Saunders on Thatcher

April 11th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Peters Saunders from looks at the Thatcher legacy:

In 1970s Britain, the state was involved in everything, yet nothing seemed to work. It owned great swathes of industry – supplying water, gas and electricity, digging coal and making steel, running the railways and a major airline, building motor vehicles and aero-engines, monopolising post and telecommunications – and was landlord to more than a quarter of the nation’s households. But nobody wanted to buy the cars it built, British Rail was a laughing stock, the coal and steel industries were on their knees, and it took months to get a telephone connected.

Governments in the 1970s operated in fear of the union bosses who were treated to ‘beer and sandwiches’ in Downing Street as they told successive prime ministers what the unions would and would not tolerate. Political scientists began writing books about the emergence of a ‘corporatist state.’

A few years before Thatcher won office, Britain’s homes had been plunged into darkness by a miners’ strike that put industry on a three-day working week. At the shops there was a run on candles. Then in the winter of 1978–79, public sector militants stopped rubbish being collected from the streets, disrupted meal deliveries to the housebound elderly, and left corpses unburied at graveyards.

Time and again, union militancy was bought off with unaffordable pay deals that pushed annual inflation past 25% and sent the Callaghan-Labour government scurrying, cap in hand, to the IMF for emergency loans. Britain became known as ‘the sick man of Europe.’ Political scientists began writing books about the country being ‘ungovernable.’

In their increasingly fruitless attempts to control the mounting chaos, successive Conservative and Labour governments increased controls over many aspects of everyday life. You were not allowed to take more than a couple of hundred pounds with you if you went abroad for a holiday. Your wages were pegged by law. A government hotline was set up for informers to report shopkeepers whose prices exceeded those laid down by the state.

Britain was locked into a downward spiral, and nobody seemed to think it could be reversed. Except Maggie.

She scrapped the price and wage controls, arguing that governments cannot possibly know how investment is best directed or who should be allowed to trade at what price. She sold off the nationalised industries, opening them up to the cleansing blast of competition and setting an example that the rest of the world quickly followed. She allowed working-class families to buy their council houses at a discount (a policy that infuriated middle-class socialists but which at last prompted me to re-evaluate my socialist beliefs).

A great summary of how bad things were.

But taking her record as a whole, the balance is clearly and overwhelmingly positive. The proof is that no succeeding government has tried to reverse her key reforms. For all the left-wing bluster, nobody has ever seriously suggested that industries be renationalised, union bosses be re-empowered, or that governments should again try to fix prices, wages and dividends, or direct private investment. found a country on its knees in 1979, and in just 11 years, she reversed decades of miserable decline.

Put the Great back into Great Britain.

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36 Responses to “Saunders on Thatcher”

  1. peteremcc (344 comments) says:

    Full link here: http://cis.org.au/publications/ideasthecentre/article/4767-margaret-thatcher-an-extraordinary-woman

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  2. flipper (4,198 comments) says:

    Excellent.
    The only comparable New Zealand politician is Roger Douglas.
    Rob Muldoon tried in his own way, but ran off the rails …..

    Every cracademic dealing in economics/politics, every idiot MSM employee/editorial writer, should be made to read Saunders on Thatcher. No exceptions.

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  3. David Garrett (7,532 comments) says:

    Yes indeed flipper. That section: “…no succeeding government has ever tried to reverse her key reforms” applies equally to New Zealand, if you substitute his – Roger Douglas – for “her”. I recall in the House the one thing that shut the socialists up like a clam whenever they started to talk derisively about “Rogernonics” was the sledge “tell me one major reform of his you reversed” Silence.

    It wasn’t quite that bad as the above piece describes in NZ in the 70’s, but it was damn close. Remember how every year the government of the day had to suck arse to Bill Andersen of the Northern Drivers Union, because their award was the bench mark for all that followed? And the endless tripartite (pronounced tri-paTITE by Jim Knox, the barely literate leader of the FOL) discussions where the government tried to persuade the unions not to make wage demands that would impact overly harshly on the hapless public? If the Lange government, with Roger at its core, hadn’t come in, the description in the above post would have applied to New Zealand by the end of the 80’s.

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  4. hmmokrightitis (1,595 comments) says:

    Ive been amazed and appalled by the behaviour of some on the left. Yes, its tribal, I get that, but as noted elsewhere here, when Hugo C died, the right did not, despite everything he did to suppress those on the opposition (let alone on the right) party in the streets, or talk gleefully about tramping the dirt down.

    I can only imagine some of the comments at the substandard. And no Pete, I dont wish to know, really I dont. Revelling in someones death, who hasnt been a mass murderer, war monger, baby killer is just plain evil. But then the left wouldnt see the irony would they?

    I saw first hand the England Maggie inherited. I lived through her leadership, into Major’s, and a few years beyond. Yeah, the poll tax was a cluster fuck, and she couldnt ever back down – but thats what made her so damned successful, when the country needed it the most.

    You only have to look at what England has and continues to become since she left 10 Downing Street. Im sure Scargills Marxist utopia would have been lovely – in his mind at least.

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  5. YesWeDid (1,050 comments) says:

    ‘The proof is that no succeeding government has tried to reverse her key reforms’

    Tony Blair took a great detail of risk in resolving the Northern Ireland situation I’d say that was a ‘key reform’ that reversed what Thatcher did.

    Later governments also reversed the Thatcher cuts to public transport which considering the number of people who use trains on a daily basis in the UK I’d also call a key reform.

    Thatcher considered Augusto Pinochet an ‘old friend’, even though the rest of the world saw him as a murderous dictator.

    Thatcher also called Nelson Mandela a ‘terrorist’ while he is now universally seen as a statesman.

    Thatcher opposed the re-unification of Germany.

    There are many things that Thatcher was on the wrong side of given the passage of time.

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  6. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

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  7. Urban Redneck (234 comments) says:

    Fans of the comedy Fawity Towers may have noticed that Basil occasionally makes reference “car strikes”. During 1977 and 1978, there were over 500 walkouts through out the 42 British Leyland plants across the nation. All organized by a British Communist Party member and union organizer at the Longbridge plant in Birmingham by the name of Derek Robinson. (referred to as “Red Robbo” by the press)

    Financial losses to the company were estimated to be around 200 million pounds during this time. No organization can survive such an onslaught.

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  8. scrubone (3,104 comments) says:

    Thatcher also called Nelson Mandela a ‘terrorist’ while he is now universally seen as a statesman.

    Wow, what a zinger. Someone was a terrorist was called a terrorist, even though Thatcher should have known 30 years later he’d be universally seen as a statesman.

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  9. scrubone (3,104 comments) says:

    Someone *who was a terrorist was called a terrorist…

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  10. YesWeDid (1,050 comments) says:

    @scrubone – Thatcher called the ANC ‘a typical terrorist organisation’ in 1987, they were running South Africa 7 years later.

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  11. David Garrett (7,532 comments) says:

    YesWeDid: I think that is fair comment…and no-one is seriously arguing that she was some kind of secular saint, or that all her decisions were the right ones. But as has been said by many politicians of all persuasions “it’s the economy, stupid”. If you don’t have a healthy economy, there is no money for the rest of it. And in 1979, Britain was economically rooted; I haven’t seen any serious commenter on here claim otherwise.

    I used to argue semi seriously with Roger that law and order was more important, because a flat tax and freely available goods and services are no good to you if you are dead, but of course economic health is vital … otherwise you can’t pay the cops who lock up the villains. It made a good argument while the House was debating some boring no account Bill….

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  12. RRM (10,003 comments) says:

    Yes all the dancing on her grave is a bit off.

    But then, so is all the ‘Saint Margaret’ script we’ve been hearing…

    Her reforms came at a high price, paid NOT by her but by a large population of working people who were mostly NOT political activists who lost the only livelihood they ever had (or would have) as a result.

    Sure it probably all had to be done, or the alternative probably would have been something a lot worse. Probably.

    But to make light of those people’s losses, and then in the next breath complain about how awful it is that some of them are not mourning Saint Margaret in the expected fashion… it’s a bit disingenuous isn’t it? Good taste and respect has to be a two-way street.

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  13. Dennis Horne (2,403 comments) says:

    I remember driving along Oxford Street one night in 1978, no lights anywhere. Eerie. The unions had brought the country to its knees. Scum.

    The unions destroyed jobs in industry and the government couldn’t stop them. That’s the reality.

    Blair encouraged millions of alien immigrants, most on welfare. Watch the collapse of democracy. France too will capsize under the load.

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  14. kowtow (8,753 comments) says:

    Blair did not resolve Northern Ireland. He sold out. The province is more divided now than it ever was and the terrorists are still active.
    Chile was cooperative with the UK over the Falklands war ,that’s what friends are for.

    Mandela was a terrorist,I don’t see him as a statesman.(Gerry Adams was a terrorist too)

    Even if her policies were never reversed they have been seriously and possibly terminally undermined by “equality” and unrestrained public and private debt as well as the relentless growth of the state.

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  15. Ross12 (1,454 comments) says:

    Like hmmokrightitis I cannot understand alot of what is being said. Probably the idiots who produced the video put up by ross69 weren’t even born when Thatcher was PM. I wonder whether ross69 read DPF’s before posting it. If he did his comprehension skills are subpar.
    What is going on is similar to what happened when Steve Jobs died. There are similarities between the two people in that they were reformers / innovators , driven , high self belief , unaccepting of the staus quo , not affraid to ruffle feathers and above all had the desire to get things done in their respective fields.

    These sort of people achieve because they are not afraid to make mistakes and both of them did make errors –if you don’t, you don’t make progress. But on their passing we should reflect on the positive contributions they made, in my view.

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  16. David Garrett (7,532 comments) says:

    ross12: Yes, I suspect your namesake is still grappling with the pimples…or perhaps he is one of those sad chaps who suffer from arrested development…always viewing the world the same way you did when doing POLS 101 at age 18…

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  17. scrubone (3,104 comments) says:

    @scrubone – Thatcher called the ANC ‘a typical terrorist organisation’ in 1987, they were running South Africa 7 years later.

    Sigh.

    If you said “she called him a terrorist when everyone else was working to move on” you’d have a point.

    But you didn’t say that. You said she called him a terrorist when he was in jail for those offenses, even though now he’s called a statesman. But at the time, no one knew he’s be recognised widely as a statesman later on. It was his actions (rightly or wrongly) during and after his time as president which cemented that.

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  18. kowtow (8,753 comments) says:

    Not wanting to change the focus of this post but re Mandela the statesman.

    The real statesman ( if there was one ) was Frederik Willem de Klerk ,not Saint Nelson Mandela.

    FW was the man with the power .He was the reformer ,the compromiser who had the authority. Once communism had collapsed the international danger that a communist South Africa under the blacks lessened enormously. FW recognised that and gave up power.He didn’t have to ,he could have fought on.

    Was he right to ? Who knows?

    But FW was a bigger man than Mandela ever was .

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  19. David Garrett (7,532 comments) says:

    kowtow: I think that is a perfectly fair statement too…at least mostly! I recall at the time being astounded that FW had starting talking to Mandela – very much against the wishes of his colleagues IIRC – and within months Mandela was released. That was a very astute and far sighted move on FW’s part, but I think you also have to acknowledge Mandela’s magnanimity in victory…he could have stayed on Robben Island, become a martyr, and SA would have quickly descended into a bloodbath that would make Zimbabwe under what’s his name look like nirvana…credit on both sides I think is fair…

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  20. Jack5 (5,148 comments) says:

    Very good interview about Margaret Thatcher on Radio NZ’s Labour Programme this morning. It’s worth downloading and listening to, and it’s quite brief.

    It’s an interview with Ann Leslie, a veteran English journalist who covered Thatcher from 1977. She knew Thatcher, and has a great little story about her when Leslie asked for more toilet stops on a bus trip with her.

    When I say it’s good interview, I mean Leslie is excellent. Kathryn Ryan was helpful by letting her flow, but did repeat what the Lefties are plugging about Thatcher:”…but she was divisive”.

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  21. scrubone (3,104 comments) says:

    The “divisive” line is pretty daft on the face of it. Every politician fails to win part of the vote.

    What they are really saying is that those she did not win hated her with a passion.

    Take Bryan Gould’s comment on TVNZ:

    “She was totally lacking in any sense of humour and really didn’t have much empathy with people. So people seemed to admire her or respect her, but not really to love her,” he said.

    Now, they’d just played comments from people who’d confirmed that she was in fact a very nice person. So Mr Gould’s comment came across as him having an inability to see through his own hatred of her politics, and see the real person.

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  22. kowtow (8,753 comments) says:

    DG

    I agree Mandela played the part well in victory and yes,all credit to him for that.

    However the real credit is de Klerk’s but the MSM,the left etc etc will never mention or acknowledge that.Nor that this was all part of the a stalwart Boer defence against communism in Africa.

    Alas all wasted as the continent descends further into kleptocracy ably assisted by taxpayer money from the west channelled to dictators and dressed up as “aid”.

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  23. tvb (4,499 comments) says:

    Thatcher was described as a member of the trinity that ended the Cold War. That alone cements her place for me. No economic policy she removed that State prop for a number of ailing industries which surly fell over. But she did maintain social services which did not exist in the 1930s.

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  24. David Garrett (7,532 comments) says:

    It would be too generous to call Bryan Gould a has been politician..he could better be described as a “never was” contender for the leadership of the British Labour Party in their unelectable looney left days..When his mates didn’t pick him as leader he came running home, and nice Auntie Helen gave him a sinecure at Waikato University…the fact that the Herald publishes his op-eds often shows how far that once proud organ has fallen…

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  25. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Probably the idiots who produced the video put up by ross69 weren’t even born when Thatcher was PM. I wonder whether ross69 read DPF’s before posting it.

    I wonder if you actually watched the video. The singing was great!

    For all those complaining about the Left’s reaction to Thatcher’s death, I suggest there will be a similar reaction when Roger Douglas pops his clogs.

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  26. Doctor Who (52 comments) says:

    I suspect Thatcher thought Gould was a clever fool; had the ability to make the jigsaw but didn’t like the picture.

    Perhaps the ability but not always the pieces. Gould wrote in the NZ Herald that Bain should be compensated especially as he hadn’t time to read the Binnie Report.

    Give me someone with good instincts any day. Sensing something is “wrong” has lead to most advances in science and technology.

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  27. emmess (1,432 comments) says:

    I have to say I am disgusted but somewhat surprised by the level of the venomous bile being spewed by those on the left (I know not all but not just the the far left either)

    25 years after she left power, what is their problem with her (from a leftist point of view)?
    She cut taxes for the rich but a no one these days would say a top tax rate of 98% is desirable.
    Unemployment rose, but only to 11-12% for a few years, a lot of countries have suffered chronically higher levels than that and is considered not to bad in Europe these days.
    She refused to subsidise failing industries, but ‘corporate welfare’ is now a big no no for the left.
    Smashing the unions, of those celebrating her death who would want to be a coal miner anyway?
    The Falklands was attacked by a fascist junta so she fought back, even socialists would have not put up with that.
    She was not in favour of European integration especially the Euro, almost everyone now see that as the correct cause of action
    Standing up to the Soviet Union was a great success.

    I could go on but it seems the things she got wrong now seem relatively inconsequential
    Such as the poll tax which was never implemented or not endorsing German unification

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  28. Mark (496 comments) says:

    Living through WW2 might explain why Maggie was not big on Gernam unification.

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  29. Bob R (1,388 comments) says:

    ***Thatcher called the ANC ‘a typical terrorist organisation’ in 1987, they were running South Africa 7 years later.***

    @ YesWeDid,

    How’s that working out? On most measures the black population who the ANC were meant to help are worse off.

    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/williams.html

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  30. iMP (2,420 comments) says:

    The hatred and intolerance on the Left re Thatcher’s legacy is growing and now appears organised. The Daily Mail is running this headline today, ““The flames of hatred: 30 years of loathing for Baroness Thatcher explodes in celebrations of her death.” So, violence at the funeral probably definite. European inter-generational leftist anarchy and dogmatic absolutism returns. How long before it morphs into Fascism?

    More here with pics: http://conzervative.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/tolerance-is-selective/

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  31. Gulag1917 (995 comments) says:

    The left are more obsessed with power than the welfare of its people. Britain was nearly bankrupt in 1968. Mrs Thatcher is one of the great heroines of the 20th century.

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  32. scrubone (3,104 comments) says:

    But isn’t it funny how every time a modest change is proposed to the welfare state, the left tell us that these are motivated by hatred – yet I’ve never heard of a street party or any sort of party to celebrate welfare crackdowns.

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  33. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    “How should we honour her? Let’s privatise her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It’s what she would have wanted.”

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/showbiz/390560/Ken-Loach-blasts-plans-for-Margaret-Thatcher-s-costly-funeral

    I’m surprised the Right haven’t articulated this idea. Obviously wasting taxpayers’ money isn’t so bad after all.

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  34. Kea (13,355 comments) says:

    I can’t wait for the week long piss-up that will mark Helen Clark’s death. :)

    We should start organising now; laying a stock of effigies for burning, scathing posthumous news articles to publish, heaps of booze, that sort of thing.

    Normally I would have considered these things as being in poor taste, but the left has set the standard and I think we should all roll with it.

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  35. hmmokrightitis (1,595 comments) says:

    That rosscunninglinguist old fellow, is because Ken Loach is a stupid old fucker. And whilst aiming for the soundbite he misses the target. Maggie wasn’t about cheap and cheerful, and outsource. She knew that Governments running industry ran them into the ground, largely because they didn’t have the profit motive to front the unions.

    And she was about quality – something the Brits struggle with – ask anyone, like me, with a classic British bike. Fuckers leak oil like its coming out of the SheBeasts flying cavalcade on the way to a rugby match…

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  36. emmess (1,432 comments) says:

    “How should we honour her? Let’s privatise her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It’s what she would have wanted.”

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/showbiz/390560/Ken-Loach-blasts-plans-for-Margaret-Thatcher-s-costly-funeral

    I’m surprised the Right haven’t articulated this idea. Obviously wasting taxpayers’ money isn’t so bad after all.

    Don’t worry, it will be funded by the extra voluntary confiscatory taxes that Ken Loach pay
    Oh wait

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