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Monday, May 4, 2009

Margaret Thatcher: A Great Lady "Not for Turning"

Thirty years ago today, the “sick man of Europe” was placed under the intensive care of a new Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first and to date only female Prime Minister, arrived at Downing Street determined to undo the ravages of three decades of socialism.

Britain had not recovered from World War II, when successive socialist governments began to undermine the nation’s self-reliant social fabric, destroying the profit incentive in its manufacturing base, devaluing its currency, yielding ever-more power to corrupt unions, and returning the populace to a new feudalism, where few owned their own homes, many were increasingly dependent on government, and most had little hope for a better life.

Margaret Thatcher would object to the term “revolutionary” for the program she prescribed. She was, instead, determined to restore British freedom, wealth, and stature in world affairs. The results of her program, within a few short years, were nothing less than staggering.

With clarity of vision and steely, firm resolve, her government slashed top tax rates from 83% to 60% on earned income, and from 98% to 75%, and later, 40%. British venture capitalism, which was practically non-existent when she assumed office in 1979, was twice that of the entire European Economic Community within six years. The middle class grew from 33% of the population to 50%, home ownership expanded from 53% to 71%, stock ownership expanded from 7% to 23% of the population, and was 29% among union members. Inflation was reduced from 22% to 4%.

She broke the all powerful death-grip of the nation’s unions, with membership dropping from more than 50% of all workers to fewer than 20%. As a result, thousands of days lost in strikes plummeted, while the nation’s productivity soared.

During the sometimes painful transition from a stagnant, socialist economy to one of the world’s most vibrant economies, she stood up to an Argentine despot who challenged the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, gave moral support and inspiration to the Solidarity Workers Movement in Poland, and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with her partner in freedom, Ronald Reagan, in bringing about the eventual collapse of the Soviet empire.

Like so many faint-hearted Republicans of our day who, lacking vision and principle, believe that by appeasing the left and offering a more moderate version of Obama socialism, they can build national support, Margaret Thatcher was under constant pressure from within her own party to moderate her message and her program. To such critics she famously said:
"To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning!"
In selecting Margaret Thatcher as one of the 100 most influential people of the twentieth century, the editors of Time Magazine wrote:
"She was the catalyst who set in motion a series of interconnected events that gave a revolutionary twist to the century's last two decades and helped mankind end the millennium on a note of hope and confidence. The triumph of capitalism, the almost universal acceptance of the market as indispensable to prosperity, the collapse of Soviet imperialism, the downsizing of the state on nearly every continent and in almost every country in the world — Margaret Thatcher played a part in all those transformations, and it is not easy to see how any would have occurred without her."

It seems extraordinary that at the very time the world has rejected socialism, and seen so clearly the dramatic results of Margaret Thatcher’s free-market restoration in Great Britain, America would elect an enemy to all that she stands for and start down that desolate, socialist road.

Could it be that America’s only socialized sector, its public educational system, has so dumbed-down America that we are unaware of the most obvious lessons of very recent history?

In these dark days in which old lessons must be relearned, the memory of Margaret Thatcher and her great partner on the world stage, Ronald Reagan, gives hope to conservatives that a great, freedom fighter like Margaret Thatcher might also arise here and restore all that is being destroyed.

In the words with which she eulogized her friend, Ronald Reagan, let us give thanks for Margaret Thatcher, and "a life that achieved so much for all of God's children."

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