“There is No Alternative” – Debunking the Greatest Myth of Thatcherism

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In the 24/7 canonisation of the late Margaret Thatcher, one of the greatest myths of her neoliberal ideology has come to the fore – that Thatcherism is the last word in economic and political argument. Thatcher herself coined the phrase ‘There is No Alternative’ (TINA).  This idea is as ubiquitous as it is wrong, and this is how.

Thatcherism Made Britain Great Again

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David Cameron paid tribute to Thatcher in the House of Commons by saying ‘she made Britain great again’.  This has been parroted by former cabinet ministers, pundits and teary eyed, flag waving sycophants across the land throughout the week of imposed national mourning.

The story goes that by busting the unions, selling off loss making public services, regulating the financial services industry and cutting taxes – Margaret Thatcher transformed the fortune or our national economy.

This is a fairy tale.  The reason this fairy tale is almost all you will hear in coming days is to reinforce the myth that ‘There is No Alternative’.  No alternative in 1979, no alternative in 2013.  Suck it up, plebs.

Entirely missing from this narrative is the role of North Sea Oil. Or, more specifically, Scottish Oil.

International Convention had already agreed that the North Sea north of the 55th Parallel, and the home to 90% of the UK’s oil and gas reserves, was the territory of Scotland.  In 1975, the government was presented with The McCrone Report. The paper, written by economist Gavin McCrone, stated that the vast North Sea oil fields which would come on line over the next few years could make an Independent Scotland as wealthy as Switzerland, producing 25% of the daily production of Nigeria.

The Westminster government made this report top secret to avoid the ‘It’s our Oil’ Campaign and the Scottish nationalists succeeding in removing Scotland, and her soon to be enormously profitable oil reserves from leaving the union.

Therefore, years before Thatcher came to power is was clear that, to quote the report ‘an embarrassment of riches’ was literally in the pipeline.

The oil revenues rose from almost nothing in the mid 70’s to 3% of GDP (£45bn in today’s money) by 84-5. They made Britain an OPEC country, giving her back a place on the world stage.  It also closed the balance of payments gap which had been the issue of the last half of the 70’s.

Thatcher chose to fritter this revenue away on funding her ideological tax cuts for the wealthiest, enabling her to do so without increasing public debt or cutting public services.

Alternatively, the government of the day could have followed Norway’s policy.  Norway used its significant oil boom to create a sovereign wealth fund and prepare public finances for the future retirement of the baby boomer generation.  It was clear that in a few decades, there would be an expanded ageing population and public policy needed to cater for this.

A report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers states that had the UK government saved its tax receipts from oil revenues, it would have a larger sovereign wealth fund today than Kuwait, Russia and Qatar combined.  Thatcher missed the opportunity to create a £450bn nest egg for the nation.

Whilst modern conservatives attack Labour for ‘not fixing the roof while the sun was shining’, the accusation could equally have been made of New Labour’s ideological matriarch and the queen of neoliberalism – one Margaret Thatcher.

However, successive governments sold us the fairy tale.  They genuinely believed that if they kept cutting taxes, they would stimulate growth in the economy.  In reality, the oil revenues have declined and now represent only 0.5% of GDP and there is no way of soaking up the tax cuts without incurring debt or cutting public services.

The government is continuing to pursue all three avenues (tax cuts, public spending cuts, increased borrowing) in the mistaken view that these will grow the economy.  So today, we have a national debt of 138%, a stalled economy and a budget deficit almost 8% of GDP.

They are acting no differently to the child who believes that by closing his eyes he has made himself invisible. They have forgotten, falling in love with their own mythology, that the growth funded the tax cuts and not the other way round.

Thatcherism Made us a Property Owning Democracy

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The second most common epitaph supporting the There is No Alternative line, generally sputtered from the lips in a wistful tone is ‘she gave us the chance to own our own homes’.  This was indeed a great privilege and sop to Thatcher’s children, but Thatcher’s grandchildren may well curse her for it.

Whilst a limited number of council house purchase schemes had existed prior to Thatcher, her government expanded the policy exponentially. The Right To Buy Scheme came into effect in 1980, and gave council tenants who’d lived in their homes for more than three years the right to buy them at a 33% discount. Those who had lived in their council homes for more than twenty years received a 50% discount.  The scheme was wildly popular, Labour dropped its official opposition to the scheme in 1985 and by 2003 more than 1.5 million council houses become privately owned.

There is another, much darker side to this story though.  The Thatcher government effectively put an end to social housing policy in the UK.

In 1979, the Labour governments of Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan had expanded social housing to 31% of the population, but also left Thatcher a Britain where home ownership had risen to 56.6%. By the time she left office it was 67%, and by 2003 it peaked at 70.9%.  Since then however, the figure has plummeted and now stands at the same levels as it was in 1987 (65.3%).

What has this whopping 9% increase in home ownership cost us?

More than a third of ex council houses now sit in the property portfolios of wealthy landlords.  In fact, the son of Thatcher’s Housing Minister at the time the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme was launched is now the proud owner of no less than forty ex council houses.

The limited remaining council housing is rationed out to the poorest of the poor with council housing waiting lists and mortgages ever further out of reach, everyone else is a hostage to the private rental market dominated by these landlords.

The following decades of defunct housing policy has left the UK with a housing shortage crisis. The UK is building 100,000 homes a year less than it needs to in order to meet requirements.

The consequent boom in house prices means they are now 300% higher (in real terms) than in 1959.  If the price of a dozen eggs had risen as quickly, they would now cost £19.

The restriction on social housing has seen a boom in the private rented sector, which now constitutes 20% of the total housing market, versus 10% just ten years ago.  This has seen private rents across the UK rise by an average of 37% in just the last three years.

The National Housing Federation issued a report last year which showed Housing Benefit has doubled in recent years as a direct result of an astronomical increase in housing costs.  The report shows an 86% rise in housing benefit claims by working families, with 10,000 new claims coming in per month.

As a final kicker, those who bought their homes from Thatcher are now finding that rather than all that hard work resulting in a financial legacy for their families,  their homes are simply collateral with which to pay for extortionate end of life care costs.  It is estimated that 40,000 elderly people a year are selling their homes for just this purpose, in aims to cover the average £100,000 care home costs during the final years of their lives.

It is not owning one’s own home that gives a person security, but a sound and effective welfare state.  Switzerland has a home ownership rate of 44.3%, Germany 53.2%, Austria 57.4% and none of these countries is facing the endemic housing crisis of the UK.

This is not just the legacy of Thatcher, it is the legacy of Thatcherism’s ‘There Is No Alternative’ myth. By creating a reality for voter and parliamentarian alike, that the only way was Thatcherism, no one has sought or been granted the platform to challenge the ideas.

There Is ALWAYS an Alternative

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The very statement ‘There Is No Alternative’ epitomises the ideological and profoundly unscientific basis for the economic and social policies of Thatcherism and Neoliberalism.  From Thatcher’s ‘There Is No Alternative’ to Frances Fukuyama’s ‘The End of History’ neoliberals have crowed that the ideas of deregulation, commercialisation, property ownership and the ‘free market’ are the pinnacle of social and economic progress.

How absurd it would be if a scientist in any other field than economics made such a claim.  One does not hear of it.  It is a given that the technology we are using today will be superseded tomorrow.  It is a given that our understanding of the physical world will be greater tomorrow than today.  We accept that science exists to challenge itself and its own theories over and over, developing ever new and more efficient methods and calculations to deliver ever greater results.  If it were to behave in any other way, we would call it bad science.

So why on earth do we insist that social and economic ideas reached their zenith in 1979 and refuse to move them on?  Why are we encouraged to be pioneers in scientific progress but philistines in socio-economic progress?

Thatcherism and neoliberalism beat out one style of socialism thirty years ago and have actively stifled the rise of new ideas since.  This is not a success story.  The world is culturally and literally poorer for it.

We have been sold into a myth that ‘There Is No Alternative’ by political, economic, academic and media institutions populated by those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  A major cause of our current deficit of ideas is the suppression in all our institutions of a competition of ideas.

This bias has made it almost impossible to challenge TINA without being viewed as some sort of unhinged radical.  This is dangerous.  It is dangerous to stomp on the collective pipeline of good ideas for organising our communities, producing goods and getting them to those who need and want them, for modelling our economics effectively, for raising our children, for our method of exchange and currency.

The reality is, there is always an alternative.  There are always myriad alternatives.

If our institutions do not permit such encouragement of free thought, then we should develop our new ideas elsewhere. Over time those corrupted, stagnant institutions will render themselves obsolete.

We must abandon the myth that ‘There Is No Alternative’ and free ourselves to imagine, create and build a better working world.

Take Action

Read!

Debunking Economics  by Professor Steve Keen – there are many new economic models which work a far sight better than those used by neoliberal economists.  These models foresaw the financial crisis that neoliberal economists like Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke told you was impossible.

Watch!

Inside Job – a great film which you can watch free online which shows the degree of collusion between our institutions in not only the Banking Crisis but the suppression of competing ideas.

Join!

Occupy London or Occupy Wall Street – the Occupy movement might not be in tents anymore but it continues as an amorphous breeding ground for new ideas and discussion.  Follow their twitter, Facebook pages and websites to be plugged into that broader sharing of ideas.

81 thoughts on ““There is No Alternative” – Debunking the Greatest Myth of Thatcherism

  1. Thatcher was not perfect, but when she came into office GDP per capita was one of the lowest in Europe in the UK, when she left office the UK had one of the highest GDP per capitas in Europe

  2. Pingback: Oolong's Zoo » The Ghost of Margaret Thatcher

  3. A couple of thoughts… one, it’s almost entirely untrue that Thatcher even cut taxes; she cut income tax for the wealthy while recouping the loss mainly from the poor through indirect taxation – VAT and so on. The cuts made to public services largely went to pay for the extraordinary levels of unemployment, keeping overall government spending at much the same level.

    As for the science thing – to be fair, there are a great many things in science that no scientist seriously questions – the laws of thermodynamics, for example, or the basic accuracy of the theory of evolution. The problem with economics is not so much that it’s exceptionally unquestioning of orthodoxy, as that it is barely a science at all; in scientific terms, it’s around about where physics was when Aristotle was explaining that things fall because everything tends to move towards its natural place. This wouldn’t be such a problem if more economists *admitted* it, but just as many devotees of Aristotle clung to his notions even as they were definitively superseded, many economists insist on pretending that their theories are sound even as evidence mounts against them and their underlying assumptions are shown to be not even approximately correct. Much more experimentation is required before any claims of scientific credibility can be made – which is tricky, because every experiment requires decades to produce meaningful results, and nobody wants their economy to be the control case.

    Still, it’s perfectly clear that economic experimentation is required whether or not we give up any hope of doing economic science, so I vote we just get on with it, and try out a few things that look broadly plausible…

  4. Pingback: Attlee versus Thatcher: We Need to Pick Better Heroes | Scriptonite Daily

  5. Pingback: AnimalFarm.org » RT @OccupyLondon: The story behind that #Thatcher meme http://t.co/xh9UK9BJfM #nostatefuneral #thatcherlegacy #olsx #occupy #ows http:// …

    • A further thing that has kind of been avoided in much discussion about the period known, to some, as ‘the Thatcher Years’, and I feel is also neccessary to discuss, is this. Great leadership (if such a thing exists or is needed) or, more importantly, healthy governance does not involve attacking- with extreme and fatal violence – your own population. Whatever argument that defenders of these decisons want to voice, to act so towards the population you are suppoosed to represent is questionable. These thing happened when Ms Thatcher was the fugurehead/symbol and alledged idealogue (she wasn’t) of the political party in governance.

      If, in scenario a, Ms Thatcher didn’t agree with it, or want it to happen, then she personally did little to prevent it or even rectify it. If however, in an alternative second scenario she did want what happened, then let’s add that to our judgement. The resulting conclusions could be, in scenario one, that she was dishonest enough with herself not to see what was going to happen and what the results would be. And who wants goverment representatives that are either incompetent or dishonest?

      In the second scenario we have the beginnings of tyrannical thought.

      There is a maxim which I shall paraphrase as such: Tyranny doesn’t start with concentration camps. Pertinent I feel though others might see it as a little extreme

      I am often curious (frightenly so) about how far Ms Thatcher was prepared to go to see her beliefs (or more likely the beliefs of her advisors) acted on. We may have been, kind of, lucky that she wasn’t allowed to become a tyrant. Which is almost an advert for representational parliamentarydemocratic government. But somehow not.

    • Julie Robson She probably would have not missed all these’ in hindsight fantastic ideas’ if she had not been trying to deal with the country being held to ransom by unions and everything that pertained around that era, no small task. The Government is not made up of just the Prime Minister, perhaps her Party members could have had some spacial awareness too.
      19 minutes ago · Like

      Julie Robson I have no doubt that in retrospect of ALL Governments and Prime Ministers reigns, whatever their political genre, there will be some ground breaking ideas and situations missed that would have been great for the country. It’s sad that these experts who hone in on one issue and have so much wisdom choose now to harangue a dead woman.

      • Who’s haranguing? It is absolutely normal and right to challenge ideas. This is exactly the point of the article. This is not an ‘in hindsight’ idea, these options were available at the time and ignored due to her ideology. These were choices she had and chose not to take, as did her government. It just does not hold water, this argument that because there were challenges, no one can criticise how the government of the day chose to handle them. This is what I mean about how anti-scientific this kind of thinking you express here is. There is no ‘how could we handle this better?’, ‘how can we make sure our choices are considered and evidence based?’, ‘if we do the same thing over again and it does not work, how about we reassess and try something new?’. This is very straightforward, common sense. The fact that to even present such an idea provokes response like this says rather alto about the irrational, unthinking state of our politics and our society today.

        • Plenty of softly softly had been tried by the previous Labour governments, (during which time I think more pits were closed under Wilson than Maggy) the union’s power and the peoples frustration was so great that something had to be done, and WAS done, without the benefit of hindsight or evidence of what would happen, which could appear in the future after the event. If there are people’s dead bodies lying around in morgues, as they were due to strikes, the luxuries which you propose simply did not exist as there was no time … “very straightforward, common sense” is “get the unions problem sorted”, which she did …

        • You must have far more scientific research based ideologist revelations other than this particular dig at the Thatcher Gov. I would suggest that if you have any that pertain to the difficulties and answers to current political problems that you should voice them now. It is a bit late to profess after the event.

          • :) The premise of the article centres around the idea that there is no alternative, then or now. I’ve provided resources if you’d like further information on the great work happening on that front. I find it really inspiring.

              • So you admit there is something broken? Excellent. I’d recommend firstly, looking not at manufacturing but at macro economics. There is a supply and demand side fault. Macro economic policy which rewards debt over investment, profit over wages etc has created a demand side crisis. But FDI, outcoursing and offshoring have also created a supply side crisis. So if you create more demand, the profit and tax goes offshore not to domestic GDP and if you increase supply there is little domestic demand to leverage it. So in to single out ‘how would you fix manufacturing?’ is limited. This is what central point of the article. It is that we have a deficit of ideas. I get that there is a certain aggression/oneupmanship behind your questioning, with the presumed intent of saying ‘see johnny big balls! you cant fix it either!’. This is sort of playground level stuff which I’m not out to indulge in. My point is there are macro ecomomic issues, and that neoliberal economics itself (not Thatcher alone, the whole paradigm and its proponents) cannot fix it because it does not address the key issues. I urge you to take a step back and consider that. If we had one kind of engineering and bridges all around the world suddenyl collapsed, and not one of the engineers, their professors, or the engineering community as a whole a) saw it coming b) had any new idea for building bridge that would have them not fall down…I think it would be considered a little weird. That’s where we are with economics. As I am not a leading economist, but a writer, my role is to say LOOK AT THESE GUYS! THEY ARE COMING UP WITH NEW WAYS TO BUILD BRIDGES…..and conversely STOP HAVING THESE GUYS BUILD YOUR BRIDGES! THEY KEEP FALLING DOWN…with a little analysis as to how and why they did. You might think that sucks, and if so I honestly think you should read other blogs as that’s what this one is all about.

                • Indeed I do think something is broken.

                  The whole economic model … it is based on growth, in a world with finite resources, filled with people having finite lives.

                  People today measure success on wealth, whereas happiness and health are infinitely more important.

                  The western banks serve themselves, not the people, they “make money” but actually produce nothing for mankind. How perverse is it to publicly bail out a bank which by its own (management) incompetence failed, yet cut back on national health services for the very people who contributed to the bank and it’s subsequent bailout ?

                  Debt with interest is a way of controlling people, and profiting from that control. All of these national bailouts are actually loading debt (control) onto generations that are not even born, and removing democracy from entire countries – Southern Europe being told what to do by Brussels.

                  Since the industrial revolution, mechanical aid / automation has been promoted to save the working man’s efforts and give him more time. Yet the reality is that the working man works just as hard (or not at all) and the bosses/investors get rich.

                  So, I think a new way of living, a new way of doing things needs to be devised, and someone as determined as Thatcher would probably be needed to push it through past all of the vested interests.

                  I think it’s quite interesting what Rafael Correa is doing in Ecuador, though I haven’t studied it in any depth.

                  • A lot of people (though not the mainstream media or political parties with the exception of the Greens) are starting to question whether continued economic growth is either achievable or desirable. One strand, the environmental constraints, can be traced back to the Limits To Growth report published in 1972. Recent work to develop this has come from Tim Jackson (Prosperity Without Growth. Economics for a Finite Planet) and Richard Heinberg (The End of Growth. Adapting to Our New Economic Reality). Heinberg picks up on resource depletion, environmental impacts and crushing levels of debt and asks what a post-growth, sustainable society might look like?
                    Another strand points to the economic and political crises emerging from a global economic system that relies on around three percent compound growth forever despite the finite restraints of the planet and the lack of profitable investments for the accumulated capital, where growth is now locked in to financialisation and debt. The result is that stagnation is “the new normal” (e.g. The Endless Crisis – How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China, by John Bellamy Foster and Robert W McChesney).
                    Over the coming years we are going to be forced to address the concept of sustainability, both in the environment and the economy, since they are interlinked. One thing is clear, for all Thatcher’s insistence on TINA, the neo-liberalism her government promoted (and Blair and Brown accepted) is not sustainable.

                    • Ha ha I’m just a normal guy with his eyes open, but it’s nice to see that my gut feeling is supported by professional papers and thinkers. I think the subject merits a whole new blog title Mr Scriptonite :)

                      They say that everything goes full circle and we are realising that the way many tribes live has lessons for the survival and prosperity of the global tribe.

        • Why don’t you become a politician and put the country to rights instead of sitting on the sidelines and publishing your propaganda.

  6. “Entirely missing from this narrative is the role of North Sea Oil. Or, more specifically, Scottish Oil.”

    Entirely missing from your narrative is the context of the 3 day week, power cuts, friday cars from British Leyland and incessant politically motivated strikes, people sitting on their backsides in state run companies and a generally decayed (but more social) country.

    As for it being Scottish oil, if it was not for the rest of the UK in the war, it would be German oil.

    • What’s your point? Without the help of the Scots you could say the same; after all they played their part in the war too.

      (Also it’s a bit rich to infer that the UK won the war on it’s own).

      Enjoy the funeral.

    • AndySL,
      A little history for you:
      “On 24 February 2009 The Times published ‘Secret plan to deprive independent Scotland of North Sea oil fields’. It stated, in part:
      Documents detailing secret government plans in the 1970s to prevent Scotland laying claim to North Sea oil have been seen by The Times. They show the extraordinary lengths to which civil servants were prepared to go to head off devolution, which was seen then as inevitably leading to independence.
      Treasury officials also advised that the boundaries of Scotland’s coastal waters should be redrawn and a new sector created to “neutralise” Scotland’s claim to North Sea oil – a step that was taken.”
      http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2011/06/14/shock-of-the-century/

      This came to pass in 1999:
      “In 1999 Tony Blair, abetted by the Scottish traitor Donald Dewar, redrew the existing English/Scottish maritime boundary to annex 6,000 square miles of Scottish waters to England, including the Argyll field and six other major oilfields.
      The idea was specifically to disadvantage Scotland’s case for independence.”
      http://www.muzzerino.com/2012/03/scotland-england-maritime-boundaries.html

      The map of territorial boundaries pre- and post the 1999 change on this site is revealing.

      BTW, my uncle Stewart (a Scot) was injured in the retreat to Dunkirk. So I assume you’ll have no objections to me using your house whenever I’m in England? (Just asking)

      • My main point is about the article, i.e. the lack of context in the article regarding the decisions that were made at the time. Of course it’s easy to be wise after the event, or unwise with the benefit of hindsight as the case is here.

        Regarding “Scottish oil”, as they are part of the united kingdom it is therefore united kingdom oil, and without wishing to belittle the Scots or anyone else who died in the war, they couldn’t have done it alone without the rest of the UK, and heaven forbid won’t be able to in the future if they leave the UK.

        It’s a bit like a mate who you’ve helped out, who then wins the lottery (oil) and then wants to forget all about you.

        In the above quote Gordon you seem to skip the fact that Blair IS SCOTTISH. You also assume that I’m English and have a house there, which is not the case … your uncle would however be welcome if I did have a house there.

        Regarding the flag, I very gladly wave the union jack, the bigger the better, and in my book anyone who is not proud of the flag and belittles the freedom we have to wave the flag and all it stands for should be left at the national war memorial for a week to ponder their case. The flag stands for us as a nation, a people …

        • The Union Jack doesn’t stand for us as a people, it’s only the navy who use it. Onland, it’s known as the Union Flag. If people are going to start waving symbols about, they should at least wave the right ones.
          The suggestion that it would have been German oil without England made me laugh, though. I thought I’d heard every objection to Scottish independence, but I’d not heard that one before! I don’t even know where to begin – are we imagining Scotland never joined the union and Germany just decides to invade?

          • We are suggesting that without England, Scotland would have been a chunk of Nazi Germany, along with the rest of Europe, that this conversation would be in German and that history would be entirely different. The symbol (flag) is the same flag on sea or land , wikipedia: Even if the term “Union Jack” does derive from the jack flag, after three centuries, it is now sanctioned by use and has appeared in official use, confirmed as the national flag by Parliament and remains the popular term.

            • But that’s just ridiculous. You’re trying to twist history that never happened to justify England ‘owning’ Scottish oil. Why would Scotland have been annexed by Germany if it was not part of the United Kingdom? Please start by explaining why Scotland isn’t part of the UK in this imaginary scenario, and what effect this may have had on Britain’s position in the world. Would Britain even have become a world power without the unification of Scotland and England? If they hadn’t, would they have gone to war with Germany anyway?
              I really don’t understand how anyone with even the slightest understanding of British history could make such a bizarre statement.
              Wiki might think the Union Jack is acceptable onland. The BBC does not.

              • It was a comment in reply to Scottish oil being seen as *Scottish oil*,plundered by Thatcher for the rest of Britain, ostensibly England/London.

                Without the rest of Britain, Scotland would not exist as a country, the war would not have been won as it was, it would be part of a German empire and thus not Scotland’s oil, which it isn’t anyway as they are in the UK. Whichever way, the oil in Scotland is not solely theirs.

                The majority of the population regards the Union Jack as the British flag (barring union separatists) – did you not notice the Olympics ? so I can see no point in pressing on with technical flag nuances, but you probably will.

                • But, again, it makes no sense as a counter argument to the oil being Scottish. It’s a completely spurious argument. In what version of history would the second world war even have happened without the Act of Union? If Scotland had never been part of the union, there’s no way you can predict that Britain would have risen to such prominence, challenged the European powers, built an empire etc etc.

                  History would have been completely different and, in fact, we’d probably be speaking French, as the Scots would have sided with Napoleon and invaded England. Only that probably wouldn’t have happened without the American Revolution, which wouldn’t have happened without the Scottish Enlightenment, which possibly wouldn’t have happened without the Act of Union….

                  So really, to follow your argument, the oil belongs to the French?

                  You can call the Union Flag whatever you like, it’s not my flag, so I’m not really bothered.

                  • To follow your argument, the Scots are and have been historically better off in the union, if they are in a union then it is the union’s oil, and that was my point all along, but I am most grateful for your helpful clarification and your permission to continue calling the British flag the union jack. :)

                    • I don’t think you’re following my argument at all. I didn’t speculate about whether the Scots were historically better off being in the Union. They might have been better off siding with Napoleon and invading England. I don’t know.

                      But the historical benefits to either country are irrelevant in deciding the future. The Union was important in the 18th Century because Scotland was broke and England didn’t want an ally of France on her Northern borders. Scotland is no longer broke and the French aren’t likely to invade, so maybe it’s run its course.

  7. Start a business, employ people meaningfully, create wealth people can own, contribute to the state, support the welfare system – easy. Then you might appreciate what Thatcher made possible and simpler for all classes to achieve and what New Labour screwed up.

    • It’s a zero sum game. For every winner there needs to be a whole bunch of losers. Anyone who plays the stock market knows this. Wealth isn’t created it’s taken from someone else. In order for you to get rich someone else has to give you money that they got from someone else also. It’s a chain not a magic trick. The real myth is that by supporting rich people to get richer we can all win somehow (an old Tory establishment misconception) – this is essentially anti-capitalist – Thatcher knew this and set about ensuring that the odds of winning were stacked firmly in favour of those with the least sense of social responsibility. If you wanted to use and exploit other people and deny their basic human right to dignity then she was your best friend. In her world there would only be winners and losers and god help you if you lost.

    • Yes, of course ‘New Labour’ (Ms Thatcher’s greatest acheivement – her words) another conservative institution was bound to screw things up. Thats what conservative thinking (aka lazy thinking) does.

    • Start a business in gangsterism, exploit people meaningfully, create wealth people can own (lovely jubbly), contribute to the state (misery and fear), support the welfare state (but avoid paying taxes when you can afford the right accountant) – easy.

      naive dogmatic sycophancy.

      and by the way new labour is conservatism just a lot lazier in application

  8. “It is not owning one’s own home that gives a person security, but a sound and effective welfare state. Switzerland has a home ownership rate of 44.3%, Germany 53.2%, Austria 57.4% and none of these countries is facing the endemic housing crisis of the UK.”

    how much of this housing is in the social as opposed to the private sector?

  9. No doubt I will sound a complete numpty but here goes. I lived through the tyrannical reign of Thatcher and I wouldn’t put anything past her but I cannot believe with all this information at her finger tips MT and her cabinet decided on the route those chose. I am so much more naive than I thought possible because I believed the propaganda I suppose that although she ruined the country and its people, I always believed she did it through sheer ignorance. From what I have now read and re-read this evening, including some of the articles referenced, she not only knew but chose a path that really did make the rich, richer and left morsels for the poor to inherit. Now I know politics is offered at degree level, so I can assume that some of you have studied the subject to death, I would put a word in here for the common (for the want of a better term and I’m sure there must be one) man and woman though. To most of us that bothered to attend our struggling comprehensives, politics was and still is the stuff of ‘you posh lot that can string a sentence together without an F word’. Following that, if we are lucky enough most of us get on with our working life and family when it comes along (I’m describing my life of course) so once again unless we use the voting card to scribe a quick shopping list it probably doesn’t see the light of day? we do t usually have the time nor the want to find these things out. I suppose that is why most fb posts and threads don’t rise beyond the usual insults and counter insults. I don’t want to be patronising here but it would help if some of this were more available to the people posting on the likes of ‘the people vs the government, DWP and ATOS’ group. The participants often post inaccurate info because they are desperate to disseminate what is going on. They are people at the coal face of the current cuts, the labelled scroungers of the benefit system and some of their rantings can be very base but at least they are trying to articulate their problems. Please, would some of you have a look and inject some of this very factual information to help them fight the comments of a much more articulate and more informed opposition. Now that I have found this site however, I look forward to more revelations. I rally love the way statements are backed up with reference, it means I have mire body to my debate, thank you.

    • Thanks ever so much for your comment Tracey. I was also one of those comprehensive school kids and left school with all the Thatcher propaganda largely intact. I tend to share the blogposts on the sites you mention so keep an eye out and by all means share away. I’m glad you’ll be coming back for more. There’s a pretty big back catalogue to keep you wide eyed in the mean time. Welcome to the blog!

    • Have a look at Michael Hudson’s summary of MT’s legacy here
      http://michael-hudson.com/2013/04/mrs-thatchers-mean-legacy/
      “As the uncredited patron saint of New Labour, Mrs. Thatcher became the intellectual force inspiring her successor and emulator Tony Blair to complete the transformation of British electoral politics to mobilize popular consent to permit the financial sector to privatize and carve up Britain’s public infrastructure into a set of monopolies. In so doing, the United Kingdom’s was transformed from a real economy of production to one that scavenged the world for rents through its offshore banks. In the end, not only was great damage inflicted on England, but on the entire world as capital fled developing countries for safe harbors in London’s banks. Meanwhile, governments throughout the world today are declaring “We’re broke,” as their oligarchs grow ever more rich.”

      Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine gives an account of how the right have used political and economic crises to impose radical free-market policies.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shock_Doctrine
      “Part 3 covers attempts to apply the shock doctrine without the need for extreme violence against sections of the population. The mild shock therapy of Margaret Thatcher is explained as being made possible by the Falklands War,”

  10. “There is no alternative” was a phrase she used specifically about economic policy, not about her policies in general. She was referring to the state of Britain at the time, where successive governments had failed to address loss-making state-run industries. In the 1970s, the list of state-run industries in Britain included the car industry, steel industry, sugar industry, coal industry, shipbuilding, airlines…there’s a full list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_privatizations. There are certainly valid criticisms of Thatcherism, but on the issues where she said there was no alternative to economic liberalism, I think she was pretty much right.

    • I think you’ll find that the phrase itself is rarely, if ever, apppropriate no matter what is being referred to but is particularly inappropriate in this situation. Liberalism (whether ‘neo’ or not) is on the same level as social reformism, conservatism and marxism along the dimensions of political/economic/social thinking. Stating it in the way she did – regardless of the subject – is merely indicative of what contributed to her own personal psychological flaws.

      MsThatcher shares with all elected representatives an irrelevance in a world that has its policy dictated to by financial institutions, scientistists/technologists, global corporations, mainstream media. That is not a personal attack, nor is it part of some paranoic conspiracy theory. It is just a recognition of how the world has evolved socially and economically, It wasn’t her fault she was as much a victim as the rest of us. I just don’t need delusional myth creation espoused as fact for rhetorical reasons.

      Next thing you know people will try to convince me that Adolf Hitler only had one testicle.

      • “MsThatcher shares with all elected representatives an irrelevance in a world that has its policy dictated to by financial institutions, scientistists/technologists, global corporations, mainstream media. That is not a personal attack, nor is it part of some paranoic conspiracy theory. It is just a recognition of how the world has evolved socially and economically, It wasn’t her fault she was as much a victim as the rest of us.”
        This is an interesting idea and in some ways seems to be based on a sort of resignation to and acceptance of the tyranny of money over all other human values.
        I believe that very much reflects Mrs.Thatchers mindset.
        She represented and embodied a culture which had already developed broadly from the post -war Americanisation of Britain and Europe and the collapse and discrediting of all other forms of political ideology in the new materialistic, television watching, consumer society.
        Politics, religion and community all gave way to the demands of accruing material wealth.Your value as a human being is now measured by how much wealth you generate, how much your property is worth, how many exotic holidays you go on and how much you pay for them and so forth.
        In such a culture, the poor and unfortunate feel worthless and angry because they can not aspire, as hard as they strive, to this magical world to which ‘there is no alternative’.

        • I think you hit the nail on the head, parallel monologue, Human Values, we live with a distorted world view of what is of real importance to life. Sniping at each other from different sides of political fences will bring us nowhere, ‘Divide and Rule’ ancient methods of controlling a population. Perhaps Treat others as you would like to be treated, instead of grab what you can would be a helpful maxim. Plus respect for the dead, as much as you disagree with Mrs Thatchers ideology (as I do myself, having felt the economic devestation this ideology has wrought on our country, and now the whole world, she was human like the rest of us, she did what she believed was right with the knowledge and info she had.

  11. Libertarianism does not equate to leftest policies and nanny states. Libertarian means freedom, free market, free speech, free to seek your fortune, being accountable for your actions and not being entitled to other people’s fortunes.

  12. The ping pong poli-rhetoric of last night’s QT left me discombobulated so this has been redeeming to say the least. Superb article. Why though is no one mentioning the de-regulation of rent-control/capping, Uniform Business Rates and the knock on effect to every person in the land in business or in the home. Once upon a time you couldn’t just charge what you like and we are witnessing it’s obvious aftermath.

      • You can do a BSc in Swimming Pool Managment, but that doesn’t make it a science. All the time that economics allows itself to be hijacked by partisan interests and treats things like TINA as respctable viewpoints, economics is no more a science than creationism.

        • I’m inclined to agree. But we are in the minority. If econonomics or politics are to be considered sciences then they cannot base their axioms on assumptions which they then refuse to challenge or have challenged. This is the issue for our time.

        • Cosmology isn’t a science in the strictest undestanding of the the concept either, but most people except it as such.

          Economics, sociology, and politcal science are academic subjects that use scientific principles and there is nothing wrong with that. What IS wrong is making decisions about social control, social wellbeing and social responsibility that are not really thought through. And that is something that we have alwayshistorically been proven to do.

          Conservative thinking by definition is lazy, short-termist, thinking. If it wasn’t for radical thought and actions we would still be living in the trees. Scientists and technologists have allowed us to progress whereas political dogmatism (as perfectly encapsulated by the mythologised person in question) holds us back in terms of social wellbeing and real personal freedoms (not the socially damaging freedom of liberalism). Choice is really a social cost not a social benefit, and what harms society can often harm us as individuals. And yes we are all individuals but we are also only part of a global species which is the ultimate society.

      • Finding this digression on the validity of Economics as a ‘science’ very entertaining….. I have a BA(Hons) with an Economics major (focus on spending public money!!!) and my recollections are a lot of mathematics equations based on very broad assumptions to do with supply and demand and whatnot, but the biggest focus was on individual and social psychology.

        Would you consider studying human behaviour, of which economic behaviour is a part, a ‘real’ science?

        • I’d argue that most things can bu studied scientifically and economic is one of them. However, in most universities they are not. The dominance, teching methods, publishing privileges, and lack of question/challengeof assumptions of neoclassical economics and neoliberal politics make it closer to a theology than a science. It’s alarming and quite dangerous given the weight and positions of power given to those espousing what is essentially a dogma, whilst presenting themselves and their theories (and the presentation OF their theories).

  13. Great article. Not only was there an alternative, but what she did should not even have been an option.

    Apologies for being a pedant, but there are two grammatical errors in your otherwise superb piece. Twice you used ‘less’ when you should have written ‘fewer’ as in:

    “In fact, the son of Thatcher’s Housing Minister at the time the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme was launched is now the proud owner of no less than forty ex council houses.”

    and

    “The UK is building 100,000 homes a year less than it needs to in order to meet requirements.”

  14. The 1980s witnessed the collapse of both social democracy and USSR-style ‘communism’, both of which laid claim (falsely) to the description ‘socialism.’ Since many had become convinced that the only alternatives to capitalism were regulation/reform or Leninist revolution, their defeat instilled a deep despair throughout the Left and led many (particularly in the Labour Party) to accept TINA. As has been noted, for most people, even on the left, it is now easier to envisage an end to civilisation than an end to capitalism (for some reason George Monbiot’s name always springs to mind when I say that). But, as you say, there are and always have been, alternatives. Perhaps one of the benefits of the end of the USSR is that the left is freed from its claims to be ‘actually existing socialism’ and we can reclaim the libertarian and democratic heritage submerged by ‘reform or revolution.’

    John Holloway, for example (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Holloway_%28sociologist%29), takes the view that revolution is a day-to-day process that takes place in the ‘cracks’ in capitalism:
    “His 2002 book, Change the World Without Taking Power, has been the subject of much debate in Marxist, anarchist and anti-capitalist circles, and contends that the possibility of revolution resides not in the seizure of state apparatuses, but in day-to-day acts of abject refusal of capitalist society – so-called anti-power, or ‘the scream’ as he puts it.”

    This autonomist/anarchist approach seems to have been embraced by many involved in the Occupy movement. http://tidalmag.org/

    From this viewpoint any activity in which people participate to take control of work, our relationships with other people or with the environment, that rests on mutuality and cooperation rather than competition and commodification is revolutionary.

    So perhaps all those involved in a Transition initiative (http://www.transitionnetwork.org/) or similar are unconscious revolutionaries? Resistance is fertile!
    http://www.permaculture.co.uk/videos/propaganda-gardening-incredible-edible-todmorden

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