The death of Margaret Thatcher today marks the end of an era. The Economist offers the best appraisal of her influence. It emphasizes that she was a fearless champion of freedom:
ONLY a handful of peace-time politicians can claim to have changed the world. Margaret Thatcher, who died this morning, was one. She transformed not just her own Conservative Party, but the whole of British politics. Her enthusiasm for privatisation launched a global revolution and her willingness to stand up to tyranny helped to bring an end to the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill won a war, but he never created an “ism”.
The essence of Thatcherism was to oppose the status quo and bet on freedom—odd, since as a prim control freak, she was in some ways the embodiment of conservatism. 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.
Her attitude toward government control and government intervention was consistent:
Yet her achievements cannot be gainsaid. She reversed what her mentor, Keith Joseph, liked to call “the ratchet effect”, whereby the state was rewarded for its failures with yet more power.
Her influence was felt the world over:
The post-communist countries embraced her revolution heartily: by 1996 Russia had privatised some 18,000 industrial enterprises. India dismantled the licence Raj—a legacy of British Fabianism—and unleashed a cavalcade of successful companies. Across Latin America governments embraced market liberalisation. Whether they managed well or badly, all of them looked to the British example.
Yet, the world has lately been shifting away from freedom and toward increased government power.
It feels strange, however, to read the following words on the website of a magazine that supported the re-election of Barack Obama, an anti-Thatcher if ever there was one.
About the Iron Lady, The Economist writes:
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.
If you read through the articles about Thatcher you will notice she posed one great predicament. The most powerful and influential woman in the twentieth century was not a feminist.
In her words:
The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.
Why did she think that, you might ask?
The reason must be that feminism is less about women and their rights and more about propagating leftist ideology.
Margaret Thatcher was a role model for women who want to succeed in the world of politics and even want to make history. Surely, she set a better example than the grievance mongers who are constantly complaining about what is wrong while never imagining that an increase in freedom, coupled with a decrease in government power, might be the best for both men and women.