Springtime in the Smokies
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Margaret Thatcher. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Margaret Thatcher. Sort by date Show all posts

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."

Monday, April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher: A Great Briton, A Great World Leader, A Great Lady

Margaret Thatcher, one of history's great champions of freedom, paid the most eloquent tribute to her partner on the world stage, Ronald Reagan, when he died in 2004.  So much of what Margaret Thatcher saw in President Reagan -- love of freedom, courage, strength of character, commitment to principle and perseverance against great odds -- was mirrored in herself.  

Over the past six years we have often written and posted commentary about this providential figure, and those articles can be seen here.  But on this day of loss, we would encourage you to listen again to her moving tribute to President Reagan.  It says everything important about Ronald Reagan and his great friend, eulogist and partner in the building of a better world.  

"Let us give thanks today for a life that achieved so much for all of God's children."

Baroness Thatcher, who has died aged 87 from a stroke, was not only Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, she was also the outstanding peacetime leader of the 20th century.
For more than a decade Margaret Thatcher enjoyed almost unchallenged political mastery, winning three successive general elections. The policies she pursued with ferocious energy and unyielding will resulted in a transformation of Britain’s economic performance.

The resulting change was also political. But by discrediting socialism so thoroughly, she prompted in due course the adoption by the Labour Party of free market economics, and so, as she wryly confessed in later years, “helped to make it electable”.

As for the effects of the Thatcher phenomenon upon British society, these were both more ambiguous and more debatable. Her remark “there is no such thing as society” was wrenched altogether out of the context of the interview in which it was made, and made to seem to be an advocacy of naked individualism, when she was really calling for more personal responsibility. Yet, rightly or wrongly, the 1980s came to be seen as a time of social fragmentation whose consequences are still with us.
Margaret Thatcher was the only British prime minister to leave behind a set of ideas about the role of the state which other leaders and nations strove to copy and apply. Monetarism, privatisation, deregulation, small government, lower taxes and free trade — all these features of the modern globalised economy were crucially promoted as a result of the policy prescriptions she employed to reverse Britain’s economic decline.

Above all, in America and in Eastern Europe she was regarded, alongside her friend Ronald Reagan, as one of the two great architects of the West’s victory in the Cold War. Of modern British prime ministers, only Margaret Thatcher’s girlhood hero, Winston Churchill, acquired a higher international reputation.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Well Done, Lady Thatcher … The Passing of the Iron Lady

By Paul G. Kengor

Margaret Thatcher, one of the greatest leaders of the Cold War, of the 20th century, and of British history, has died at the age of 87.

I’ve referred to her as one of my Cold War seven: Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Boris Yeltsin, and Margaret Thatcher. They were the seven figures who dissolved an Evil Empire, and only Walesa and Gorbachev still remain with us.

The world dubbed her the Iron Lady, a title that duly fits. Many, however, mistake the Iron Lady moniker as referring solely to her strength in the Cold War. There was much more to it. Consider:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Was Margaret Thatcher Right to Fear a United Germany?

Documents published last week highlight the former prime minister's concern that the fall of the Berlin Wall could be a risk to Britain's national security. Was she right to be worried, asks historian Andrew Roberts

From The Telegraph
By Andrew Roberts
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

According to documents leaked from the Politburo, Margaret Thatcher believed that the fall of the Berlin Wall would lead to 'a change to postwar borders [which] could endanger [Britain's] security.' Photo: AFP/GETTY

"We do not want a united Germany," Margaret Thatcher told President Gorbachev at a lunch meeting in the Kremlin in September 1989, two months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. "This would lead to a change to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the whole international situation and could endanger our security."

Among the 1,000 transcripts of Politburo and other high-level papers smuggled out of Russia by Pavel Stroilov, a researcher in the Gorbachev Foundation, and published for the first time last week – in what The Times described as a "bombshell" – was Thatcher's admission to Gorbachev that although she supported German reunification in public, in private and off-the-record she felt "deep concern" about the "big changes" afoot.

In fact, far from being a scoop, each of these points were contained on pages 792 and 793 of The Downing Street Years, Lady Thatcher's autobiography published in 1993. But what the smuggled Russian documents do is highlight the accuracy of Thatcher's own account of those heady days of two decades ago.

Read the rest of this entry >>

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Margaret Thatcher: Plans to Build Museum as Permanent Memorial

The legacy of Margaret Thatcher is to be enshrined in an important new institution that aims to shape Conservative politics throughout this century. 

David Jones, the Welsh Secretary, said: “Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s greatest post-war leader. I can think of no better tribute to her than the establishment of the Margaret Thatcher Library” Photo: Rex Features

Plans are well under way for a combined library, museum and training centre in London to be a permanent memorial to the former prime minister, whose funeral will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday.

The Margaret Thatcher Library, whose backers aim to raise £15 million in private funds to endow it for generations to come, is supported by at least three Cabinet ministers as well as key political lieutenants of Baroness Thatcher. 

The project, without precedent in British politics, will be based on the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California, to reinforce what was the most powerful international political partnership of the Cold War era. 

Read more at The Telegraph >>


The Order of Service for Baroness Thatcher's Funeral

A general view of the altar inside St Paul's Cathedral, where Baroness Thatcher's funeral will take place. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Downing Street has released a detailed Order of Service for Baroness Thatcher's funeral on Wednesday.
  • 10am - Heads of State, the Royal Representatives of Heads of State and the Diplomatic Corps are received by a member of Chapter at the South Door of St. Paul's Cathedral and taken to their seats.
  • 10:10am - Visiting Representatives of World Faiths leave the Dean’s Aisle and make their way to their seats in the Quire.
  • 10:15am - Lord Speaker, Mr Speaker and the Prime Minister are received at the North Door of the Cathedral by a member of Chapter and then move to their seats under the Dome.
  • 10:25am - The Chapter, the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury leave the Dean’s Aisle and proceed to the Great West Door of the Cathedral.
Margaret Thatcher laid down plans on how the service should proceed.
Margaret Thatcher laid down plans on how the service should proceed. Credit: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press/Press Association Images
  • 10:35am - The Lord Mayor and Sheriffs arrive and are received by the Chapter, the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Sheriffs then sit in the Quire.
  • 10:40am - Members of the family arrive at the Cathedral and are received by the Chapter, the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury and taken to their seats under the Dome.
  • 10:45am - The Foundation Procession leaves the Dean’s Aisle.
  • 10:45am - The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at the Cathedral and are received at the foot of the West Steps by the Lord Mayor, who accompanies them to the Great West Door, where they are received by the Chapter, the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Her Majesty is preceded by the Lord Mayor bearing the Mourning Sword.
  • The Queen and Prince Philip then make their way to their seats under the Dome.
  • 11am - The clock of St Paul's Cathedral strikes the hour. The coffin is carried into the Cathedral and placed upon the Bier under the Dome.
Amanda and Michael Thatcher pictured with their grandmother in October 2003.
Amanda and Michael Thatcher pictured with their grandmother in October 2003. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/Press Association Images
  • Michael Thatcher and Amanda Thatcher - Lady Thatcher's grandchildren - carry cushions bearing the Insignia of the Order of the Garter and the Order of Merit, which are laid on the Dome Altar.
As the Procession of the Coffin moves through the Nave, the Choir will sing before the Dean of St Paul's, the Very Rev David Ison, addresses the congregation with the Bidding.

A selection of hymns of readings will then be given - chosen by Lady Thatcher. 

Baroness Thatcher's granddaughter Amanda and Prime Minister David Cameron will give readings at the service.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

John O'Sullivan on Margaret Thatcher: A Legacy of Freedom

John O'Sullivan, executive editor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has served as a senior editor at the London Times and the Daily Telegraph and as a special advisor to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He has also been editor-in-chief of the United Press International, editor of The National Interest and National Review, and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. His most recent book is The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered at Hillsdale College on May 9, 2008, at the dedication of the third statue on the College's Liberty Walk and the first statue of Margaret Thatcher to be erected in the United States.

IT is a great pleasure to be back at Hillsdale. It is some 32 years since I first visited the College for a meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society. Those few days were an important education in American politics for me. The conference was attended by many people who had just returned from the Republican Convention at which President Ford had narrowly defeated Ronald Reagan. They were full of enthusiasm for Reagan and full of conviction that one day he would become president. Their enthusiasm—and their passion too for sound doctrine—swept me along. I think I became a firm Reaganite at that conference here in Hillsdale. And I have never had cause to regret my conversion.

I was already “a Thatcherite of the first hour,” to use Gaullist terminology. Indeed, along with Ralph Harris, Arthur Seldon, Keith Joseph, and such distinguished alumni of that Hillsdale meeting as Madsen Pirie and Stuart Butler, who went on to found the Adam Smith Institute in London in the late 1970s—well, we all have a good claim to have been Thatcherites even before Lady Thatcher. Most of the intellectual groundwork for what became Thatcherism was done in places like the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Adam Smith Institute, the Center for Policy Studies, the Mont Pelerin Society—and Hillsdale College.

But I have to add some words from Lady herself when someone made the same claim in her presence: “The cock may crow, but it's the hen that lays the eggs.” We couldn’t have implemented those ideas of freedom without her courage, leadership, stamina, and commitment to those same ideas. So it is fitting that Hillsdale College should be erecting a statue to Lady Thatcher—you were allied with her in the same cause of freedom long before she became a personal friend of the college.

I congratulate the sculptor, Bruce Wolfe, on his magnificent achievement. Not only is it a superb likeness of Lady Thatcher at the apogee of her political authority, but it also captures the extraordinary energy that she always projected—even when, as here, seated in a comfortable armchair. I will be especially nervous delivering these remarks today, feeling that Herself is seated just behind me and likely to catch me out in some error.

It is, finally, a great pleasure to be here under the gavel, so to speak, of your President Larry Arnn. I first met Larry at the dinner table in London of the late Peter Utley, a great conservative journalist, who was another Thatcherite of the first hour. While I was learning Reaganism in Hillsdale, Larry was learning Thatcherism in London, in both cases from the best possible teachers. In the end, of course, Reaganism and Thatcherism are the same Anglo-American conservative philosophy of ordered liberty applied in somewhat different national circumstances.

That is why Thatcher and Reagan were such a natural and successful partnership. They did not always look like a natural partnership, however. One acute and well-placed observer, Sir Percy Cradock, who served as Lady Thatcher’s foreign policy advisor in Downing Street, pointed to some very sharp differences between them in the following contrast: “the bossy intrusive Englishwoman, lecturing and hectoring, hyperactive, obsessively concerned with detail” and “the lazy, sunny Irish ex-actor, his mind operating mainly in the instinctive mode, happy to delegate and over-delegate, hazy about most of his briefs, but with certain stubbornly held principles, a natural warmth, and an extraordinary ability to communicate with his constituents.”

That sounds like criticism. And recent Reagan scholarship suggests that the president was somewhat less lazy and delegation-happy than he liked people to think. But in fact, Sir Percy was an admirer of the partnership as well as one of its close advisors. As he went on to say, these different personalities complemented each other very well. They were not oil and water, but oil and vinegar—no prizes for guessing who was which—and not entirely by accident. Both were determined to make the partnership work. Both shared the same essential philosophy. And both were prepared to back each other up in public even when they differed in private—almost all of the time, at any rate.

Winning the Cold War

Now I shall not devote this speech entirely to the Cold War partnership of Thatcher and Reagan. You know most of that story from the American end. Besides, its essence can be summed up in Lady Thatcher’s own tribute to the President: “Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot.” But she added a little coda too: “Not without a little help from his friends.”

That summarizes the truth very crisply. Reagan’s friends in this cause included Pope John Paul II, Lech Walesa, Helmut Kohl, Vaclav Havel, Italy’s Francesco Cossiga, arguably Mikhail Gorbachev (who has ever since referred to “my friend Ron”), and the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. All those friends were important and all played crucial roles in restoring freedom to the “captive nations.” But Margaret Thatcher was the most consistent, the most outspoken, the most determined, and the most reliable friend to Reagan and the United States in this final climactic struggle with totalitarian communism.

She matched Reagan’s military build-up with a strengthening of Britain’s defense forces.

She was the strongest voice in Western Europe protesting against the Soviet-ordered imposition of martial law against Solidarity in Poland.

She fought a war to evict the Argentineans from the Falklands—a war that not only showed the fighting spirit of the British forces but also compelled the Soviets to accept that the West would fight to defend itself.

She supplied Blowpipe missiles to the Afghan resistance that gave Reagan the incentive and justification to insist that American intelligence agencies should supply them with the more effective Stinger missiles.

She prevented—it was almost her last political act of importance—she prevented the European Union from accepting the legitimacy of the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic countries inside its multi-national Gulag.

Above all, she rallied the Europeans to ensure the installation of U.S. missiles in Western Europe to match the Soviet planting of SS-20s in the Soviet satellites.

Let me give one example of the many times she acted to stiffen the spines of Western European governments either weakened by the leftward drift of their social democratic parties or frightened by the massive anti-installation rallies of the so-called “peace movement.” West Germany’s Helmut Schmidt—another friend of America’s and a strong anti-communist—was losing the battle to keep his left-leaning SDP from opposing the installation of U.S. missiles. He asked Thatcher if she would take some of the missiles that West Germany had originally accepted in addition to those taken by Britain. She agreed to do so. Both Schmidt and the installation policy were able to survive for another day. In the end, such strong leadership ensured that the missiles were installed across Western Europe in 1984—Germany fully included after Helmut Kohl replaced Schmidt.

This was a decisive defeat for the Soviet Union in the Cold War. They lost their long-cherished hope of being able to employ nuclear blackmail against NATO and to split the Atlantic alliance. They walked out of the Geneva arms control negotiations in protest. But they had to walk back in a little later, and later still in the Geneva, Reykjavik, and Washington summits, they had to swallow disarmament treaties that essentially demolished their military threat to Western Europe. The collapse of communism occurred only a few years later.

Today we forget how quickly the Reagan-Thatcher partnership vanquished communism. Thatcher took office in May 1979 and Reagan in January 1981. They had won power precisely because the voters of the West were worried about the breakdown of their societies and the remorseless advance of the Soviets and their allies—in Southeast Asia, in southern Africa, in Afghanistan, in Central America. Yet by 1982-83 they had stabilized their own societies and begun the military and economic challenge to the Soviets in earnest. In 1982, a senior Politburo official wrote in his diary that the Soviets faced an ideological and economic offensive that they had no idea how to counter. If things continued as they were going, he wrote, there would be what he called “a Polish Russia” in ten years—i.e., the same implosion of communism inside the Soviet Union that had occurred inside Poland.

Neither Thatcher nor Reagan realized that the Soviet system would collapse as quickly as it did. What they did realize, however, was that it was a dying system.

As the Prime Minister was being driven to the London airport on her way to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov’s funeral, Robin Butler, the most senior civil servant in attendance, noticed that she was wearing high-heeled court shoes. Would she be attending the funeral, he asked, in those shoes? Yes? In that case he insisted on diverting the car to a shoe shop where she could buy a pair of fleecy fur-lined boots—the only footwear suitable to a Politburo funeral that would involve standing for hours in a sub-freezing Red Square.

Having bought the boots, Thatcher complained to Butler about their exorbitant price all the way to Moscow.

The next day was as Butler had predicted. Thatcher had to stand for hours in the cold. After the burial, she paid a brief courtesy call to drink a glass of champagne and to shake hands with Andropov’s successor, Konstantin Chernenko, at the Kremlin wake. She then returned to her limousine for the drive back to Moscow airport. No sooner had she settled onto the limo’s cushions than she apologized generously to Butler.

“Robin, I should never have made such a fuss about the price of those boots,” she said. “When I saw Chernenko in the receiving line, I realized at once that they were a sensible investment.”

It was a dying system—but it might have taken forever to die of its own accord. Its death was an assisted suicide. Without Reagan and Thatcher standing by the bedside, quietly turning off the feeding tubes, the Soviet empire might have survived another few decades, with huge costs in ruined and oppressed lives and needless arms spending. That it ended within a decade of their elections—and that it ended, unlike most empires, peacefully and without vast bloodshed—is due in large part to Lady Thatcher’s combination of strategic firmness and diplomatic flexibility.

Restoring the Vigorous Virtues

Owen Harries, the distinguished Australian editor of the National Interest magazine, once remarked to me that Thatcher would probably be regarded by history as more important than Reagan when it came to economic reform. That seems a shrewd judgment to me. And I would hazard the following reasons for it.

First, the recovery of the British economy in the 1980s was more impressive than America’s revival because it started from a lower economic point and occurred in a more left-wing country. Jimmy Carter might have been moderately efficient at ruining an economy, but he was no match for 50 years of socialism and Labour government.

Second, Thatcher had harder opposition to overcome. Her labor market deregulation had to run the gauntlet not only of Labour MPs, but also of timid Tories.

Third, even after passing into law, her labor and economic policies had to survive major non-parliamentary challenges from the labor unions, notably the 1984-85 miners strike. This was a hard-fought battle, but it was also a victory for Thatcher as important in domestic politics as the Falklands War was in foreign policy. It removed the last lingering, nervous fear of both the voters and the markets that labor unions could render Britain ungovernable and the elected government impotent. And it weakened the extreme left everywhere, including in the Labour Party, by demonstrating that its trump cards amounted to a busted flush. Though Labour took some years to realize the fact, Thatcher’s victory entrenched her economic and labor reforms as the new consensus of British politics.

Once that happened, as Harries pointed out, the British economy began its long boom, combining economic growth with price stability. Loss-making industries were closed down or reduced in size. Manufacturing industries shed labor, often while increasing output, as they restructured to meet foreign competition. New companies or entrepreneurs from academic and non-industrial backgrounds established new industries in the financial services, information, and high-tech sectors. Privatization transformed inefficient state-owned industries into dynamic private sector enterprises. New financial instruments allowed entrepreneurs to take over sluggish low-earning companies and put their assets to more profitable uses.

In general, Thatcher’s British economy, like Reagan’s revived U.S. economy, was characterized by change, profitability, growth, the better allocation of resources (including labor), and the emergence of new industries—indeed of an entirely new economy—based on the information revolution.

Allied with these reforms was the spread of capital ownership. Thatcher had drawn the battle lines with Labour in a 1987 election speech: “Labour believes in turning workers against owners; we believe in turning workers into owners.” Two-thirds of Britain’s state-owned industries were sold to the private sector, resulting in more efficient industries and wider capital ownership. Between 1979 and 1989, the proportion of the British public owning shares rose from seven percent to fully one-quarter. And more than a million people bought their own homes from often reluctant local authorities.

There was a social side to this economic liberalization too. And this was more significant in Britain than in the U.S., which has long had a strong enterprise culture under governments of both parties. Here is Thatcher’s Finance Minister, Nigel Lawson, pointing out some of the signs of a growing enterprise culture in Britain:

For many years there was an average increase of 500 new firms per week—after deducting closures. There was a rise from little more than one million to over three million in the number of self-employed. The UK venture capitalist industry, which scarcely existed when we first took office, had by 1985 become twice as large as its counterparts in the rest of the European Community taken together.

I would underpin this with an example from my own life. When I graduated in 1964, there was not a single member of my graduating class who intended to start his own business. They all wanted to become trainee managers at large corporations such as Imperial Chemical Industries and Metal Box. Twenty years later, at the height of the Thatcher revolution, half the science graduates of Cambridge intended to start a software company and half of the graduates of the Royal College of Arts became famous fashion designers within weeks of putting out their shingles.

All these changes were a revival of what Shirley Robin Letwin, the distinguished Anglo-American political theorist, called the “vigorous virtues” in her important study of Thatcherism. These are such qualities as self-reliance, diligence, thrift, trustworthiness, and initiative that enable someone who exhibits them to live and work independently in society. Though they are not the only virtues—compassion might be called one of the “softer virtues”—they are essential to the success of a free economy and a civil society, both of which rely on dispersed initiative and self-reliant citizens.

That transformation did not stop at the Atlantic’s edge. Thatcher (and Reagan) also changed the world economy by virtue of the demonstration effects of Reaganism and Thatcherism. They had provided the world with successful models of free and deregulated economies.

These demonstration effects were similar but not identical. Tax cuts were America’s principal intellectual export; privatization was Britain’s.

Of the two, privatization was the more important globally, since the Third World and post-communist economies were encumbered with a vast number of inefficient state industries. Privatization expertise became one of the City of London’s most profitable services over the next two decades. Even the Soviets and Western European communists were forced to change course by the widespread adoption of privatization internationally—and also by the equally widespread acceptance of the market logic behind it.

In the Politburo archives I found this unwitting tribute to Lady Thatcher in a 1986 conversation between Gorbachev and Alexander Natta, the General Secretary of the Italian Communist party:

Natta: At the same time we, the communists, having either overestimated or underestimated the functions of the “welfare state,” kept defending situations which, as it became clear only now, we should not have defended. As a result, a bureaucratic apparatus, which serves itself, has swelled. It is interesting that a certain similarity with your situation, which you call stagnation, can be seen here.

Gorbachev: “Parkinson’s law” works everywhere. . . .

Natta: Any bureaucratization encourages the apparatus to protect its own interests and to forget about the citizens’ interests. I suppose that is exactly why the Right’s demands of re-privatisation are falling on a fertile ground in Western public opinion.

Once the command economies of the Soviet Bloc collapsed in 1989, revealing the extraordinary bankruptcy of state planning, it was the Thatcher model that the new democracies mainly sought to emulate.

Lady Thatcher became a hero to these new societies. But when she visited them, her message was political as much as economic: It was that they should treat the rule of law as being vital to both democracy and market freedom. Her message was one of ordered liberty.

That is a battle she believes has yet to be won—and in some cases even fought—by the conservative side.

Reviving Ordered Liberty

When Lady Thatcher revived the British economy, she was reviving profound social virtues that the British had once exemplified to the world—the Thatcherite “vigorous virtues” described above. In 1979, they seemed utterly destroyed by 50 years of statism and socialism. In fact, they had merely been driven underground by government over-regulation and intervention.

As James C. Bennett has observed, it took only a few years of Lady Thatcher’s application of free market solutions for these virtues to become vigorous again. Once that happened, it took only a few more years for those revived virtues to transform Britain from the sick man of Europe into the world’s fourth largest economy.

Deep social patterns can rarely be extirpated altogether. Cultural transformations of nations and societies imposed by governments nearly always fail in the long run. The old ways only look dead; in reality, they are merely dormant. They are the resources of our civilization and they can be revived to meet new challenges.

If Lady Thatcher demonstrated that truth in matters economic, she believes today that the resources of the Anglo-American political tradition of ordered liberty are not exhausted either. She believes that the virtues of that tradition—dispersed authority, open debate, popular sovereignty, spontaneous social evolution—are not dead, merely dormant. Indeed, they are flourishing in those new democracies, such as Estonia and Poland, where they have been introduced since 1989 (and where economic success is far more obvious than in countries that have clung to more centralized models). They are flourishing too in the English-speaking world outside Britain—notably in the U.S., Australia, and a reforming India. And they offer the best hope for Third World countries emerging from poverty and backwardness into a world of globalized opportunities.

Ironically, however, these virtues are threatened in Britain by growing statist regulation under New Labour; by the nation’s absorption into a European political structure built upon a very different tradition of constructivist rationalism; and by the failure of many conservatives to see the dangers in a European and global governance that lacks democratic accountability and threatens liberal freedoms.

Lady Thatcher could well afford to ignore these threats and spend her declining years in pleasant social activities. She has earned her rest. And sometimes her friends manage to compel her to enjoy herself. Yet she doesn’t really enjoy enjoying herself. And until her doctors finally put their collective foot down, she devoted much of her retirement to writing books, such as Statecraft, that apply the lessons of ordered liberty to the new circumstances of a globalized world.

Her new message is a kind of international Thatcherism. She believes ordered liberty to be a better system than constructivist rationalism for nations as well as for individuals. She believes in international cooperation between sovereign nation-states rather than global governance by transnational institutions. In particular, while urging a warm relationship with continental Europe, she proposes that Britain should regain and exercise its sovereign independence in a wider commonwealth of English-speaking peoples.

These are controversial views. But they may also be prophetic. The British people adapted with surprising speed and success to the restoration of their economic liberties in the 1980s. Today they are plainly uncomfortable in the bureaucratic structures of a Europe constructed upon an alien political tradition. Freed from these stifling political constraints, they might flourish independently yet again.

Of course, Lady Thatcher does not expect this will happen in her lifetime. But she didn’t believe she would live to see the end of the Soviet empire either. And the lesson of her whole life is: If you don’t try, you won’t succeed; but if you do try, you cannot imagine how successful you might be.

A bringer of hope and a messenger of freedom, Margaret Thatcher would be at home at Hillsdale College as much as her statue will undoubtedly be.

Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Claire Berlinski on 'Why Margaret Thatcher Matters'

As conservatives begin to take America back from the Marxists who are deliberately destroying her, Claire Berlinski has written an important book about Margaret Thatcher: There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters.

Margaret Thatcher achieved for Great Britain what must be achieved in the United States. The "iron lady's" belief in the redeeming moral value of freedom, which she believed should apply to economic life, as it should to every other aspect of human life," the power of her principled conviction, the boldness of her agenda, and her fierce defiance in the face of opposition, are qualities that America needs in its Congressional leadership and in the next President. In the words of Margaret Thatcher, "failure is not an alternative."

Berlinski earned a doctorate in international relations from Oxford and has lived and worked in Britain, Thailand, Laos, and France; she now lives in Istanbul.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Paul Johnson on Heroes: What Great Statesmen Have to Teach Us

PAUL JOHNSON is the author of several bestselling books, including the classic Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, A History of the American People, A History of Christianity, Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky, A History of the Jews, Creators: From Chaucer and Durer to Picasso and Disney, Art: A New History, George Washington: The Founding Father, and most recently, Heroes: From Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and de Gaulle. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including National Review, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator, the Daily Telegram, and the Daily Mail. In 2006, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on November 1, 2007, on board the Crystal Symphony, during a Hillsdale College cruise from Montreal to Miami.

IF WE LOOK at what heroic statesmen can teach us, the sartorial dimension—what they wear—is indicative. Prince Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian who created Germany in its modern form, always put on uniforms when he addressed the Reichstag on an important constitutional issue. His successor as Chancellor, Betthman-Hollweg, had himself specially promoted from major to colonel so that, when declaring war in 1914, he could speak to the Reichstag from a suitable rank.

The English and American traditions and instincts are quite different. George Washington might wear a uniform when the Republic was in danger, to indicate his willingness and ability to defend it. As a rule, however, he deliberately stressed his civilian status by his dress. He was anxious to show that, unlike Cromwell 150 years before, he would not use his military victories to become a Caesar. His self-restraint fascinated contemporaries. After American independence was secured, King George III asked an American, “What will George Washington do now?” He was told: “I expect he will go back to his farm.” The King commented, in frank admiration: “If he does that, he will be the greatest man on earth.” And that is what he did. When he finally—and reluctantly—accepted political office, he waited to be summoned by election. The importance of Washington’s behavior should never be underrated, contrasting, as it did, so markedly with the behavior of Napoleon Bonaparte a few years later. It illustrated all the difference between a civil and a military culture. In statesmanship, personal self-restraint in the search for and exercise of power is a key lesson to teach.

The Duke of Wellington, for instance, though known as the Iron Duke and the victor in some 50 battles, would never have dreamed of appearing in Parliament in military attire. On the contrary: he fought the Battle of Waterloo in dark blue civilian dress. Winston Churchill, too, never set foot in the House of Commons as a soldier. He loved uniforms and often wore them on non-Parliamentary occasions, including his semi-nautical rig as an Elder Brother of Trinity House. He had a right, too, to dress up. For he had taken part in active campaigns in Asia and Africa, and in 1899, at the Battle of Omdurman, had taken part in one of the last successful cavalry charges in the history of warfare. At the Potsdam Conference in 1945 he appeared in Royal Air Force uniform, one of his favorites. Marshall Stalin, as he liked to call himself, appeared in the white full dress uniform of a Marshall of the Red Army. But my award for statesmanship goes to the third member of the Big Three, Harry S Truman, who wore a neat blue civilian suit. No one had a better right to military rig. He was, ex officio, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. He had seen action in the First World War as an army major, and took an active part in the Reserve throughout the interwar period, probably knowing more about the military state of the world—and periodically issuing well-argued warnings—than any other member of Congress. But he rightly followed Washington’s example and stuck to the constitutional proprieties. How sensible he was became clear later when he had to deal with the popular but difficult General Douglas MacArthur.

It is worth noting that one of the greatest victories of the 20th century, the defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War at the end of the 1980s, was achieved by three eminently civilian heroes: Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The popes always wear white, the symbol of peace. Mr. Reagan, quite capable of acting heroic roles on screen, never succumbed to the temptation of wearing uniform in office. Margaret Thatcher was a war leader as well as a great leader in peace. She showed considerable courage during the Falklands War, a hazardous business for Britain with its limited military resources, but she never once stepped outside her strictly civilian role, even sartorially—though, as I often noted, she could snap her handbag with a military ring.

Statesmen at War

War is the most serious business that statesmen-heroes have to undertake, and a proper understanding of the precise frontier between civilian and military decision-making is one of the most valuable lessons they teach, never more so than today. In Western democracies like the United States and Britain, the civil power, elected by the people, has the sole right to declare war and make peace. In the conduct of operations, it must lay down clear objectives and give the military commanders their orders accordingly. But then, having done that, it must leave the way to secure these objectives, subject to the rules of law, to the professional commanders. It is not for the military to dictate policies, as General MacArthur tried to do, but equally it is not for the politicians to tell the generals how to fight.

This last rule has been broken several times in my lifetime, and always with disastrous results. The first occasion was during the brief Suez War of 1956, which the British Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, with his French allies, launched against Egypt. Eden was a man of peace who hated war, and got involved in this one reluctantly. He made many mistakes. He acted in a secretive manner, not taking into his confidence the House of Commons or even all his Cabinet colleagues, and above all his American ally, President Eisenhower. As a result there was great opposition to the war, at home and abroad, once it was launched. But his most serious mistake was to fail to give his military commanders clear orders about their objectives, and then leave them to get on with it. He tried to fight a kind of limited and political war, with the generals and air marshals restrained by political factors in what weapons they could use. He even told the Royal Air Force not to use bombs above a certain weight. The confusion of the commanders about what they were supposed to be doing was a factor in the war’s failure, which ended with an ignominious Anglo-French withdrawal, dictated by political factors. The Suez War was a historic demonstration of how fatal to success it is to muddle politics and military operations together.

That being so, it is astonishing to think that, only a few years later, the United States made exactly the same mistake in Vietnam. It has always struck me as tragic that the decision whether or not America should get involved in Vietnam was not taken while President Eisenhower was still in the White House. He had seen, from his ample experience in World War Two, how vital it was for politicians to settle the objects of war, and soldiers the means to secure them. Confusion of the two roles, he learned in the Mediterranean and European campaigns of 1942 to 1945, invariably proved costly. My guess is that Eisenhower would have decisively rejected any direct U.S. involvement, and would not have agreed to any plan which meant fighting a land war there. In the unlikely event of his agreeing to fight a war, however, he would have insisted on fighting it properly—that is, going all out for total victory with all the resources America could command—just as he had done with the invasion of occupied Europe in June 1944. That was the simple but logical view of a man who had exercised power from both sides of the political-military divide: avoid war if you possibly can, but if you can’t, fight it to win at all costs.

Unfortunately, Eisenhower was in retirement when the time for decision came. John F. Kennedy agreed to enter the war, and Lyndon B. Johnson agreed to extend it. At no point did either president formulate clear war aims or issue precise orders to their military commanders based on such aims. When I went to see President Johnson in 1967 and had an opportunity to discuss the Vietnam War with him in the White House, I was dismayed to find him imprecise about his war aims. He used such phrases as “contain communist advance” and “defeat communism.” But he did not lay down any object which could be secured by military means, and I wondered what exactly were the orders he issued to his generals or how they understood them. Johnson, like Eden before him, interfered almost daily in the conduct of operations, especially in the bombing war, deciding himself when and where raids should take place and what bombs to use, trying at times to orchestrate his military operations with his peace ventures. The mistakes Eden made at Suez were repeated, on a larger scale and for a longer period, and the predictable and disastrous results were of a correspondingly greater magnitude.

Let us turn now to Iraq, and see how the same considerations apply. In the first Iraq war, we were responding to the unprovoked invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s forces. This was a matter directly involving the United Nations. If Mr. Reagan had still been in the White House, I have no doubt that he and Mrs. Thatcher would have adopted stern war aims, involving not just the liberation of Kuwait by armed force but the replacement of the Saddam Hussein regime with a democratic one under Western and U.N. supervision. Unfortunately Reagan had been succeeded by a much less clear-sighted, albeit well-meaning, president, George Bush Sr. It was not even clear, at first, that America would insist on reversing the invasion and occupation rather than be content with containing Iraqi aggression at the Saudi Arabian frontier. This disastrous response was jettisoned by the most forceful pressure from Margaret Thatcher, who insisted that Iraq be ejected from all Kuwait’s territory. This was done, under a U.N. resolution, with the military assistance of over 50 allies in Operation Desert Storm. But there was no agreement about the future war aim of removing Saddam and his militaristic regime. The generals had no instructions to “go on to Baghdad” and therefore halted operations when Saddam and his forces asked for an armistice. Alas, by that time Margaret Thatcher was no longer in office and had been succeeded by the weak and uncertain John Major. There was, in fact, weakness in both Washington and London, and as a result Saddam Hussein was left in power.

It is important to remember all this when we consider the present situation in Iraq. In the first war, the outrage the world felt at the brutal Iraqi conquest of Kuwait was overwhelming, and to destroy his regime and replace it by a peaceful and democratic one made obvious and popular sense. I have no doubt that when George Bush the younger authorized the second war against Iraq, he had in mind to complete the business left unfinished by the first—the son showing resolution where the father had shown doubt. But the actual reasons given for the second war were quite different, and much less plausible, and so carried less weight with the world. Many people failed to follow or agree with the line of argument which led from 9/11—an unprovoked act of aggression similar to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait—to the subsequent American attack on Iraq. They welcomed the overthrow of Saddam and his regime, and his subsequent trial and execution. But they were not clear why America was occupying Iraq as part of its worldwide fight against terror.

It seems to me that this confusion, originating in the first Iraq war and deepened in the second, lies at the root of our present difficulties. What successful statesmanship in the past teaches us, again and again, is that clarity of aim is paramount, above all in the deadly serious business of war-making. The Allies in the First World War were never clear about why they were fighting it—and Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, it can be argued, added to the confusion. Therein lay the weakness of the Versailles settlement, which laid the foundations of another conflict. In the Second World War, the Allies agreed on at least one thing: the unconditional surrender of Germany and the total destruction of the Nazi regime. It was not everything but it was something. By contrast, it is worth adding, the Western victory in the Cold War—achieved not by military force but by politics, economics, ideology and psychology—had no provision for what was to happen in Russia. There was no decommunization, as there had been deNazification in Germany after 1945, no trial of communist leaders for crimes against humanity, and none of the efforts, so successful in postwar Germany, to demonstrate the benefits of political and economic freedom and the rule of law. The result was to leave the communist apparatus intact beneath the surface—especially its most resilient and ruthless part, the secret police. And it is the secret police, personified in the presidency of Mr. Putin, who have inherited the state. Russia is no longer capable of challenging the United States and the West militarily, as it did until the late 1980s. But it is still capable and ready to make a great deal of trouble for us all, on a scale which makes Saddam’s Iraq seem insignificant.

Five Keys to Democratic Statesmanship

All these examples are reasons why I say that the ability to see the world clearly, and to draw the right conclusions from what is seen, is the foremost lesson which great men and women of state have to teach us. But there are many more, of which I would single out the five most important.

First, ideas and beliefs. The best kind of democratic leader has just a few—perhaps three or four—central principles to which he is passionately attached and will not sacrifice under any circumstances. This was true, for instance, of Truman, of Konrad Adenauer of Germany, Alcide de Gasperi of Italy, and Robert Schuman of France—all the outstanding men who did most to raise Europe from the ashes of the Second World War and who built up the West as a bulwark against Soviet advance and a repository of a free civilization. It was also true of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the two outstanding leaders of the next generation who carried on the work. I am not impressed by leaders who have definite views on everything. History teaches it is a mistake to have too many convictions, held with equal certitude and tenacity. They crowd each other out. A great leader is someone who can distinguish between the essential and the peripheral—between what must be done and what is merely desirable. Mrs. Thatcher really had only three musts: uphold the rule of law at home and abroad; keep government activities to the minimum, and so taxes low; encourage individuals to do as much as they can, as well as they can.

There are also, of course, statesmen who are necessarily dominated by one overwhelming object dictated to them by events or destiny. Thus Abraham Lincoln felt all else had to be sacrificed to the overwhelming necessity of holding the Union together, behind the principles of 1776. Likewise, Charles de Gaulle, in 1940, advanced the simple proposition that France was not defeated and incarnated it in his person. The way in which both men concentrated all their thoughts, energies, and skills on one end are lessons in single-mindedness and the power this can bring to action. A statesman must also be able, for a spell, to place one object of policy before all others, and this Winston Churchill did in 1940, when keeping Britain in the war by successfully preventing a Nazi conquest took precedence over all other aims. Such concentration of effort is itself a product of clarity of vision which includes a strong sense of proportion.

Next comes willpower. I think the history of great men and women teaches that willpower is the most decisive of all qualities in public life. A politician can have immense intelligence and all the other virtues, but if will is lacking he is nothing. Usually a leader has it in abundance. Will springs from unshakeable confidence in being right, but also from a more primitive instinct to dominate events which has little to do with logic or reason. Churchill had it. De Gaulle had it. Margaret Thatcher had it, to an unusual degree. It could be seen that, surrounded by her male Cabinet colleagues—whose knowledge and technical qualifications were often superior—she alone possessed will, and one could almost watch them bowing to it. Of course, will is often in history the source of evil. Hitler came from nothing to power, and the absolute control of a great nation, almost entirely through the force of his will. And it remained in him virtually to the end. Stalin’s dictatorship in Russia, and Mao Tse-Tung’s in China, were also largely exercises in personal will. Mao’s overwhelming will, we now know, led to the deaths of 70 million fellow Chinese. The cost of a misdirected will is almost unimaginably high. Those three or four simple central beliefs behind the will must be right and morally sound.

A third virtue is pertinacity. Mere flashes of will are not enough. The will must be organically linked to resolution, a determination to see the cause through at all costs. There are dark days in every venture, however just. Washington knew this in his long, eight-year war. Lincoln knew this in his long and often agonizing struggle with the South. One aspect of pertinacity is patience. Another is a certain primitive doggedness. One learns a lot about these things by studying Martin Gilbert’s magnificent record of Churchill’s leadership. “It’s dogged as does it” is an old English proverb. True enough. But doggedness should not be confused with blind obstinacy—the obstinacy of a George III or a Jefferson Davis. As with will, resolution must be linked to sound aims.

Fourth is the ability to communicate. The value of possessing a few simple ideas which are true and workable is enormously enhanced if the leader can put them across with equal simplicity. Ronald Reagan had this gift to an unusual degree—quite unlike his co-worker, Margaret Thatcher. While Reagan charmed and mesmerised, she had to bludgeon. There was a comparable contrast between Washington, who had no skill in plausible speechmaking, and Lincoln, not only a great orator for a set occasion, but a man whose everyday remarks carried enormous verbal power. But where words fail, example can take their place. Washington communicated by his actions and his personality. He was followed because Americans could see that he was an honest, incorruptible and decent man. Mrs. Thatcher too governed by personality. The Russians called her the Iron Lady. You do not need to charm when you are manifestly made of iron. It is a form of communication in itself.

The fifth and last of the virtues we learn about heroes is magnanimity: greatness of soul. It is not easy to define this supreme quality, which few even among the greatest leaders possess. It is a virtue which makes one warm to its possessor. We not only respect and like, we love Lincoln because he had it to an unusual degree. It was part of his inner being. And Churchill, who also had it, made it one of the top quartet of characteristics which he expected the statesman to show. A passage he penned as the First World War was about to end reads: “In war, resolution. In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity. In peace, good will.” This is a sentiment which all those in public life should learn by heart. It encapsulates the lessons of history better than entire books.

* * *

I would like to end by stressing that my perception of heroic virtues is not inclusive. I merely stress the central and essential ones. One thing you learn from history is that a hero who can make the public laugh as well as admire is likely to have a strong and lasting hold on its affections. Here again Churchill stands high. He made us laugh even in the darkest days of 1940, when in reply to the Nazi jibe that “England in three weeks will have her neck wrung like a chicken,” he said, simply but forcefully: “Some chicken! Some neck!” As a teenager, when I had the chance to meet him in 1946, I was bold enough to ask: “Mr. Winston Churchill, sir, to what do you attribute your success in life?” He replied, instantly: “Conservation of effort: never stand up when you can sit down, and never sit down when you can lie down.” There was a delicious irony with which this supreme man of action put the case for the sedentary, even the supine. Abraham Lincoln, too, loved irony. He often achieved an effect with jokes where mere oratory would not work so well. And Mr. Reagan communicated and ruled through his enormous collection of one-liners, which he suited to all occasions. And a joke can often enshrine truth, as for instance when I heard him say: “I’m not too worried about the deficit. It’s big enough to take care of itself.”

Margaret Thatcher was often criticized for having no sense of humor. Not true. I once heard her tell a joke to great effect. At the end of a long wearisome dinner with ten speeches, she—as Prime Minister—was scheduled to speak at the end. I could see she was furious. She began: “As the last of ten speakers, and the only woman, I have this to say. The cock may crow, but it’s the hen who lays the eggs.” I think I was the only one to laugh. The rest were shocked. I reminded Mrs. Thatcher of this recently, and she was delighted. She said: “My father told me that joke.” And that itself is a reminder that we learn from our parents at the fireside in our childhood perhaps as much or more than from anyone. But from the heroes of the past we learn, too, and what they teach, by the example of their lives and words, has the special quality of truth by personal example. Thus the good hero lives on, in our minds, if we are imaginative, and in our actions, if we are wise.

Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Margaret Thatcher: A Rare and Highly Personal Interview in 1985

In a time when America's national leadership doesn't dare admit to its true agenda or call its ruinous Marxist philosophy by its proper name, this insightful and highly personal interview with Margaret Thatcher in 1985 is a reminder of what noble, highly principled leadership looks like.  

Emerson wrote that “When it is dark enough, men see the stars;” so it seems to be in discerning great leaders.  We can take hope in the knowledge that statesmen of Margaret Thatcher's caliber, and that of Ronald Reagan, come along when times are dark and they are most needed.  With the ruin of our nation at the hands of a man who daily violates his oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," surely great hearts and minds are being summoned, as was Thatcher, to put matters right.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Robin Harris - Not for Turning: The Life of Margaret Thatcher

Robin Harris worked for the Conservative Party from 1978, and increasingly closely with Margaret Thatcher herself from 1985, writing her speeches and advising on policy. By the close of her premiership, he was probably the most trusted member of her political team at Downing Street, and he left Number Ten with her. As a member of her personal staff, he then drafted the two volumes of her autobiography and a further book on her behalf. After Margaret Thatcher’s retirement from public life, Robin continued to see her regularly.