Margaret Thatcher, Polarizing Right-Winger
Margaret Thatcher, Polarizing Right-Winger
The major news media celebrated Margaret Thatcher upon her death. They seem to praise her stubbornness and ability to move the UK to support her very conservative anti-union, pro-deregulation and privatization policies and talk of her impact on the UK. David Brooks, a typical voice on the right who saw Thatcher as a hero of conservative politics, has this to say in his op-ed in the New York Times today, The Vigorous Virtues, New York Times (Apr. 9, 2013).
Margaret Thatcher was a world historical figure for the obvious reasons. Before Thatcher, history seemed to be moving in the direction of Swedish social democracy. After Thatcher, it wasn’t.
She lionized the self-made striver. …She championed a certain sort of individual …: “upright, self-sufficient, energetic, adventurous, indepedent-minded, loyal to friends and robust against foes.” (quoting Shirley Letwin)
Today, bourgeois virtues like industry, competitiveness, ambition and personal responsibility are once again widely admired …. Today, technology is central to our world and tech moguls are celebrated. Tony Blari and Bill clinton embraced and ratified her policy shifts. Millions more have been influenced by her idea of what makes an admirable individual.
A.C. Grayling presents a much more realistic–and somber–view of Thatcher’s “contribution” to the UK in his op-ed, Thatcher’s Divided Isle, New York Times (Apr. 9, 2013).
It is hard to think of a more divisive figure in British politics than Margaret Thatcher.
Her admirers laud her for breaking Britain’s once-powerful trade unions, and liberalizing the City of London’s financial services industry; these acts, they say, halted the country’s economic decline. Her detractors blame her for destroying much of the country’s manufacturing base by refusing to aid struggling industries and effectively annihilating the mining sector by emasculating the National Union of Miners. Her premiership will always be remembered for the bloody battles between workers and the police, and the high unemployment and sudden appearance of industrial wastelands that followed.
Mrs. Thatcher left behind a changed and divided Britain. She dismantled local government structures
which meant that urban decay and the effects of unemployment were not adequately countered. …..[S]he did little to advance the cause of women generally. …She was also unfriendly towards homosexuals. …
She began the deregulation of banking that led ultimately to Britain’s contribution to the global financial crisis of 2008. She reversed the trend of greater social integration and diminishing of the wealth gap that had characterized Britain in the three decades after 1945. Postwar convergences in class and wealth disappeared and former divisions resurfaced as consumerism and social incivility followed quickly on her brusque reorganization of British society. …
This much is quite clear: Thatcher wanted to break unions, privatize public resources, and deregulate industries. She pushed the same ideological conservative manifesto that Ronald Reagan did in the USA. Reagan’s legacy (and Thatcher’s) regretably lives on today as we face daunting inequalities of opportunity and resources, inequalities that underlie a host of other problems in society. It traces back to the use of Friedman’s Chicago School “free market” theories to push lower taxes for the wealthy, expanded use of more regressive taxation and less supportive social insurance programs (the calls for a VAT or national sales tax to replace income taxation, the demands for Social Security cuts and Medicare premium increases, etc.), treating government as “the problem” rather than an essential part of the solution, unquestioning admiration of the wealthy few as “responsible” “job creators” and an accompanying trend to treat the poor and lower income (Romney’s “47%”) as irresponsible bums living off so-called “entitlements”. The result is the expansion of harmful extremes of inequality from coupling regressive tax policies with wealthy corporatists’ capture of elective officials (think Citizen’s United) and hence of legislative policies.
cross posted with ataxingmatter
…..unquestioning admiration of the wealthy few as “responsible” “job creators” and an accompanying trend to treat the poor and lower income (Romney’s “47%”) as irresponsible bums living off so-called “entitlements”
It seems to me we have always had a conflicted view of wealth and poverty in America. On one hand, we have the near adulation of the glitzy rich, and on the other, we decry the heartless Mr. Potters of the world. In many polls, people in the working and lower middle class refuse to support more progressive taxes, believing that one day they, too, will be in the top 1%.
As a nation, we seem to be bi-polar about a lot of things – sex and money being the two biggest cognitive dissonance creating topics.
An intersting take on Thatcher:
So back to the 70′s. With the price of oil being hiked by a foreign monopolist, I see two choices. The first is to try to let there be a relative value shift (as the Fed tries to do today) and not let those price hikes spill into the rest of the price level, which means wages, for the most part. This is another name for a decline in real terms of trade. It would have meant the Saudis would get more real goods and services for the oil. The other choice is to let all other price adjust upward to keep relative value the same, and try to keep real terms of trade from deteriorating. Interestingly, I never heard this argument then and I still don’t hear it now. But that’s how it is none the less. And, ultimately, the answer fell somewhere in between. Some price adjustment and some real terms of trade deterioration. But it all got very ugly along the way.
It was decided the inflation was caused by unions trying to keep up or stay ahead of things for their members, for example. It was forgotten that the power of unions was a derivative of price power of their companies, and as companies lost pricing power to foreign competition, unions lost bargaining power just as fast. And somehow a recession and high unemployment/lost output was the medicine needed for a foreign monopolist to stop hiking prices???
I wish Linda (?) had taken the opportunity to deconstruct Brooks execrable logic, instead of providing an example of the kind of rhetoric he thinks he is standing manly against.
we have always found admirable the “self made striver, upright, self sufficient… etc” and “virtues like industry … and personal responsibility”
even us leftish workers.
what Thatcher did was co-opt those words, if not the virtues, to support the control of the state by the predators that ordinary people have always had to cooperate with each other to defend themselves against.
in particular, Social Security was created to give the workers a way to save for their own retirement safe from the predators of the market.. as well as inflation… without “taxing the rich.”
us folks don’t want to live on welfare. it is only “the left” that keeps calling for welfare as the only solution to all the woes of mankind.
that of course gives “the right” a stick to hit us with.
Why does the left fear strong women so much?
Dear Sandi Campbell,
There is no question that the wealthy create more jobs than the poor. They also pay more taxes and care for their own. You choose your role models and I’ll choose mine.
whom are “there own”?
Let’s also continue your game: Why does the right hate democracy so much? Why does the right hate community so much? Why does the right hate their neighbor so much? Why does the right hate sharing so much? Why does the right hate working together so much? Why does the right hate their left side so much? Why does the right assume hate all the time? Why is the right so fearful of fear? Why is the right always defensive? Why is the right always assuming weakness? Why is the right always talking like Donald Rumsfeld, asking a question and then answering it for everyone? Why is the right so fearful of conversation?
Ok, your turn now.
while i agree that Pete is an annoying troll, let me suggest that
“the right” was created to do exactly as you describe… in order to annoy “the left” into doing, or saying, things that scare “ordinary voters” into voting for Republicans.
There may be no way out of it by now, but if you (and I) could find a way to reassure ordinary voters… some quite poor, and some quite innocently rich… that while we need government we don’t think the answer to every problem is to “tax the rich.”
i say again… we need to tax the rich, and progressive taxes are the only sane way to tax, but if that’s all we ever say, we lose the war.
Well, I’m going back to subject [which also partially answers the questions asked of Peter] –
Whenever I hear anything about ‘The Iron Lady’, I am reminded of her statement ‘There is no alternative’ [to the free market and capitalism], something which even Gorbachev repeated and helped undergird ‘The Washington Consensus’, so impoverish and harm millions of people.
Back in the 1870s a large section of the Republican Party was Radical, very much to the left of modern Republicans – moreless where Democrats used to be before they became ‘New’.
So how to get Repubs back towards their origins? [and negate New Democrats]
to be honest, i no longer think it’s possible. i am not even sure that elections are “honest.”
but certainly the people who tell the Republicans what to say have managed to convince half the population that the left wants to tax away all their money and force their sons to marry homosexuals
it might be possible to counter this, but when i run into leftish people on the internet demanding the rich pay for their social security, i think of Mitt saying “47% see themselves as victims and don’t want to take responsibility for their lives.”
i didn’t believe this when Mitt said it, and i still don’t believe it, but if you only read leftish blogs you might think he was right.
please understand this does not mean i like Mitt… far from it. it doesn’t even mean i think some european style socialism would be a bad thing. it does mean that “socialism” won’t win any elections in America today. and as long as the left sounds iike it does today, they won’t win any elections either. which is too bad, because the right is killing us. including the Obama/Clinton right.
Might find these of interest, help clarify what was done during ’70s –
David E. Spiro, The Hidden Hand of American Hegemony: Petrodollar Recycling and International Markets (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1999), x: “In 1974 [Treasury Secretary William] Simon negotiated a secret deal so the Saudi central bank could buy U.S. Treasury securities outside of the normal auction. A few years later, Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal cut a secret deal with the Saudis so that OPEC would continue to price oil in dollars. These deals were secret because the United States had promised other industrialized democracies that it would not pursue such unilateral policies.” Cf. 103-12.
<21> “So long as OPEC oil was priced in U.S. dollars, and so long as OPEC invested the dollars in U.S. government instruments, the U.S. government enjoyed a double loan. The first part of the loan was for oil. The government could print dollars to pay for oil, and the American economy did not have to produce goods and services in exchange for the oil until OPEC used the dollars for goods and services. Obviously, the strategy could not work if dollars were not a means of exchange for oil. The second part of the loan was from all other economies that had to pay dollars for oil but could not print currency. Those economies had to trade their goods and services for dollars in order to pay OPEC” (Spiro, Hidden Hand, 121).