Why They Hated Thatcher
Many years ago I met on an airplane flight a young woman that demonstrated maturity beyond her years. It turned out that she had been working in her mother's business since her early teens.
She had not, in other words, been confined 24-7 in some government child custodial facility, or taken the free-contraceptive veil in some secularist seminary. She had lived a life not unlike the departed Margaret Thatcher. Here's the grocer's daughter telling (H/T American Spectator) the cognoscenti in The Path to Power about the reality of capitalism for a young girl living over the store:
For them [the critics] capitalism was alien and harsh: for me it was familiar and creative. I was able to see that it was satisfying customers that allowed my father to increase the number of people he employed. I knew that it was international trade that brought coffee, sugar, and spice to those who frequented our shop. And, more than that, I experienced that business, as can be seen in any marketplace anywhere, was lively, human, social, and sociable: in fact, though serious, it was fun.
The grocer's daughter knows that the businessman can never relax, never take it easy, because a business that is not thriving and expanding is declining and falling apart: rather like Britain in the 1970s or the US in the 2010s.
What does a businessman do when business profits are evaporating or the nation is burdened with huge loss-making government sponsored enterprises?
The answer is obvious: the businessman cuts costs and concentrates on selling and improving his best-selling products; he must, because a couple of months of slow sales could put him underwater, forever. But the government, representing the great mass of people that vote for politicians that promise them to maintain their customary standard of living, goes into debt to continue spending just as before. That's what Britain did in the 1970s, as the government bailed out and nationalized failing manufacturers, and quailed before angry union pickets, as the whole nation fought to maintain its traditional standard of living.
What is going on here? The answer comes out clearly in Max Weber's General Economic History. The economic policy of most governments and most people down the ages has always been to maintain a "traditional standard of living" for themselves.
You will notice that the usual method is to do it by force. The medieval guild is an example. It attempted to provide for all its masters (but not necessarily apprentices and journeymen) a continuing income stream - by controlling entry to the guild, by fixing prices and methods of work. The administrative welfare state is merely the modern instantiation of this ancient instinct.
That is why we hate businesspeople; they are so annoyingly busy, running around upsetting ancient communities and customary standards of living. Just like Margaret Thatcher.
And we hate that the busybodies are right. Everything in this world runs down unless you wind it up. The great corporation protecting its market share soon collapses when faced with a new competitor without a legacy product line to protect. The established church winds down as new entrepreneurial churches reach out to the unchurched. Big governments cater to their base supporters, helping seniors maintain their "fixed incomes" while blocking the growth of the new. And when a Margaret Thatcher comes in and takes a principled stand against the freeloaders, they respond with this (on Wattsupwiththat.com):
I wonder how our US cousins would feel about a leader who shut just about every coal mine in the US and threw ancient communities on the scrap heap, mainly for political goals.
This man is expressing the age-old human desire to maintain a "customary standard of living." But he is conveniently forgetting how, for a decade or more, the miners had ruthlessly fought the British government in the streets, insisting that their right to live a customary standard of living trumped the rights of all the other "ancient communities" in the UK to their customary standard of living.
The modern middle class, the People of the Responsible Self, are people who have moved on from this ancient instinct. We scorn to play the victim card, to cringe and whine at the feet of a powerful patron. We say that when the vein is played out, when the market turns against us, we have to eat our losses, pack up our memories, leave our ancient communities, and move on.
Margaret Thatcher, daughter of a small businessman and Methodist lay preacher, may one day become the patron saint of the People of the Responsible Self. She always did the right thing rather than do the likable thing. And that is why they hate her.
Christopher Chantrill (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.