Margaret Thatcher‘s “deep love of liberty”
(This article first appeared at themoderatevoice.com on 18 Jul 2013)
‘The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend’ (1), read a White House Statement; The Woman who saved Britain headlined the Wall St Journal (2) and GreenvilleOnline.com (3) ran the story titled Thatcher was a friend of freedom.
Meanwhile vigil was being kept on the Is Thatcher dead yet? (4) website whose mandate was ‘Keeping track of when, exactly, the Right Honourable Baroness Margaret Hilda Thatcher will finally cop it’, and who asked visitors how they will ‘celebrate’ her death. And it was upon her death that these ‘celebrations’ rang out in a chorus of hatred across sections of Britain; effigies were burnt, death parties held, a Facebook campaign ran called Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead and the union movement proclaimed it ‘a great day for Britain’. In fact Anne Scargill, former wife of Arthur Scargill, a militant union leader of the 80’s, told the BBC she was ‘happy’ to hear about Thatcher‘s death, calling her an ‘evil’ woman (5).
Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s longest serving 20th century Prime Minister and most significant leader since Winston Churchill was again polarising the world.
Britain was on its knees when Thatcher was thrust into the Prime Ministership. In 1975 Henry Kissinger had said ‘Britain is a tragedy…It has sunk to begging, borrowing, and stealing’, and Peter Shore, a Labour politician in the 60’s and 70’s spoke of the Britain Thatcher inherited; ‘Every separate group in the country had no feeling and no sense of being part of a community but was simply out to get for itself what it could’ (6).
The socialist policies of the previous Government had left Britain in despair. The ‘Empire’ was in a downward spiral with no apparent way out; the conviction was that Britain was finished. A culture of welfare, entitlement and dependency prevailed, double digit unemployment and inflation, electricity shortages and power cuts had sunk the economy and trade union militancy was choking productivity. In 1979, during the ‘winter of discontent’, 29 million working days were recorded as lost due to strike action as the unions held the country hostage. So stark had the situation become that Transport Minister Bill Rodgers was unable to get chemotherapy drugs for his dying mother due to union blockades on the docks.
And so it came to be that in 1979 Margaret Thatcher took over a country on the brink of social and economic ruin.
She said that she ‘came into office with one deliberate intent; to change Britain from a dependant to a self-reliant society, from a give it to me to a do it yourself nation’ (1), and on taking up residence in No. 10 Downing St. Thatcher did not take the easy road that the welfare state so eagerly promotes, but set about awakening the latent enterprise of the people and in liberating a Britain decaying in self-pity, dependency and dogma.
Upon the principle that nations could become great through the freedom of the individual Thatcherism was born, and became defined by the tenets of faith in individual freedoms and private enterprise, faith in economic freedom and free markets, belief in limited Government power and in Governments not interfering in people’s lives.
And with these tenets Thatcher spent the next 11 ½ years of her life reshaping the nation. She revitalised the British people, spurred British business, private enterprise and industrial growth and swelled the middle class.
The insipid culture of welfare, entitlement and dependency was dismantled, she confronted and refused to negotiate with the dogmatic union movement, state industries were privatized, state controls abolished, and the financial sector deregulated. Through fiscal discipline, low inflation, a firm control over labour markets and public expenditure what followed was an economic revolution.
The 27% double digit inflation of the mid 70’s had dropped to 2.4% by 1986, unemployment plummeted from close to 12% to 7% by the end of the decade, and working days lost to strikes had fallen from 29 million to two million by 1986. The top rate of tax fell from 83% to 40%, and her Housing Policy led to a revolution in home ownership with over 1 million people purchasing the homes they lived in at heavily discounted rates.
She was active on foreign policy too. Reagan had described Thatcher as ‘the only European leader I know with balls’ (2) and their alliance was enduring. It was Thatcher’s willingness to stand up to the tyranny of communism that was the catalyst for the 1987 Reagan-Gorbachev deal to destroy all of the new Soviet and NATO missiles leading to the end of the Cold War and of communism and the beginning of the democratic movement in Eastern Europe. She reclaimed the Falkland’s Islands when Argentina invaded in 1982, against the will of some of her own party, the US and other allies, stating ‘You simply do not take what does not belong to you’ (12) and in 1984 after an IRA attempt on her life she declared, ‘All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail’ (13).
Thatcher was a conviction politician who led with vision, strength and resolve.
Revered by conservatives, to the left she was a scourge and represented everything they despised. Conveying this sentiment, Bob Crow, a Union boss, said she could ‘rot in hell’ (7), and MP Glenda Jackson said ‘A woman? Not on my terms’ (7).
Thatcher polarised the nation and to an extent the world.
There was a pathological brutality and ideologue behind the attacks on her as eminent philosopher and Thatcher confidant Sir Laurens van der Post exposed when he wrote, ‘the so-called liberal socialist elements in modern society are profoundly decadent today because they are not honest with themselves…They give people an ideological and not a real idea of what life should be about, and this is immoral…They feel good by being highly moral about other people’s lives, and this is immoral…They have parted company with reality in the name of idealism…there is this enormous trend which accompanies industrialized societies, which is to produce a kind of collective man who becomes indifferent to the individual values; real societies depend for their renewal and creation on individuals…There is, in fact, a very disturbing, pathological element–something totally non-rational–in the criticism of the Prime Minister [Margaret Thatcher]. It amazes me how no one recognizes how shrill, hysterical and out of control a phenomenon it is’ (8).
Lyle H. Rossiter, JR., MD in his appositely named book The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness, similarly voiced, ‘What the liberal [left wing] mind is passionate about is a world filled with pity, sorrow, neediness, misfortune, poverty, suspicion, mistrust, anger, exploitation, discrimination, victimization, alienation and injustice.’
In contrast, Thatcher expressed her values; ‘Being democratic is not enough; a majority cannot turn what is wrong into right. In order to be considered truly free, countries must also have a deep love of liberty’ (3).
To shed light on this philosophical schism between the left and right and the real significance of Thatcher and her accomplishments, vision, ‘deep love of liberty’ and ‘faith in individual freedoms’, I draw on the profound work of biologist, philosopher and author Jeremy Griffith.
Griffith suggests that the ‘human condition’ is the crux issue underlying all human affairs and that our greater responsibility and need is to bring explanation and understanding to our paradoxical nature—our capacity for both ‘good and evil’. He stresses that only by finding understanding can we bring any real solution to human suffering or any real reconciliation to the great injustices and polarities in life, such as the immense gap between the have and have nots or the dichotomy of the left and right in politics.
In this greater context of humanity’s search for self-knowledge Griffith’s dialogue on the role of the democratic process and the impact the left and right have on society’s pursuit of freedom and freedom of expression, offers an insightful perspective into the importance of Thatcher’s stance and vision.
Griffith explains; ‘Humanity’s two million year journey to find understanding of the human condition finally came down to a so-called ‘cultural war’ between the philosophy of the political left-wing and the philosophy of the political right-wing. Both sides were determined they were right’ (9), where ‘The ‘left-wing’ dogmatically emphasised obedience to the oppressive cooperative ideals while the ‘right-wing’ emphasised the need for freedom from oppressive insistence on cooperative idealism’ (10).
On the impact of right wing policies Griffith explains; ‘The result of this free enterprise system of equal opportunity for everyone is a world that has divided into an impoverished majority and an obscenely wealthy minority. On the face of it nothing could appear more unjust and dangerous than that situation’.
And of left wing policies; ‘The more the world became unjustly unequal the more people tried to counter this with the only means at their disposal–the imposition of freedom-denying dogmatic forms of restraint… What is so dangerous is that this development has the potential to shut down the freedom of expression needed to allow the reconciling, dignifying, peace-bringing, humanity-liberating understanding of the human condition to emerge…’
Griffith continues; ‘In the situation where inequality was to a significant degree unavoidable the real danger was not of inequality eventually destroying the world, but of dogmatic forms of restraint eventually denying the freedom needed to search for understanding, ultimately self-understanding…’ consequently ‘The political view that has the potential to destroy the world is that of the freedom-restraining political left, not the free enterprise political right…’
‘The point is that without the freedom for individuals to question and to search for (and ultimately to deliver) understanding of the human condition, eventually alienation and its effects will destroy the human race, it will bring it into a state of abject physical and psychological poverty. Terminal poverty, the death of the human race, is what occurs if freedom is extinguished.’ (11)
George Orwell similarly articulated the danger of the dogmatic and oppressive left wing in his celebrated book Nineteen Eighty-Four when he wrote; ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever’.
Thatcher’s extraordinary achievements speak for themselves, but Griffith’s articulation of the critical role democracy and the right wing played in allowing ‘the freedom of the individual to question and to search for (and ultimately to deliver) understanding of the human condition’, makes clear just how significant Thatcher’s contribution really was in maintaining faith in the freedom of the individual and in standing up to the socialist dogma of the left. A contribution compelled by vision, strength and her ‘deep love of liberty’.
There are few who can lay claim to have such impact on the world. Thatcher is one.
1. Margaret Thatcher, ‘Iron Lady’ Who Set Britain on New Course, Dies at 87; Joseph R Gregory, NY Times 8th April 2013; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/world/europe/former-prime-minister-margaret-thatcher-of-britain-has-died.html?pagewanted=all;
2. The Woman who saved Britain; Daniel Hannan, Wall st Journal, Friday May 17th; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324216004578481112955176562.html
3. Thatcher was a friend of Freedom; http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/greenvilleonline/access/2941565311.html?FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Apr+11%2C+2013&author=&pub=The+Greenville+News&edition=&startpage=6&desc=Thatcher+was+a+friend+of+freedom
5. The true legacy of Margaret Thatcher the ‘Iron Lady’; Trevon Muhammad, The Final Call, Apr 25, 2013; http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/Perspectives_1/article_9793.shtml
6. Margaret Thatcher: never forget the chaos of life before her; Graham Stewart, The Telegraph, April 14, 2013; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/margaret-thatcher/9991843/Margaret-Thatcher-never-forget-the-chaos-of-life-before-her.html
7.Spot the Leftie, Tom Newton Dunn and Emily Ashton, 11 April 2013 http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/4882137/150-labour-mps-snub-commons-margaret-thatcher-tribute.html#ixzz2Vfs7dXRb
8. A Walk with a White Bushman; Laurens van der Post, 1986. pp 90 – 93
9. Freedom; Jeremy Griffith, pg 192; /freedom-book1-the-final-200-years/
10. The Great Exodus, Jeremy Griffith ; /exodus-born-again-late-adulthood-stage-of-adolescent-humanity/
11. A Species in Denial 'The Denial-Free history of the Human Race; Jeremy Griffith ; https://www.humancondition.com/asid-the-denial-free-history-of-the-human-race/
12. Personal Reflections on Thatcher’s Legacy; Scheherazade Rhman, usnews.com April 16th; http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2013/04/16/personal-reflections-on-margaret-thatchers-legacy
13. Thatcher knew how to fight terrorists http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3611957/Thatcher-knew-how-to-fight-terrorists.html