Margaret Thatcher, one of the greatest political leaders in the 20th century, has passed away earlier today at the age of 87. In the words of UK PM David Cameron, "today we lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister and a great Briton".
|Source: The Telegraph|
Out of the many kind words expressed for her today, I particularly enjoyed the one from Nick Robinson at the BBC:
"As prime minister, she was determined to repair the country's finances by reducing the role of the state and boosting the free market. Cutting inflation was central to the government's purpose and it soon introduced a radical budget of tax and spending cuts. Bills were introduced to curb union militancy, privatise state industries and allow council home owners to buy their houses. Millions of people who previously had little or no stake in the economy found themselves being able to own their houses and buy shares in the former state-owned businesses. New monetary policies made the City of London one of the most vibrant and successful financial centres in the world. Old-style manufacturing, which critics complained was creating an industrial wasteland, was run down in the quest for a competitive new Britain."Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute provides a standardly persuasive argument:
"Within a few short years Margaret Thatcher had transformed the nation and its prospects. Britain went from having the highest record for days lost through strike action to the lowest, and from the lowest growth rate to one of the highest. No less importantly people reacquired self-confidence in the future, together with the optimism that their children would inherit a better world than they had lived in. They acquired in addition a stake in the nation, with huge numbers of ordinary people who had never before had the opportunity becoming home-owners and investors in Britain's future."While the Economist focuses on the extension of her ideas and policies on the societies today:
"But today, the pendulum is swinging dangerously away from the principles Mrs Thatcher espoused. In most of the rich world, the state’s share of the economy has grown sharply in recent years. Regulations—excessive, as well as necessary—are tying up the private sector. Businessmen are under scrutiny as they have not been for 30 years. Demonstrators protest against the very existence of the banking industry. And with the rise of China, state control, not economic liberalism, is being hailed as a model for emerging countries.
For a world in desperate need of growth, this is the wrong direction to head in. Europe will never thrive until it frees up its markets. America will throttle its recovery unless it avoids over-regulation. China will not sustain its success unless it starts to liberalise. This is a crucial time to hang on to Margaret Thatcher’s central perception—that for countries to flourish, people need to push back against the advance of the state. What the world needs now is more Thatcherism, not less."...and there is a whole range of other reactions worldwide.
It is difficult to sum up all of her greatest accomplishments. Have in mind that she came to power to combat the longstanding socialist tradition in Britain (of the 60s and the 70s) that has made the country poor, locked down by vested interests, constrained by heavy regulation, and seemingly trapped in a downward spiral of zero growth, falling productivity, and unsustainable welfare state model (does it ring a bell? History always repeats itself; hence the Economist's conclusion).
I wrote about her legacy for Britain only once on the blog (published first at the CPS website), emphasizing her importance in transforming Britain back into a world powerhouse, both politically and economically. She opened up Britain to foreign capital and provided incentives for a (harsh but necessary) restructuring and re-specialization of the UK labour market, where a lot of old inefficient jobs were abolished and a lot of new jobs were created. Many of her critics still fail to understand the magnitude of this generational switch in Britain that has significantly increased the wealth of the British society.
I will commemorate her with a series of her own quotes I find particularly inspiring or simply up to the point:
When she was elected, upon entering 10 Downing Street:
"Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope."Responding to the criticism of her economic policies a year after she won the '79 elections (the famous U-turn remark):
"To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catch phrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to... the lady's not for turning."
“If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at anytime, and would achieve nothing”At the start of the Falklands war:
"Defeat? I do not recognise the meaning of the word."Some of here more general quotes:
"My policies are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with: an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay; live within your means; put by a nest egg for a rainy day; pay your bills on time; support the police.""I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end."
"If you want to cut your own throat don't come to me for a bandage."
"It’s the Labour Government that have brought us record peacetime taxation. They’ve got the usual Socialist disease - they’ve run out of other people’s money.""I never hugged him, I bombed him." (While watching old TV footage of Tony Blair embracing Colonel Gaddafi, at a reception in House of Commons, March 2011)
Responding after a failed bomb attack on her and her husband in Brighton by the IRA:
"This attack has failed. All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail."Her reaction upon leaving office in 1990, after having won the popular vote for the third consecutive time (1987) only to be betrayed by her own party members:
"It was treachery with a smile on its face."Her views on benefits and the role of government:
"I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand 'I have a problem, it is the government's job to cope with it!' or 'I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!'; 'I am homeless, the government must house me!' and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society?
"There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families, and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations."
Her views on economic and political freedoms, the role of governments and the free society are best summed up in this interview she gave before becoming PM.