Margaret Thatcher: perspectives from Britain

Tens of thousands mourned former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher at her ceremonial funeral in London Wednesday. Meanwhile, protesters elsewhere celebrated Thatcher’s death by burning effigies. Keep reading for views on Thatcher and her legacy from British writers.

The Economist | Freedom fighter

Her reforms, it is said, sowed the seeds of the recent economic crisis. Without Thatcherism, the big bang would not have happened. Financial services would not make up such a large slice of the British economy and the country would not now be struggling under the burden of individual debt caused by excessive borrowing and government debt caused by the need to bail out the banks. Some of this is true; but then without Thatcherism Britain’s economy would still be mired in state control, the commanding heights of its economy would be owned by the government and militant unions would be a power in the land.

Because of the crisis, the pendulum is swinging dangerously away from the principles Mrs Thatcher espoused. In most of the rich world, the state’s share of the economy has stubbornly risen. Regulations—excessive as well as necessary—are tying up the private sector. Businesspeople are under scrutiny as they have not been for 30 years and bankers are everyone’s favourite bogeyman. And with the rise of China state control, not economic liberalism, is being hailed as a model for emerging markets.

The Guardian | “I always felt sorry for her children”

In this essay, actor Russell Brand recalls growing up as a disaffected, unhappy child during Thatcher’s years in office:

Perhaps my early apathy and indifference are a result of what Thatcher deliberately engendered, the idea that "there is no such thing as society", that we are alone on our journey through life, solitary atoms of consciousness. ...

By then, 1990, I was 15, adolescent and instinctively anti-establishment enough to regard her disdainfully. I'd unthinkingly imbibed enough doctrine to know that, troubled as I was, there was little point looking elsewhere for support. I was on my own. We are all on our own.

The Dish | Thatcher, Liberator

Andrew Sullivan writes:

I owe my entire political obsession to the one person in British politics who refused to accept this state of affairs. You can read elsewhere the weighing of her legacy – but she definitively ended a truly poisonous, envious, inert period in Britain’s history. She divided the country deeply – and still does. She divided her opponents even more deeply, which was how she kept winning elections. She made some serious mistakes – the poll tax, opposition to German unification, insisting that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist – but few doubt she altered her country permanently, re-establishing the core basics of a free society and a free economy that Britain had intellectually bequeathed to the world and yet somehow lost in its own class-ridden, envy-choked socialist detour to immiseration.

New Statesman | What we talk about when we talk about Margaret Thatcher

Laurie Penny spends an evening at a “death disco” celebrating Thatcher’s passing and remarks:

Across the country, perfectly normal families - families in Norwich and Newcastle and the Rhondda Valley, who eat cornflakes in the morning and go, in their unfussy British way, to church - have had money and booze put aside for decades for a party on the occasion of the death of one frail, old lady. This particular frail, old lady, of course, happened to be the figurehead and instigator of an aggressive neoliberalism that destroyed their communities, ruined lives and drove millions into poverty and despair, as well as making a few people very rich indeed. 

From The Washington Post: Max Fisher on Thatcher and punk, Michael Gerson on the former prime minister’s Christianity, and Anne Applebaum on the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. For more of the Post’s coverage of Wednesday’s funeral, continue reading here.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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