I say the greatest not because there weren’t others, but because there was or has been no other – till date, quite like her. Margaret Thatcher is the only woman statesperson who has been credited with an “ism” to her name. Her political and socio-economic ideology is today considered to be in a league with names as iconic as Marx, Gandhi, and Reagan.
Margaret Thatcher’s Legacy
Opinions are deeply divided, and perceptions widely polarized, when it comes to what the British proletariat thinks of Margaret Thatcher, and what she did or stood for during her time as the 1st and the only woman prime minister of Great Britain – even to this day. But for crusaders of economic freedom and free markets the world over, she will always remain the single most influential political figure to have championed the cause of natural economic justice in the twentieth century.
Thatcher, dubbed the “Iron Lady” – ironically by the Russians, will be most remembered for her controversial but revolutionary economic policies, her gumption and courage to lead modern day Britain into a resounding military victory over Argentina in the Falkland Islands conflict, and for her role in diffusing the escalating tensions between the US and the former USSR during the final years of the cold war.
Free Markets – The Lady’s Not for Turning
Margaret Thatcher believed in free markets. Her political agenda was to get government out of business and economics. She was instrumental in sowing the seeds for a commercially liberated globalized world, where free markets decide the course of the economy – the fruits of which we are reaping today. She stood up to the totalitarian brand of communism perpetuated by the Soviet Union and other contemporaries, and transformed Britain by abolishing its socialist policies in favour of liberalized financial markets. Thatcher inspired political reforms that shaped the island nation for the next three decades.
Margaret Thatcher’s domestic policies, although seemingly radical for her time, brought the UK back from the brink of the worst socio-economic crisis it had seen since the Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 30s. When she became prime minister in 1979, mass unemployment was ruling the roost in Britain (over 1.5 million people without jobs), the economy was undergoing debilitating stagnation, inflation was running at 20%, all big businesses were under government control, and labour unions were getting increasingly insolent and violent.
Thatcher changed all that. She changed the way people were living their everyday lives in Britain. She took control of commerce and property out of the hands of the state, and gave it back to the people. Under Thatcher, private business in the UK gained the freedom to carve its own destiny. Against all political odds and intimidation, the grocer’s daughter enforced the privatization of government owned industries that were incurring huge losses and sucking the tax payer dry. You might recognize some of these names – they are global business role models today – British Airways, British Petroleum, Rolls-Royce?
“Privatization shrinks the power of the state and free enterprise enlarges the power of the people. Too many people and industries prefer to rely on easy subsidies rather than apply the financial discipline necessary to cut their costs and become competitive… A system of free enterprise has a universal truth at its heart – To create a genuine market in a state, you have to take the state out of the market,” she once stated in an interview.
Who could have said it better?