Sanctions against supply of chemicals and technology as well as key military equipment should be maintained. After attacking two countries in ten years, Iraq cannot be allowed freely to rebuild her armed forces.

C. Comprehensive security arrangements for this area are already under consideration. I believe that Western countries, will have to keep military equipment and supplies in the area. For a time some Western forces may have to remain at least until the position in Iraq is clearer.

D. The Arab—Israeli conflict is full of hatreds and tensions. Secretary George Shultz and Secretary Baker had both toiled long and hard to bring forth a solution. The Gulf War has made things even more difficult because the Palestinians avowedly supported Saddam Hussein, who attacked Israel, a non-combattant nation, with scud missiles. [end p15]

History tells us that these lands East of Suez have been fought over more than any other in history—by the Romans, Greeks, Assyrians, Hebrews, english and French crusaders and Turkey. The Ottoman Empire was dissolved at the end of World War I when Palestine became a British mandate. In 1948 Israel became a member of the United Nations, since when the land has been subject to three more Arab—Israeli conflicts.

These lands are the home of three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but one God.

Emotions and hatreds are entrenched as we have seen from the scenes of violence almost daily on television.

What then makes the chances of a settlement better now than in previous years? [end p16]


Mr. Chairman.

President Bush has spoken of a new world order— one of his predecessors said

“not just a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and peace is preserved”

One day that may come to pass.

In the meantime we must persevere with our endeavours.

Face to face with history, we have been— —enemies to tyrants —friends of the oppressed —defenders of those traditional values which are right for all times.

That is our noble inheritance. May we pass it on in full measure for the honour and wellbeing of future generations.