Margaret Thatcher is dead; discompassionate material greed lives on

“If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” This is a famous quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher which alludes to the mindset of an individual who is able to single-mindedly exert an opinion and get things done in a particular way, regardless of what others think or the obstacles that they may put in her way.

In an ideological leader, as Margaret Thatcher was, this is certainly a very commendable attribute since it allows a person to make things happen on the basis of an ideological viewpoint without making compromises that dampen the effect of the initial idea.

In this light, the collective policies that Margaret Thatcher imposed, and that have been termed Thatcherism, could best be described as an attempt to implement a particular form of Capitalism without having to compromise to Socialists, trade unionists or indeed anybody else who happened to hold a differing view.

For this reason, a look at the policies that were implemented by Margaret Thatcher provides an insight into the effect of her view of Capitalism on society, and further illustrates the emphasis that Capitalism, when implemented discompassionately,  places on economic indicators for growth, and the few people that this benefits, at the expense of the effects on the whole of the population upon which it is imposed.

The example of Margaret Thatcher taking on the trade unions is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Margaret Thatcher’s rule. The trade unions definitely needed to be reined in, since they exerted so much of an influence that they could easily stall production in factories and leave kids without schooling for days on end, but the more significant motive that made them targets for the full force of the ire of Margaret Thatcher was so as to remove them as obstacles that they were in the way of making the labour workforce a more fluid entity that could respond better to the whims of the financial markets and other economic pressures.

Key planks of this thinking were that it was a necessity to be able to get more productivity out of workers, reduce their entitlements and to make it easier to fire them when they were not needed. The resulting changes were initially mostly felt with the destruction of the large mining communities in the North of England, leaving many thousands of workers idle and unproductive and areas that once flourished with activity desolate.

The flipside to this was that where there was money to be made by the most profitable business sectors by those closest to the leading political party the path was greased to allow the financial accumulation to occur by removing such perceived unnecessary obfuscations as regulations, responsibility and common sense.

Whilst it is correctly argued that the current economic downturn in the United Kingdom is directly attributable, at least in part, to the financial deregulation that occurred during the Thatcher years, it is telling to note that it occurred with such ease and was largely unopposed. The odds are stacked against skilled industrial workers whose talents are suddenly deemed economically unfashionable and who will find it difficult to re-skill and find employment elsewhere but for those who had the ear of, and provided financial support to, the leading political elite it was much easier to get a concession or two in their favour.

The right-to-buy of council houses provided an opportunity for the aspirational to buy from the social housing stock. There is nothing wrong with being aspirational, but couple this with rabid individualism and material greed then the formula turns nasty; community spirit breaks down and the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. By the time of her resignation 28% of the children in Britain were considered to be living below the poverty line, this is despite Margaret Thatcher being credited with reviving the British economy (a revival which was greatly helped by windfall profits from North Sea oil and privatisations).

Regardless of the impression that people have of Margaret Thatcher as a person there is a unanimous conclusion that can be reached which is that in retrospect there are a few aspects of her tenure that can objectively be seen to be detrimental to the well-being of the needs of people. These aspects, such as financial deregulation, destruction of industrial communities and the elevation of individualism and material greed at the expense of societal cohesion, had a huge and lasting detrimental effect on large swathes of the British population.

Given the single-minded, materialistic ethos behind Thatcherism perhaps it is fitting that today she should be afforded a £10 million pound state funeral instead of allowing that money to go towards 322 nurses, 272 secondary school teachers, or 320 fire officers or some other utility that would benefit larger numbers of people and contribute more towards the well-being of society?