Trading Liberty for Security: Margaret Thatcher on Freedom

As Rush Limbaugh said a while back, in certain ways, Margaret Thatcher was an American. She understood what the founders understood. The understood the view of liberty (as freedom from constraint in civil life) held forth in the founding documents. It’s fascinating to to be tutored in basic American civics (things that used to be so commonly understood that they weren’t controversial) by a member of parliament. What is also fascinating about this exchange is what Thatcher assumed about the USA ca. 1977. I hazard to say that things have changed a bit since then. Is there a consensus about free enterprise? Third, it’s amazing to hear her description of life under British socialism in the 1960s and 70s. Who was enforcing “consensus” and “conformity” and “correctness” then (in Britain) and who is enforcing them now?  The last thing I would note is the level of discourse. Does this exist anywhere anymore?

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  1. Considering America’s history, we might consider Thatcher to be an American. But what of liberty loving, freedom defending person would support a person like Pinochet?

  2. Margaret Thatcher was a gem, Curt. Our family lived in the UK for a time while she was PM, during the Falklands War and when she ran against Labour, Michael Foote. The UK, before she became PM, was beholden to union thugs like Arthur Scargill and the coal miners union. Thatcher did amazing things to shake up the hide-bound statism of the Brits. And she did it in many cases without the support of evangelicals in the UK–I attended St. Aldates’ church in Oxford, an evangelical CofE, where many thought her crazy. It was interesting seeing her disagree with Buckley on the minimum wage. In any case, Curt–give the lady a break. She was a breath of fresh air.

  3. Fascinating video — and yes I watched the whole thing! It got really interesting around 9 or 10 min where the Grey Lady speaks approvingly of taxation for the purpose of redistribution, in the face of extreme wealth and poverty. I wonder what she’d think of our current wealth gap. (But having just died, surely she was aware, and maybe there are some more recent interviews out there?)

  4. When Thatcher refers to the idea of a ‘prosperous society’ being created by having ‘more freedoms’, she means fewer regulations on business rather than ‘freedom’ of people to live life as they wish without government interference. The idea of a ‘prosperous society’ begs the question, though, “prosperous for who”? Today in America we have a prosperous society for those at the top of the income scale, they have been doing great! But the vast majority of Americans have not been doing well, and have been going backwards despite increased productivity. We hear cries of ‘socialism’, yet we live in a society with the greatest inequality in the distribution of wealth in our nation’s history. When people say they are against ‘redistribution of wealth’ what they mean is they are against ‘redistribution’ DOWN the economic ladder – so long as wealth flows to the top they are quite happy to accept it being re-distributed, even when unearned.

  5. Thank you for your polite response. I am not clear on which part you disagree with, but I certainly did not mean to ignore her comments on re-distribution. Would that America had such a low gap between the top and the middle, according to Mrs. Thatcher, she would ‘recoil’ at the situation in America today, would she not? We have seen the top 1% taking a much higher percentage of the overall wealth than ever before, as well as enormous disparities in what a CEO makes compared to the average wage. These are not indicators of them doing such a great job compared to CEOs of the past, or of the wealthy doing so much more for society, they are just examples of increased ‘taking’ of wealth, not due to any increased performance on theri part, but simply because they can. This taking of wealth by the wealthy and powerful, combined with the lack of wage increases for workers has certainly given us a re-distribution of wealth, from the middle class to the top. All in all, Mrs. Thatcher seemed quite moderate to me, although she still thinks that having wealth in and of itself makes one deserving of special treatment, lest they take their money and..what? go somewhere else with it? Fine. With Demand will come Supply, it doesn’t matter if it is this wealthy person or that entrepreneur. Demand drives Supply, So it is Demand we should be focusing on. We do not need to incentivize profit-making, it is it’s own reward. It seems to me that her prescriptions for a healthy economy have been dis-proven right here in the USA over the past decade, we have low taxes and friendly policies towards profit-making, yet our wealthy are not doing “the Lion’s part’ and stimulating the economy with investment in infrastructure, new technologies nor job creation of any kind. Meanwhile we are losing the safety net, and still the myth of the ‘welfare state persists. What is it, that now millions of formerly middle class Americans suddenly got lazy? The government’s role isn’t to re-distribute unearned wealth downward, but to protect formerly hard working and productive people from the excessive greed of the wealthy and powerful we have seen. It is a RETURN of income due rather than a ‘taking’ by the undeserving. Thank you, I enjoyed the video and commentary as well. J.R.

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