The Moral Foundations of the Law
by Margaret Thatcher
Freedom, whether it is the freedom of the marketplace or any other kind, must exist within the framework of law. Otherwise it means only freedom for the strong to oppress the weak. Whenever I visit the former Soviet Union, I stress this point with students, scholars, politicians, and businessmen—in short, with everyone I meet. Over and over again, I repeat: Freedom must be informed by the principle of justice in order to make it work between people. A system of laws based on solid moral foundations must regulate the entire life of a nation.
But this is an extremely difficult point to get across to people with little or no experience with laws except those based on force. The concept of justice is entirely foreign to communism. So, too, is the concept of equality. For over seventy years, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had no system of common law. There were only the arbitrary and often contradictory dictates of the Communist Party. There was no independent judiciary There was no such thing as truth in the communist system.
And what is freedom without truth? I have been a scientist, a lawyer, and a politician, and from my own experience I can testify that it is nothing. The third century Roman jurist Julius Paulus said,
“What is right is not derived from the rule, but the rule arises from our knowledge of what is right.”
In other words, the law is founded on what we believe to be true and just. It has moral foundations. Once again, it is important to note that the free societies of America and Great Britain derive such foundations from a Biblical ethic.
The Epilogue to this series will be published Monday.