Margaret Thatcher: the Iron Lady who put liberal recipes into practice in the interest of the individual and the nation

Exactly eight years ago Margaret Thatcher left us, the Iron Lady who first put liberal thinking into practice, put an end to social democracy, restoring centrality to the United Kingdom in the international chessboard.

When Margaret Thatcher first won the election, on May 3, 1979, for many critics it was due to the inability of the Callaghan Labor government to manage the famous crisis of the "Winter of Discontent" , a series of strikes against the limits to the increases. wages imposed to contain high inflation.

By the time she landed at 10 Downing Street, the lady had been leading the Conservative party for only four years, boasted many political opponents – all with a penchant for statist management of the country – and inherited a disastrous economic situation.

The crisis had various origins: the prevailing statism, the very high inflation and the continuous increase in public spending.

By the early 1970s, England's productivity was the lowest on the continent, business incomes were steadily declining and the balance of payments was continuously deteriorating – reaching the historic deficit of nearly a billion pounds between 1971 and 1973.

From the outset, Thatcher's strategy stood in stark contrast to the statist policies of previous governments, both Conservative and Labor. It opened up the UK to the free market, attracted foreign investment, reduced the role of the state in society and in the economic sector.

Although the first austerity measures generated an increase in the unemployment rate – and this also happened in the United States under Reagan's presidency – after eleven years of rule, Margaret Thatcher managed to transform England into the engine of Europe.

From an economic point of view, the data speak for themselves: between 1979 and 1990, unemployment fell to 6.2 per cent, while in the other main European countries it continued to grow – in Italy, France and Germany respectively at 11 per cent, 9 percent and 6.7 percent. The employment rate grew by more than 7 percentage points, inflation went from 18 to 5 per cent, per capita GDP grew by 24 per cent in real terms. And again, public spending dropped by 6 percentage points, from 45 to 39 percent.

In foreign policy, together with his American ally Ronald Reagan, Thatcher contributed decisively to the fall of communism, was very hard with the terrorist actions of the IRA, so much so that, in October 1984, he was the victim of an attack in Brighton, during a party meeting, miraculously escaping unscathed.

Despite the tremendous successes just listed, the most important lesson – in my opinion – that we inherit from Margaret Thatcher remains her profound conception of the individual. She managed to overturn the paradigm: the state is certainly necessary, but it is never to be deified. The lady said: "Whoever climbs Everest does it for his supreme and selfish pleasure, even if he reaches the top it is the English flag he raises".

In short, in his very strong ethical vision, the individual is put back at the center of political action, but without ever forgetting the sense of belonging to the nation.

It is never society that "shapes" the citizen, but vice versa: the goal must be to encourage individual initiative and at the same time discourage dependence on the state, fight the welfare assistance favored by previous governments, among the main causes of English decline.

In a historical period in which politics is subordinated to science and technocrats, leaders like Margaret Thatcher would be needed more than ever.

Not only because she was the first to put into practice the teachings of Hayek and Friedman, both Nobel laureates in economics, but for having the courage to say what no one dared to say, for having had the determination to make decisions. necessarily unpopular, for having had the strength to transform liberalism from theory into political practice.

Today the lady would oppose the creeping lockdowns , the continuous restrictions of our personal freedoms, the pervasive interference of the state in our lives, which has spread in these months of pandemic. Surely he would have done it his way, probably with another “No! No! No!" , just like when he opposed the Europe of Maastricht, the bureaucrats and the single currency.

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This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Atlantico Quotidiano at the URL on Thu, 08 Apr 2021 03:53:00 +0000.