Highlights from George Will's Ode to Margaret Thatcher

Today in The Washington Post, George Will penned an eloquent ode to Margaret Thatcher in response to her recent passing. Below are a few excerpts from Will's column:

On "Thatcherism"

"Her program was sound money, laissez faire, social fluidity and upward mobility through self-reliance and other “vigorous virtues.” She is the only prime minister whose name came to denote a doctrine — Thatcherism. (“Churchillian” denotes not a political philosophy but a leadership style.) When she left office in 1990, the trade unions had been tamed by democratizing them, the political argument was about how to achieve economic growth rather than redistribute wealth, and individualism and nationalism were revitalized."

On British Economics:

"Britain has periodically been a laboratory for economic ideas — those of Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, the socialism of postwar Labor. Before the ascendancy of Thatcher — a disciple of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek — Tories tried to immunize Britain against socialism by administering prophylactic doses of the disease. But by 1979, Britain’s fundamental political arrangements were at issue: Such was the extortionate power of the unions to paralyze the nation that the writ of Parliament often seemed to run not beyond a few acres along the Thames."

On Thatcher's Similarities to Ronald Reagan and Her Approach to Economic Problems

"In Britain and America in the 1960s and 1970s, government’s hubris expanded as its competence shrank. Like her soul mate, Ronald Reagan, Thatcher practiced the politics of psychotherapy, giving her nation a pride transplant. Reagan was responding to 17 lacerating years — Dallas, Vietnam, Watergate, stagflation, the Iranian hostage crisis. She was sick and tired of three decades of Britain being described as the Ottoman Empire once was, as “the sick man of Europe.” She set about disrupting settled attitudes and arrangements by enlarging and energizing the middle class, the great engine of social change in every modern society.

Before Thatcher, Britain’s economic problems often were ascribed to national character and hence were thought immune to remediation. Thatcher thought national character was part of the problem, but that national character is malleable, given bracing economic medicine. Marx’s ghost, hovering over his grave in London’s Highgate Cemetery, must have marveled at this Tory variant of economic determinism."