[Rushtalk] The essence of Thatcherism

Carl Spitzer Winblows at lavabit.com
Wed Apr 24 16:45:51 MDT 2013

By Jeff Jacoby

America under Jimmy Carter was unhappy and in decline, its economy
crippled with stagflation, its diplomats held hostage in Tehran, and its
befuddled president clueless before a seemingly unstoppable Soviet
empire "Malaise" became a catchword, and to Ronald Reagan's simple but
withering query -- "Are you better off now than you were four years
ago?" — Americans overwhelmingly answered: No.

But the gloom was far worse in Britain, a fiscal and moral wreck that
was being called the "sick man of Europe." Suffocating from Labor Party
socialism, paralyzed by public-sector strikes, staggering under high
taxes and double-digit inflation, Britain was visibly decaying at home
and increasingly irrelevant abroad. That was the demoralized,
debilitated nation that turned to Margaret Thatcher in 1979, sending her
to 10 Downing Street for what would turn out to be the longest tenure of
any British prime minister of the 20th century.

Of Thatcher's self-confidence, ambition, and strong views, there could
never have been much doubt. But who would have predicted that she would
not only pull her country back from the brink, but restore it to
greatness? Who foresaw that this grocer's daughter from Grantham would
become, with Winston Churchill, one of the two towering British
statesmen of the 20th century?

"I am not a consensus politician," Thatcher liked to say. "I am a
conviction politician." Those convictions were clear, and they
dramatically transformed British history. Thatcher believed in
capitalism and freedom, in rewarding risk-takers and encouraging
entrepreneurs, in low taxes and private ownership. She loved her
country, she cherished Anglo-American civilization, and she despised
appeasement. She had a visceral abhorrence of communism, and rejected
the accommodationists who saw Soviet ascendancy — and the West's slow
decline -- as a permanent fact of life.

"The essence of Thatcherism was to oppose the status quo and bet on
freedom," The Economist noted in its obituary this week. "She thought
nations could become great only if individuals were set free. Her
struggles had a theme: the right of individuals to run their own lives,
as free as possible from the micromanagement of the state." That was the
essence of Reaganism too.

Decades later, it may seem obvious that Reagan and Thatcher were right —
that the Cold War could be won, that liberal democracy wasn't a lost
cause, and that market freedoms were essential to national prosperity.
But it wasn't considered obvious then.

In 1983 the French philosopher Jean-Francois Revel published How
Democracies Perish, an influential book that argued glumly that the free
world lacked the spine and stamina to prevail in the long run against
its enemies. "Perhaps in history democracy will have been an accident, a
brief parenthesis which comes to a close before our very eyes," Revel
wrote. "Communism is a better machine for world conquest than democracy,
and this is what will decide the final outcome of the struggle."

Thatcher and Reagan spurned such views, and they were mocked by their
opponents as warmongers, dopes, and worse. One Labor MP called Thatcher
"a half-mad old bag lady"; Reagan was notoriously derided as an "amiable
dunce." In 1985 Oxford University refused to grant Thatcher an honorary
degree, the first time in decades that an Oxford-educated prime minister
had been so snubbed.

Other leaders might have been undone by such hostility. It took uncommon
fortitude for Thatcher to reverse the entrenchment of British socialism,
and considerable nerve to go to war when Argentina seized the Falkland
Islands. She and Reagan had no guarantees that the West would prevail in
the Cold War. What they did have was the moral clarity to understand
that it could — and that if they didn't go wobbly, if they didn't flinch
from calling evil by its name, they might change the world for the

Defeatists and pessimists are always among us. It can be perversely
tempting at times to imagine that our problems are too ingrained to fix,
that the erosion is too far gone to reverse, that our enemies are too
strong to defeat. But history is not predetermined. "Malaise" can give
way to "morning in America." The "sick man of Europe" can be restored to

Besides everything else they accomplished, Thatcher and Reagan remind us
that things can change for the better, and great leaders can change
them. It wasn't foreordained that Britain and America would revive from
the despondency of the 1970s. But voters in both countries elected
leaders of conviction, not consensus. That made an extraordinary
difference, and achieved a world of good.


ObombA did not win erection, Trotskite RINO Mitt Romney threw the
election.  -- Rush Limbaugh
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