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Margaret Thatcher: 1925-2013

Link added later: See Aidan on Thatcher, the scientist and the politician
The world's most important female politician of the 20th century – and Britain's #1 peacetime politician of the same era – left us yesterday after a stroke. Her physical health has been tolerable in recent years but her mental health wasn't which is why her life's work was essentially wrapped up already a decade ago.



Klaus reminds us of Thatcher's speech about the EU in Burges, Belgium. See also what our current president Miloš Zeman wrote in the condolence letter to Cameron.

Her departure marks the end of an era. Together with Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher was the politician who won the Cold War for the free world but she has done much more than that. She has re-energized the United Kingdom – after decades in which the influence of the once powerful and advanced empire only knew one, downward direction – and she has helped to restore the market economy and the self-confidence of freedom in the whole world, at least for several more decades.




She has also heavily influenced environmentalism as a political topic – in both directions. I wrote about some of these things just two weeks ago.

Lots of insightful texts about her life, character, and work have been written and I certainly don't want to claim a membership in the elite club of the leading Thatcher experts. Czech ex-president Václav Klaus, a self-described Thatcherite who has echoed many of her views and policies relatively to the EU, privatization, and many more topics, mentioned that she was an Iron Lady only in politics. Otherwise she was a kind person who always listened and cared for others.




It's perhaps even more interesting what the leftists wrote about her. Ten years ago, shortly before he died, her biographer Hugo Young wrote a column on her life that still reflects the negative obsession of the leftists with her and the efforts to demonize her as an antihuman, unemotional person who undermines the cohesion in the fabric of the society.

Ian McEwan, another leftist who has known her, is already offering a different perspective which has some balance and 10 years of hindsight incorporated into it. He essentially admits that the left-wing pseudointellectuals such as himself have always been irritated by their being dwarfs relatively to her. She was better in so many objective respects, she had the sex they officially favored, yet she was so clearly out-of-the-box that they have prepared for everyone.

Much of their discourse about her was tainted by unexamined sexism. People – especially her critics – were simply fascinated by the fact that a woman could become such an important political figure. So discussions about her femininity or the lack of it were always imprinted in pieces about her. Various phrases such as "sado-monetarism" were coined and had some sexual connotations, too. These connotations and biases came primarily from the same folks who otherwise love to attack others for the alleged sexism.



Margaret Thatcher has become an important role model that helped to explain the Higgs mechanism to the masses. She was also the mother of the LHC and the Internet. ;-)

She privatized many sectors of the U.K. economy that were controlled by the government. When I read about these decisions, they sound pretty similar to some changes that the Czech economy saw in the 1990s. That brought lots of new competition, progress, and satisfaction of the consumers that the Britons – and others – take for granted these days. And what's even more important is that even mainstream Labour politicians consider much of Thatcherism to be irreversible. Labour champions who disagree: try to re-nationalize airlines, railways, energy coal and return the quasi-Soviet pre-Thatcher conditions; when you fail, just admit that he defines your program just like the Tories'. So she revolutionized not just 1 major British party but at least 2; he was a uniter, not a divisor, in this sense.

She knew that some political support and allies were needed to achieve certain things but she didn't care about the "quick smile", about her being instantly liked.

In the current era, almost all politicians are moving pretty much exactly in the direction of the wind that can make them "liked" according to the nearest polls. This habit is what makes pretty much all active politicians of our era lightweights in comparison (after all, they deliberately try to do everything to resemble a leaf randomly blown by the wind) and it's what makes our society so hypocritical and politically correct. It's annoying to notice that one of her most natural heirs, Václav Klaus, is technically a "former top politician" at this moment, too.

Thatcher didn't have a problem with starting a war against Argentina and about 99% of the people at Falkland Islands are happy to be a part of the United Kingdom these days. Even in this respect, Thatcher was extraordinary.

The nickname "Iron Lady" was invented by some Soviet newspapers. Regardless of her political values, they were equally fascinated by her natural energy and self-confidence. I would say that this was also true for some of the "communist believers" among my teachers when I was a kid. The moniker may have been unflattering for a while but it became a powerful trademark. After all, Thatcher, a grocer's daughter, became the "milk snatcher" long before she worked at 10 Downing Street. She wasn't trying to get rid of this stamp, either, even though she realized that her fight to end or reduce milk subsidies at schools was an effort with maximum political expenditures for a minimal political gain. But it was already one of the steps that made her genuine Margaret Thatcher.

Her name appears in 34 TRF blog entries.

RIP, Iron Lady.

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reader James Gallagher said...

Thatcher was Neo to the left-wing's "Agent Smiths" Callahan, Foot and Kinnock (all soundly defeated in successive General Elections)



She was their inevitableooposite necessary to bring balance.


Once victorious she no longer had any purpose and in the aftermath of the great battle we have settled to an uneasy peace with a bland harmony of centrist political parties.


reader John McVirgo said...

Margaret Thatcher studied chemistry at Oxford, not the most humanitarian of disciplines, but OK for developing logical, precise thinking.


reader Gene Day said...

Thatcher articulated the conservative viewpoint as well as anyone in human history and she used her formidable political skills to put it into practice at least as well as any male could have done. She was simply amazing.
Yet, I was bothered by a few things at the time and I still am. Her active and passive support of Apartheid and the Khmer Rouge are worth noting. These were two of the four greatest evils of the twentieth century.


reader Shannon said...

She also received Ceausescu in 1978... I think it is because she was never a sermonizer ie she wouldn't interfere with foreign states - especially if they didn't owe her money ;-)


reader TS said...

Mrs T actually passed away 5 years ago when her US protege G Bush junior nationalised AIG and her UK protege G Brown nationalised HBOS, Lloyds and other banks. Free market + "small state" economics would never quite have the same ring to it again!


reader Luboš Motl said...

Well, Ceausescu meant different things at different times. For example, in 1968, we know him as the only Warsaw Pact member's leader who didn't invade Czechoslovakia.


reader Luke Lea said...

I could never agree with her remark that there was no such thing as society. No doubt she understood the word differently than I do:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=875008


reader Luke Lea said...

I could never agree with her remark that there was no such thing as society. No doubt she understood the word differently than I do:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=875008

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2101460

Perhaps she didn't believe that one of the purposes of government is to maximize the general welfare of the governed? Yet the main justification of a market economy is precisely that, and a market economy cannot exist without government.

So perhaps she was making some kind of rhetorical statement about means, not ends.


reader cynholt said...

I don't have much good to say about Maggie Thatcher. She took a hatchet
to the British working classes and began the destruction of an entire
nation.



And anyone who claims that the West is drowning due to the welfare
state when the true problem is an out of control financial sector that
has despoiled and raped first the third world, and now the first world,
is either a soulless sycophant or a gullible fool. Neoliberal,
privatize-everything, “market” mythologizing may work to rile up the
stupid sector, but it doesn’t get passed the smell test for me.



The welfare state was doing just fine until Reagan, Thatcher, and
the neoliberals took over. An argument can be made that the labor unions
in Britain had overreached and the industries under their control
needed some reform, as Michael Hudson so clearly demonstrated in
yesterday’s piece on Thatcher’s legacy (see link below). But reform is
not the same as gutting, privatizing and letting the financial sector
plunder everything in sight.



Hudson makes it clear that the financial sector saw Thatcher and her
ilk as useful tools for their program, and indeed, she was hoodwinked
by them, and then didn’t have the guts to stand up and admit her
mistake. She was a terribly flawed, arrogant, spiteful person who was
blind to the destruction of most of Britain’s productive capacity. And
now, decades after she left power, we are suffering through the legacy
of her “success”.



http://michael-hudson.com/2013/04/mrs-thatchers-mean-legacy/


reader Peter F. said...

I, too, have no positive residual feeling for Thatcher (as a politician - though personality-wise I do have a few, since she to me very much resembled my paternal grandmother). Perhaps it is my political (and admittedly usually unrealistically idealistic) leaning (toward supporting certain Common Good-hearted policies) that prevented her political deeds to find fertile ground inside my limbic and other lobes. ;-)


reader scooby said...

Quite right, Gene.


reader ghiskard said...

"and about 99% of the people at Falkland Islands are happy to be a part of the United Kingdom these days" because all people at Falkland Islands are britain's descendant. What about Britain interest in south atlantic oil and antartica territory?


reader John Archer said...

"Thatcher didn't have a problem with starting a war against Argentina...."

Well, that's it! My memory's completely fucked then.

I could have sworn the dagos were the ones who started that war by invading sovereign British territory, and that it took us a month or so to put a task force together to go and kick the cunts out.

But I'm delighted to hear that she started it instead. Maggie's just gone up a few more notches in my estimation. Thanks.

Although I know she wasn't responsible for setting them off, I just wonder why she turned a blind eye to the hideous paki invasions of many parts of mainland Britain? At least the dagos were Christians but this lot are stone-age, muslime filth. Nothing could be more alien. It's a mystery. Definitely in need of another task force though.

But I guess we'll have to wait until we get a Prime Minister with some vigour again, one who isn't yet another in that long enough line of limp-wristed, effeminate, leftard eunuchs and traitors we've had since those bastards in her own party stabbed Thatcher in the back in 1990.

By the way, although in her time Margaret Thatcher upset a few of the wrong people, you can judge her legacy by the great number of right people she upset and continues to, even after her death. It gives me great pleasure to know that she caused and still causes them so much pain. They deserve so much more though.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Well, if you're asking me, you may probably know and I believe that she was right about this thing, too.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Fine, Argentina started it. I was 8. You may blame it on my not witnessing the events in the right chronology too actively.


On the other hand, I didn't call the Argentine invasion a "war" because about 1 person died during that, a difference from 1,000 people who died due to the actual war. The initial invasion was just an Argentina's decision to change the administrative arrangement of a largely unprotected territory they didn't quite control.


What's nontrivial is that Britain reacted.


reader A dude said...

kudos, Lubos! Just too many people today don't understand why Thatcher, u.s government, Milton Friedman... supported Pinochet back then. I think People today, influenced by social democracy ideology, only think that Allende was elected by democratic process. But Hitler was also elected by democracy. it is how they did after getting elected that matters.



I think those people don't understand the fundamental difference between Allende government and Pinochet's dictatorship, that is who actually is more dictatorship. As Friedman said (not original words), if you keep the right of private properties, you have economic freedom, and this economic freedom will eventually political freedom and a true democracy.


reader Bernd Felsche said...

Rust In Peace, Iron Lady.


Alas, there are not enough people in politics from real life. Nor it appears, this planet.


reader John Archer said...

Pax.

As an 8-year-old I guess you sucked up the Partei Zeitgeist.

Never mind. Me too. My father said that to catch a bird all I had to do was sprinkle salt on his tail. It's unbelievable how long it was before I cottoned on to the fact that he was taking the piss.

Good lesson though.

As for the meat of your ludicrous response: .

Well, it's nice to know you make mistakes. Actually, it's heart-warming. :)

Really. I admire you.


reader John Archer said...

Aparthate, interesting.

How do you feel about mass immigration of third-world aliens to Britain since WWII with no democratic consent? In fact, it was overwhelmingly against the wishes of the mere majority of Britons — witness: 'white flight'.

OK, I can understand that you might not give a fcuk but I'd be interested in your moral take on this.

More generally: under what conditions do morals trump democracy? I think this is a question worth exploring before we get too involved in the reconquista of our OWN fucking country. We need to make sure make sure we're acting morally.

Or not.


reader Coldish said...

Good discussion, Lubos. Thanks.

A couple of further points are worth recalling. When Mrs T was dumped by her own party a major contributory factor was her introduction of the 'community charge' (better known as the 'poll tax'). This was a hefty new tax levied at a flat rate (irrespective of income or wealth) on each individual resident of each county or London borough. The tax forced many low income workers (such as myself) onto state benefits because they could not otherwise pay the tax. I would have preferred to remain outside the benefit system but I was given no choice.

During Mrs T's reign public expenditure increased in every department except one - housing. Britain is still suffering from the long-term housing shortage which she brought about by forcing sales of public rented housing to tenants while ring-fencing the proceeds to prevent them being spent on constructing new housing.

I'm a pragmatist and I recognise that, as with almost all other political regimes, while some things got worse under Mrs T, other things improved. For instance by substantially raising the turnover threshold for obligatory annual audit of limited companies she made it easier to start a small business - a change from which I myself have benefited. Her privatisation of the national telephone service meant that one no longer had to wait more than a year to get a landline telephone installed in inner London.

Also to her credit, she set up an unpublicised investigation into crimes committed by German and Austrian military units in Greece and the Balkans during WW2. Little came out of this, but it probably had Austrian president Kurt Waldheim worried.

Mrs T presided over the destruction of much of productive industry in Britain and set the scene for the current dominance of non-productive financial institutions in the British economy. People may blame her for that, but she made little secret of her intentions and she still got voted into office 3 times.