tisdag 2 mars 2010

The evil legacy of Margaret Thatcher

The £ is sinking in the foreign exchange markets, on the news that the Conservatives seem not to have enough support to enable them to form a majority government at the next election. The Conservatives suffer from the legacy of Thatcher, they appear to be too close to the landowning and corporate interest groups and they have a track record of making people poor, although so does Labour. They also come across as appealing too much to greed and too little recognition of the public realm and its value.

People do not trust the Conservatives and this leaves enough support for Labour, despite its disastrous track record. The Conservatives have not helped themselves, since they have failed to develop a convincing set of policies in the thirteen years they have been out of office.

No such thing as society
Thatcher's exact words, I am told were "There's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people and people must look after themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves, and then, also, to look after our neighbours." 1979

There is everything wrong with that statement by Thatcher and you see its evil consequences the instant you step into Britain. There is a such a thing as society and consequently a public realm.

In Britain, this public realm is not valued as it is in other countries, and it is noticeable, down to the minutest triviae. People don't generally drop litter in Scandinavia. The pavements are not spotted with chewing gum. If you travel in a train you will find a brush and paper towels in the toilet. That is only possible when everyone is recognises that there is such a thing as society.

Duties of government
There is the individual and there is the family on one side, and there is government on the other, and yes, government is made up of, but is more than the sum of, individuals. Individuals, families and government all have their particular duties.

Amongst the duties of government are:
  • to defend the realm, to apply justice,
  • to deal with emergencies,
  • to ensure that everyone has the means to provide themselves and their families with a livelihood, and
  • to collect the rent of land
This latter is because if government does not, all sorts of undesirable consequences follow. Not the least of them is that large numbers of families end up being unable to provide themselves with a livelihood. Then comes socialism. More and more become dependent on welfare, which eventually consumes ever-increasing public funds.

Now I would have thought that a recognition of those points described above as the minimum duties of government would form the basis of a genuine conservative programme, but sadly the Conservatives have just thrashed around whilst out of office instead of getting a coherent policy together and gathering public support.

Thatcher's foolish statement seems to have its origins in US libertarianism, perhaps in the writings of the evil Ayn Rand. At a more general level, it has promoted the f*** you attitudes which have brought us to Broken Britain. She has a lot to answer for. Thatcher, together with the changes that came with 1960s "freedom", gave assent to the change in social attitudes that have brought us to broken, bankrupt Britain 2010.

The rise of home ownerism
Home ownership went up during the Thatcher years. In the end it led to a house price bubble and bust (in reality land price bust) in 1992, followed by four years of serious depression. This recovered and then we had a re-run, only ten times, worse ending in the collapse of 2008.
And homes became unaffordable as the price of land spiralled up. We need, amongst other things, a different model of home ownership than Thatchers.

Oil revenues squandered
Another of the evils of the Thatcher government was the way it squandered North Sea oil revenues to shut the coal mines, which were not uneconomic. They then used the money to pay for the high levels of unemployment, especially in the former mining areas, during much of the time it was in power.

The mines were abandoned and cannot be reopened and we are faced with an energy problem despite the fact that most of Britain is sitting on a layer of coal, sufficient to last 300 years.

Now we have vast tracts of the country with a dead economy, dead, drug-ridden societies, a mood of hopelessness and a burden on the taxpayer ie hard-working people. Conservative policies lead to exactly the same problems as socialist ones, which is why it is a good idea not to attach oneself to any political -ism but to look around for oneself and see what is happening on the ground.

And looking on the ground I see Norway which has used its oil revenues to build good infrastructure and for other investment. It is no accident that the Norwegian krona is one of the few currencies in the world which is not crashing down.

Then there was the ludicrous Poll Tax which finished off the silly woman. But her sour legacy, not least of which are the nonsensical cult of managerialism, the notion that everything must look good on the bottom line and that is all that counts, and that the Conservatives are not trusted in this country.

What a wonderful politician.

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