More than anyone, it was the Left who did Margaret Thatcher the honour of giving her policies the coherence of an ideology by inventing the term ‘Thatcherism’. To a considerable extent this is a misnomer. Thatcher’s policies were simply the platform of the Reaganites, adapted to Britain. Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States in 1981, but long before this he had campaigned, as Governor of California, on a robustly free-market and anti-welfare agenda. This agenda sought to rol back the state, reducing its activities drastically by privatisation and deregulation. Private bodies, it was argued, subject to market forces, were better suited in virtually every case to produce positive results. Deregulation was meant to increase competition and release the creative energy of individuals. The encouragement of private businesses would further this process. For the same reasons, individuals should be weaned off welfare dependence and encouraged to provide for themselves. This implied measures to gradually reduce eligibility for state benefits, in order to get people back to work. Also important was the fight against inflation. Little, or preferably nil, inflation would encourage people to save and enhance confidence in the economic system. It was also part of this platform to proclaim ‘Victorian values’ — thrift, hard work, self-reliance and moral rectitude, though the arguments for the economic agenda were not necessarily dependent on these values.
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- The Thatcher Era, 1979–87
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