Thursday, April 11, 2013

Margaret Thatcher and the Left

The initial reaction to the passing of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was fairly a straightforward acknowledgement of her accomplishments. They were impressive. She took an ailing country that was considered to be in permanent decline and brought it back to life. Along the way she reversed the course of domestic socialism and, along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, stopped the spread in international communism. There is no question that Great Britain was better and stronger when she left office than when she began.

But, her life and accomplishments are a repudiation to today's progressives. Thatcher not only reversed the progressive accomplishments, she proved that her economic theories are correct. So the left had to minimize Thatcher.

The first step was the insistence that today's right has gotten so polarized that they would reject Thatcher. One example given was the VAT (Value Added Tax). Thatcher replaced the high income tax with the VAT. Mitt Romney suggested something similar and was criticized for it. The fact that it was the Republican candidate who suggested it and one of his weak rivals who criticized it shows that a VAT can get mainstream Republican support. The fact that the republican Party is broad enough that you can find someone, somewhere who rejects any single policy does not mean that Thatcher was out of step with today's conservatives. And that's ignoring the fact that she was not an American politician.

Fareed Zakaria makes a strong case for why Thatcherism would not work today. This is an attempt to compartmentalize Thatcher. We can acknowledge her accomplishments but ignore the lessons because she lived in a different time. Zakaria points to some specifics such as the high income tax rates internationally and the number of businesses owned and operated by the British government.

If you look at generalities instead of specifics then you find that Thatcher is still very relevant. The Progressives are obsessed with income inequality and taxing the wealthy. Given a free rein, they would reestablish the tax rates of the 1970s which Zakaria admits were a drag on the economy.

It is true that the days of socialism are past but the real issue was not government ownership of business, it was government intrusion into every facet of daily life. The modern progressives have discovered that it is much easier to dictate how businesses are run than to run them. The regulatory state is on the upswing and becoming worse than it ever was during the Reagan/Thatcher days.

Thatcher and Reagan continue to be relevant to the modern day despite efforts to compartmentalize them.

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