Just a few days ago, the world lost one of the foremost champions of conservative principles. She was a champion of personal liberty and real freedom—working to reverse decades of economic oppression and suffocating progressivism in her country—yet the attacks on her work were unrelenting. Despite countless efforts to curtail her work, she never gave up, and ultimately turned around the terrible consequences that were destroying her country. Today, there are some who rejoice in her death, and tirelessly work to reverse her accomplishments.
This is the story of a real feminist— this is Margaret Thatcher. Her achievements are lauded by the successes they produced. The conservative principles she espoused made real differences that brought her nation out of the doldrums, and saved her people from a collision course with utter failure. Under Thatcher’s watchful eye and discerning leadership:
- Oppressive, stifling taxes were dramatically reduced, enticing the best and brightest to once again thrive in Great Britain.
- Government-run industries were returned to private hands
- Union thuggary was swiftly dealt with through common-sense reforms, lifting yet another dead weight around the neck of the British economy
- Alongside Ronald Reagan, Communism was beaten back, ending a decades-long Cold War
As Thatcher neared the pinnacle of her career, Great Britain was stagnant and struggling following decades of big government through socialist Labour party rule. This same Labour party had dug the nation into one of its deepest holes. It was, as the Margaret Thatcher Foundation puts it, “one of the most crisis-prone in British history, leading the country to a state of virtual bankruptcy in 1976 when a collapse in the value of the currency on the foreign exchanges forced the government to negotiate credit from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).” Sir John Banham, the first controller of the Audit Commission that was put into place by Thatcher, recalls that “inflation was running riot, the unions were running the country and the only real question was how fast we were going to decline both economically and socially.”
Does this sound familiar? It should. Our current predicament also comes from years of liberal economic policies topped with a president farther to the left than any leader preceding him. Like Thatcher, who faced her own party of status-quo adherents unwilling to rock the boat, does our situation here not also stem from unprincipled politicians ungrounded in the bedrock of a successful philosophy? Mona Charen, in describing pre-Thatcher England puts it well, “Successive Labour (and spineless Tory) governments had delivered an economy close to collapse.”
In today’s America, we face our fifth straight year of high unemployment, a dwindling job market, a sluggish GDP, rising costs, skyrocketing debt, and burgeoning government. We are, at best, teetering on another recession. At worst, we could soon face a depression. With a projected 20 trillion dollar debt on the horizon, the outlook indeed looks bleak. So bleak, in fact, that many people doubt that this nation can ever recover its status as a world leader in economic and personal liberties. While sad, Thatcher’s death does serve to bring her once again to the forefront of our minds, as we consider that as she herself proved, big government can be quelled! It can be done. Our predicament, while historically unprecedented in its size and scope, isn’t too far removed from the disarray Great Britain faced before Thatcher.
Taxes, Overregulation and Stifling Government Control
The Great Britain that Thatcher confronted was one where taxes and regulations were putting a massive squeeze on the economic engines of society. And, much like our current situation today in the U.S., the tax codes were driving the most affluent to expatriate; taking with them their ability to inject cash flow into the struggling economy. Thatcher addressed this swiftly, putting a plug in the “brain and fame drain” that was so hurting the country’s potential. Under her watch, the top tax rate was reduced from 83% to 40%.
In the U.S. we are all too familiar with the oppressive and burdensome nature of too many regulations over to many aspects of our lives. As of last year alone, the U.S. federal government has approximately 160,000 pages of regulation, including criminal offenses so numerous in detail that “the American Bar Association says it would be futile to even attempt to estimate the total.” By the end of 2012, 76,875 new pages of federal regulations were added. We’re just over 3 months into 2013, and we’ve already seen 19,362 new pages of regulations added to the registry. This, of course, is in addition to any state or local regulations additionally imposed.
Today, the U.S. government is in the business of picking winners and losers in the business world—effectively taking over certain industry sectors. Thatcher faced even more overt government control over businesses and industries, much of which she was able to promptly privatize. As John Blundell puts it, “She returned scores of state enterprises to the private sector; these lumbering, subsidy guzzling embarrassments were transformed into nimble, profit-making, taxpaying, world-class companies so much so her privatization policy was copied around the world.”
Thatcher faced stiff opposition from the unions; unions that had moved past their original purpose and instead sucked the life out of growth and innovation. Mona Charen continues, “During the “winter of discontent” in 1978–79, strikes by public employees had crippled public services. Pickets blocked the entrances to hospitals, and only those suffering emergencies were permitted entry. Railway workers and truck drivers disrupted transportation. Trash accumulated on the streets as sanitation workers walked off the job. Bodies accumulated in morgues as gravediggers joined the strikes, prompting officials to discuss burial at sea for the mounting piles of corpses.” Thatcher didn’t budge. It is recorded that when asked about her greatest achievement, Thatcher responded with “New Labour.” Indeed, she made impressive strides in curbing the excessive power that the unions held over the workforce and the economy. Her reforms brought many changes, including requiring ballots to be held before a strike, and a push similar to “right to work” which reined in the concept of the “closed shop.”
Back across the pond in the U.S., the raucous displays in both Wisconsin and Michigan by angered union members unwilling to discuss reform; or the vitriolic howls for unions to “fight a war against Republicans” from Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa Jr. remind us that big union strongholds on this nation’s economy and political process are alive and well.
Unlike our current administration’s often apologetic approach and somewhat timid stance in the face of increasingly bold world bullies, Thatcher was “Iron” abroad as she was at home. She and Ronald Reagan—a man who can easily be described as her ideological twin—were able to guide the world through the Cold War without actual war. She and Reagan won because they stood firm on the principle that communism was inherently evil and terribly destructive to society—this they backed up with an unwavering belief that the military is a vital investment one never hopes to use. Backed up by the Peace through Strength policy of her American counterpart, Thatcher maintained a primed and ready military force pointed straight back at the threats that faced her. Thatcher didn’t bluff—Thatcher was fearless.
Common Sense & Conviction
Thatcher managed her government like a housewife manages the affairs of her household. She employed logical, sound, common sense principles without which any household would doubtless fail. To be sure, the results of her leadership didn’t initially resemble a walk in the park. Nonetheless, Thatcher wasn’t afraid to make her nation take the bitter medicine it so desperately needed to avoid the she knew it would otherwise face. Not surprisingly, the pains that Great Britain went through in her first term pushed even those in her own party to seek a shift in tactic. Her response to those who sought to make her compromise was plain: “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.” She was unwavering. And it worked. As the New York Times recalls, “Her policies revitalized British business, spurred industrial growth and swelled the middle class.”
Margaret Thatcher personified the art of statesmanship, which is about more than being able to defy the winds of compromise. She didn’t simply plant her feet in the ground and say “no;” she had a plan based upon proven principles—she moved forward on all fronts. With these values solidly at her side, and with a love of country strong enough to deflect the ensuing criticism, Baroness Thatcher pressed on.
Thatcherism: Today and Into Tomorrow
Sadly, the Great Britain that Thatcher raised up is hardly recognizable today. Much to the chagrin of so many who place blame for its current predicaments on the principles to which Thatcher relentlessly adhered, it is in fact a departure from those principles which has cause its downfall once again. Great Britain and the U.S. alike have gone right back to the old habits of reckless spending, burgeoning government that Thatcher—and her American counterpart Ronald Reagan—worked so hard to defeat.
A few bright spots in an otherwise dim Washington D.C. give us hope that another Margaret Thatcher—perhaps to carry on where Reagan left off—can rise and lead this nation to greatness once again. Names such as Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz come to mind among a few others; both are individuals willing to buck the inside-the-beltway status quo in order to preserve our freedoms. Time and again they’ve proved themselves on this front; most recently, one stood for hours on end defending our Constitutional right to a trial by jury while certain colleagues dined with the President; the other openly berated a fellow member of his party for his concerning lack of understanding surrounding our nation’s enemies. Most importantly, both appear to be unrelentingly in their dedication to the common-sense, limited government principles that Thatcher and Reagan espoused; the very same principles that made us great.
Will it be easy? Hardly . . . especially since this country faces many inside and outside of government that have become quite comfortable with “Washington Inc.” (see “The Golden Rules of Capitalism”) and the “painless life” it claims to offer. Sadly, it’s often those WITHIN Washington Inc. who are living on Easy Street, while regular citizens struggle to stay afloat. Yet despite this obvious discrepancy, our society has been programmed to blame capitalism and the principles of small government, thanks to decades of propagating a false definition of the same; while what they’re really blaming is the very unfair nature of BIG government and collectivist economics that Margaret Thatcher sought to combat in Great Britain.
Margaret Thatcher’s trail blazing leadership proved that the seemingly impossible IS possible, if we—both politicians and voters—hold firmly to tried-and-true common sense ideals. This isn’t rocket science. To be certain, Margaret Thatcher’s ideas weren’t new and improved. In fact, they weren’t extraordinary . . . no more so than the common sense we use to run our daily lives. The results they produced, however, WERE extraordinary in the face of such a dismal state of affairs, and it can happen again. We must simply, as Thatcher so famously did, stand firm, because we KNOW what works, and we certainly know what doesn’t.
While our president openly snubs Baroness Thatcher (and in turn, our greatest ally) by refusing to send an official delegation to her funeral today—never mind that he just sent one to Hugo Chavez’s—we must work to preserve the principles she fought so hard to put in place, both in Great Britain and frankly, around the world. We do this by being educated citizens, fluent in the language of our country and our world´s history, and with our eyes wide open to the content of the character of the leaders we put in office. It can be done . . . we just have to be fearless and unceasing in our efforts to restore America.
For helpful guidelines when vetting a candidate at any level of leadership, see The Golden Barometer as found in The Golden Rules of Economics by Peter M. Vessenes.