April 8, 2013


...whose politics didn't survive his own first term, Margaret Thatcher's politics bestride the Anglosphere, Scandinavia, portions of Eastern Europe, and will only spread further in coming decades.  Though, to be fair, her politics were actually first implemented in places like Chile, New Zealand and Australia.  She was just the more visible proponent of what became the Third Way, New Labour, the New Democrats, compassionate conservatism, etc.  Here's a piece that approaches giving her the pride of place she deserves:

Goldilocks politics :The much--heralded "Third Way" in politics often seems to boil down to refusing porridge too hot for the voters without offering porridge that has actually gone cold. But though it lacks ideological rigour, Tony Blair's project has a serious purpose (The Economist, Dec 17th 1998)

Trying to pin down an exact meaning in all this is like wrestling an inflatable man. If you get a grip on one limb, all the hot air rushes to another. But it is worth persevering; it may be a poor ideology, but as a piece of politics the Third Way needs to be understood.

Despite the obfuscatory fog of generalities, one thing is reasonably obvious. For "a very fundamental paradigm shift in politics" the core ideas of the Third Way sound rather familiar. In Mr Clinton's vision of the Third Way, government does not just provide services: it is an "enabler and catalyst", "a partner with the private sector and community groups". The president wants government to be fiscally disciplined and less bureaucratic. It should not try to solve all of people's problems, but to create the conditions in which people solve their own. For his part, Mr Blair says that the Old Left championed indiscriminate and often ineffective public spending, but that the Third Way concentrates on making sure that the spending produces the desired result. He also says (something of a conceptual breakthrough for the Labour Party) that governments should be friendly to private enterprise (as the workers' class enemies are now known).

In short, these new politicians want to make government smaller and cleverer, fiscally sound, and friendly to business. It is hard to fault these commonsensical objectives. And in Britain's case they mark a clear departure from the big, stupid, overspending, business-hostile Labour governments of the 1960s and 1970s. But hang on. Aren't they precisely the objectives that Labour's Conservative foes tried to achieve before Mr Blair turfed them out of office in 1997?

Having demonised those Tory governments while opposing them Labour is understandably reluctant to admit that it is following the path they marked out. So a big part of the business of the Third Way consists of making up a story about what the Tories stand for which makes their Labour replacements look clearly different.

Mrs. Thatcher, being an heir to the paternalistic Tory tradition of Disraeli and Churchill, harbored no delusions about doing away with the welfare state (the Second Way) altogether.  However, as an heir to Adam Smith, David Hume, Michael Oakeshott and the rest of the great British philosophers, she likewise harbored no delusions that a system as top-down as the Second Way could succeed.  Her politics derives from the insight that you can incorporate the First Way--capitalist mechanisms--into the welfare state to make it less expensive as government, make it more lucrative for the citizenry, and ultimately enhance liberty in society.

Alongside this reformist politics, her other great achievement was in breaking inflation by pulverizing the trade union movement.  Once the ratchet of consistently rising wages had been removed, globalization and technology were able to bite and drive the deflation of the last 30+ years.

We live today in the world she made.  


The Lady Wasn't for Turning (IAIN MURRAY on 4.8.13, American Spectator)

Mrs. Thatcher recognized the great error of socialism. As she put it, the trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money. She proposed a twofold solution. First, stop spending other people's money. Second, give them the opportunity to earn it. In short, she sought to reintroduce liberal capitalism to the country that had once been at its vanguard -- from the repeal of the Corn Laws to the Industrial Revolution.

To achieve the first objective, she slowly but surely privatized nationalized industries (though, unfortunately, not the BBC), took on the trade unions and won, and reduced the size of the civil service. She achieved the second objective by lifting onerous regulations on Britain's financial sector -- one of her first acts was to lift capital controls -- and implementing sound monetary policy. And she did all this in defiance of the received economic wisdom of the time.

At the polls, she defeated the error of socialism three times in a row (four if you include her Tory successor John Major's 1992 victory). The result was vindication of the best kind, as the Labour Party, under Tony Blair, rejected a return to nationalization and instead recognized the truth that people did best under capitalism.

Margaret Thatcher, an enlarger of British freedom (Sir Harold Evans APRIL 8, 2013, Reuters)

The trade unions at the time were busy wreaking havoc on industry. The far left had infiltrated Labour constituencies; Labour candidates were as scared of the militants then as primary Republicans of the Tea Party candidates today.  Local union chiefs called wildcat strikes, disrupted production.  The union movement, with some Labour ministers in support, threatened a closed shop in the press which would have curtailed free speech. I'd spoken out against it as had the  then editor of The Guardian, Alastair Hetherington. At another of those endless London dinners where Maggie  was the speaker and still not in government,  she referred to me as "one of us." I wasn't. I was just expressing a view on an issue. We had many things in common, both from the north, both educated in state schools, both brought up in a grocer's shop, in my case one my mother started, in hers one her father ran. I admired her.  I was one of the millions of voters in the 1979  general election  which put her into power as the first woman prime minister. The country  was in dreadful shape, fearful and anxious during a winter of discontent in which trade union militants blocked cancer patients getting treatment and garbage piled up in  the center of London.

She saved Britain from anarchy and immediately restored a sense of purpose. She could be rough. As Prime Minister,  she had a limited tolerance for dissent and an infinite regard for personal loyalty. If you were not with on her everything, she  regarded you as disloyal, as unreliable, lacking conviction.  I suppose it was the reverse mirror of her indomitable courage. How valiant she was when the IRA terrorists blew up her conference hotel; they tried to murder her and almost succeeded.  She was often vindicated. She was impatient with excuses for inertia and woolliness -- vividly represented  in Meryl Streep's representation of her cutting off a Cabinet member in mid speech.  I disappointed her by giving space in The Times  to critics, especially one of them, Edwin Heath,  whom she'd ousted as Prime Minister. The imperatives of news meant we published  news stories she didn't like: she'd  sunk in the polls and recession deepened. Relations became a little chillier. As an editor, I'd never sought to cosy up  to political leaders,  but I now understand more of what she was up against - the Tory snobs in the counties,  the plotters in the party who eventually betrayed her, the "wets" and the "wimps"  who would yield on a principle she considered vital.

When she became Prime Minister I was editor of The Times. We backed her a hundred per cent on trade union reforms, on holding the line on pay, especially in the public sector and  on advocating more competition in the banking industry, on free trade, on resisting terrorism in Northern Ireland. I told her I  thought she moved too slowly against trade union anarchy, but she bided her time and planned well.   She won a famous victory against the coal miners, badly led by a firebrand who took money from Gaddafi, and it was thanks to her stalwart support  of Rupert Murdoch, whom she admired as a free-booting entrepreneur , that he was able to win the battle of Wapping which ended the guerilla warfare of the print unions.

The Anti-Declinist (Mark Steyn, April 8, 2013, National Review)

[S]he understood that the biggest threat to any viable future for Britain was a unionized public sector that had awarded itself a lifestyle it wasn't willing to earn. So she picked a fight with it, and made sure she won. In the pre-Thatcher era, union leaders were household names, mainly because they were responsible for everything your household lacked. Britain's system of government was summed up in the unlovely phrase "beer and sandwiches at Number Ten" -- which meant union grandees showing up at Downing Street to discuss what it would take to persuade them not to go on strike, and being plied with the aforementioned refreshments by a prime minister reduced to the proprietor of a seedy pub, with the Cabinet as his barmaids.
In 1990, when Mrs. Thatcher was evicted from office by her ingrate party's act of matricide, the difference she'd made was such that in all the political panel discussions on TV that evening no producer thought to invite any union leaders. No one knew their names anymore.

That's the difference between a real Terminator, and a poseur like Schwarzenegger.

Margaret Thatcher, Conservative Who Reforged Britain, Dies at 87 (JOSEPH R. GREGORY, 4/08/13, NY Times)

But by the time she left office, the principles known as Thatcherism -- the belief that economic freedom and individual liberty are interdependent, that personal responsibility and hard work are the only ways to national prosperity, and that the free-market democracies must stand firm against aggression -- had won many disciples. Even some of her strongest critics accorded her a grudging respect.

At home, Mrs. Thatcher's political successes were decisive. She broke the power of the labor unions and forced the Labour Party to abandon its commitment to nationalized industry, redefine the role of the welfare state and accept the importance of the free market.

Abroad, she won new esteem for a country that had been in decline since its costly victory in World War II. After leaving office, she was honored as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. But during her first years in power, even many Tories feared that her election might prove a terrible mistake.

In October 1980, 17 months into her first term, Mrs. Thatcher faced disaster. More businesses were failing and more people were out of work than at any time since the Great Depression. Racial and class tensions smoldered so ominously that even close advisers worried that her push to stanch inflation, sell off nationalized industry and deregulate the economy was devastating the poor, undermining the middle class and courting chaos.

At the Conservative Party conference that month, the moderates grumbled that they were being led by a free-market ideologue oblivious to life on the street and the exigencies of realpolitik. With electoral defeat staring them in the face, cabinet members warned, now was surely a time for compromise.

To Mrs. Thatcher, they could not be more wrong. "I am not a consensus politician," she had often declared. "I am a conviction politician."

In an address to the party, she played on the title of Christopher Fry's popular play "The Lady's Not for Burning" in insisting that she would press forward with her policies. "You turn if you want to," she told the faltering assembly. "The lady's not for turning."

Her tough stance did the trick. A party revolt was thwarted, the Tories hunkered down, and Mrs. Thatcher went on to achieve great victories. She turned the Conservatives, long associated with the status quo, into the party of reform. Her policies revitalized British business, spurred industrial growth and swelled the middle class.

Following Germany on reforming the social-safety net (Charles Lane, Monday, April 8,2013, Washington Post)

What really propelled Germany's economy to new heights was the package of market-oriented reforms launched by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder 10 years ago. Schroeder acknowledged that Germany's safety net had become a bit of a hammock. He restructured and reduced unemployment and welfare benefits while giving employers more freedom to hire and fire.

As it happens, Schroeder's plan reflected his admiration for U.S. capitalism, which, in his view, had surpassed Germany's in dynamism, flexibility and innovation. But it triggered resistance within his own center-left Social Democratic Party -- and from ordinary workers, one-eighth of whom were receiving some form of government aid by 2003. The struggle probably cost Schroeder a third term in the 2005 elections.

History's verdict has been kinder -- the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has given Schroeder's reforms much of the credit for Germany's "labour market miracle" ...
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Posted by at April 8, 2013 5:37 PM

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