Margaret Thatcher, Mother of Austerity
I’m not shedding a tear for Margaret Thatcher.
With Ronald Reagan, she ushered in our current era of austerity.
She was vehemently anti-union.
She was thoroughly pro-capitalist.
She sold off public properties and hacked at Britain’s social safety net.
And she let the rich get a whole lot richer, while she spread pain throughout the lower and middle classes.
She was a hawk on foreign and military policies, not just with her assertion of imperial power over the Falkland Islands but also with her eagerness to embrace nuclear weapons.
The best thing she did, though, was to recognize that Mikhail Gorbachev was an unusual leader of the Soviet Union. “I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together,” she famously said.
Her warmth toward Gorbachev melted the ice between Washington and Moscow, and led Reagan and Gorbachev to come close to a historic agreement on nuclear disarmament.
But Thatcher’s legacy is disastrous.
She paved the ideological way for even liberal politicians like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton to shove it to the poor (as in Clinton’s ending of “welfare as we know it”).
And she made it acceptable, as we’re seeing throughout most of Europe today, for policymakers to forsake social democracy and make the working classes and middle classes bear the brunt whenever the free market system fails.
She was the mother of austerity, which has now brought suffering to another generation in Europe.
She was fond of the expression, “There is no alternative” to the free market.
But throughout Latin America today, people are exploring alternatives, and they are making them work.
Such alternatives may yet rise again in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, as austerity itself is going bankrupt.
Margaret Thatcher almost, but not quite, outlived Thatcherism.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Obama’s Huge Betrayal."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter
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