Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher

Whilst one is not supposed to speak ill of the dead, it is also traditional to review someone's life when it ends. I thought I'd write on what other commentators have said about the late Mrs Thatcher.

She was a conviction politician - a person with convictions. This contrasts her with the archetypal grey suits. Admittedly someone being clear about what they belive in and following it up can be attractive but the benefits of following one's convictions rather depends on the effect they have on other people.

For me Thatcher's massive blind spot - to be kind, lie if not - was her claim that people fending for themselves as individuals is best and somehow universally applicable. She herself had considerable ability, and apparently worked hard too. But there are people who work hard and yet don't enjoy great success, and vice versa. Thatcher was content to jibe at those who used buses as being unsuccessful, but the subtext of unsuccessful was 'not hard working. It is a monumental fallacy to equate lack of success with lack of effort, and one that politicians try to disguise by constantly drawing attention to the feckless.

If she was right that it was unsustainable to support industry through taxes when it couldn't stand on its own two feet, and she may have been at least to some extent, she was nevertheless wrong to maintain that those deprived of their livelihoods when the industries closed would thrive if only they lived out her credo of hard work.

Her battle with the unions exhibited the fallacy further still. It is demonstrably untrue that hard work by itself will bring a fair share of the planet's resources to the worker, and history shows over and over again that the poor were downtrodden. The only power they really had was the power to withdraw their labour (the opposite of working hard) a power that can only be effectively exercised collectively, hence unions. It may be argued that unions had acquired too much power, but this has to be set alongside the power exercised by the rich and powerful in their own interest.

She won three general elections convincingly. This makes her good at being a politician, but again it is only what she did for other people that can be to her real credit, or debit.

And success as defined by our monetary economic system is relative. Not everyone can be a financier. Some people have to borrow money for the financier to be successful. Businesses need customers. As successful bookie wil offer good enough odds to draw in enough money from unsuccessful punters to pay out those who win bets and to keep a profit for him/herself. Success requires failure.Competition requires that there be losers as well as winners.

Thatcher's apparent inability or refusal to understand that not everyone can be successful is what I will remember her for.

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