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What Price Limited Government? Liberalism: Cruel Corrupt Unjust Wasteful and Deluded

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Thatcher's Victory: Then and Now

by Christopher Chantrill
May 07, 2009 at 12:02 pm


IF YOU LIKE counting “firsts,” here’s one for you. It was just 30 years ago when the British first elected a grocer’s daughter to be Prime Minister. Yes, for thousands of years the oppressive British political system had denied not just grocers, but the spawn of grocers the highest political office in the land.

But finally, on Thursday, May 3, 1979 Margaret Thatcher, daughter of Alderman Roberts, grocer from Grantham, Lincolnshire, shattered the so-called “spice ceiling” and became Prime Minister.

In those days the media did not automatically swoon over ceiling shatterers. In the London Telegraph Simon Heffer tells us how the satirical Private Eye portrayed the hectoring new Prime Minister Thatcher in a cartoon.:

The cover of Private Eye the week after Mrs Thatcher won carried a picture of her taken during the election campaign, leaning over an old man in a hospital bed; the balloon coming out of her mouth said: "Wake up! It’s a new dawn for Britain!"

Today, people are remembering her many kindnesses.

Today, Simon Heffer is a crusty columnist, the Voice of Middle England, railing away at the shallowness and timidity of David Cameron’s Conservative Party. But on May 3, 1979, he was a lad of 19, and he recalls

a feeling I had at five in the morning on May 4, as I drove back in a cool misty dawn through the countryside after an election party. The collectivist nightmare was over. A Britain of endless strikes, food subsidies, third-rate products and jobbery was, suddenly, consigned to history. If there has been a better time to be 19 than in 1979, I wait to be told.

As President Obama cranks up his administration with plans for increasing union power and bailing out failed smoke-stack industries, and as he staffs up with Artful Tax Dodgers, you realize that “cool misty dawns” don’t last forever.

We conservatives like to think of ourselves as down-to-earth people, but we have our delusions, just like our liberal friends. We thought that the lesson of the Reagan-Thatcher revolution would live forever. But were were wrong. On the contrary. There will never be a time when conservatives can sit back and say that our work is done.

President Obama and his team prove it. The way they act, you’d think they remember nothing about the 1970s, the years before Margaret Thatcher’s great victory at the polls.

Stupid expansion of government programs? Check. Truckling to union power? Check. Stupid mega-projects on energy? Check.

Of course, Obama and his pals were just teenagers in the 1970s. They really don’t remember the 1970s!

The current Mayor of London, Conservative Boris Johnson, asked an intelligent 15-year-old, born after Thatcher left office, what she associated with Margaret Thatcher. “Billy Elliott,” she replied, creature of her government schoolteachers and BBC news.

Billy Elliott is a great movie, and no doubt a fabulous musical. But it is just a movie, and if its creators want to tell a story about striking miners as the victims of a cruel Thatcher rather than dupes of left-wing union thugs, hey, it’s a free country.

But the intelligent 15-year-old who associates Thatcher with Billy Elliott reminds us that the battle is never over. If you believe in limited government then you will have to fight for it, today, tomorrow, and forever. Because every day brings another fresh young activist, some young kid literally born yesterday whose understanding of the past was formed by an agitprop movie. And what is that young kid proposing? He is proposing some crude program of government compulsion and calling it visionary.

We must challenge the narrative of the left-wing film-maker, and we must do our best with the intelligent young people who have only heard half the story.

But the biggest challenge for conservatives will always be politicians and their lust for power. Politicians are seldom like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who used their power to roll back government and restore freedom. Most politicians are like President Obama. Their self-interested vision of change cannot comprehend anything that does not increase the power of government and build them a patronage system.

Back when Margaret Thatcher became prime minister, Barack Obama was about 18 years old. You can imagine what his mentor, the left-wing poet Frank Marshall Davis, and his college instructors said about her. No doubt a year later they were a bit confused about Ronald Reagan, calling him at once a mad bomber and an amiable dunce.

But we can be sure that the intelligent young Obama, son of a liberal anthropologist, got the point.

And where in his cloistered life from Ivy League to community organizing to liberal foundation governance to bare-knuckle Chicago politics would President Obama ever have heard anything about Margaret Thatcher, the grocer’s daughter, that was not accompanied by a sneer?

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Faith & Purpose

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Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


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Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

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