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Margaret Thatcher vs. “Society”

One of the most misunderstood comments Margaret Thatcher ever made was her comment, “There is no such thing as society.” This is often taken to be a denial that individuals have any obligations to others. In context, what she meant was more nearly the reverse: that we do not emphasize those obligations enough, and use the word “society” in a way that obscures them. Thus people sometimes act as though some abstract “society,” rather than individual taxpayers, pays for government benefits, or blame “society” rather than parents for the abuse and neglect of children. If Thatcher had not been prime minister, it would have been a fine use of aphorism to summarize a point.

It is good of Slate to provide a link to the full transcript of Thatcher’s remarks, if rather less good of it to use it as evidence she was a “sociopath.”

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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