Your Lying Eyes

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09 April 2013

Maggie, RIP

Margaret Thatcher was the linchpin among a remarkable troika of leaders who led the West out of the wilderness of the 70's. With Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, she relentlessly rang the bell of freedom and stood firm against the Soviets and their agents in our midst to slay the beast once and for all. But Maggie had the tougher challenge. Her's was a nation that had embraced socialism after WWII. Its unions were led not by blue-collar traditionalists or mob-corrupted connivers like in the U.S. but by full-on apparatchiks - true believers. And England was economically a much worse than the U.S. - one of the poorest performing economies in western Europe.

And, unusual for a woman, she was a gifted leader - in Britain's rough-and-tumble parliamentary democracy, it's a pretty much required trait. Those who merely bubble-up through technocratic infighting - the Gordon Browns - are doomed to fail. In the U.S., perhaps only Sarah Palin has that quality - but her native talents are too meager to sustain her - but otherwise our female "leaders" are nepotistic pretenders (as are many of our male leaders, as well - a disturbing trend in the "land of opportunity." While Thatcher took the reins in 1979, her influence as opposition leader since the mid-70's was already laying the ground work for the Troika's triumph in the next decade. (See this amusing WFB column about Mrs. Thatcher from as early as 1975).

But still she lacked Reagan's charm and warmth. And few men have ever possessed the other-wordly magnetism and aura of JP2 - at least until that Soviet hitman's bullets ruptured it. That was only in his papacy's fourth year - but the damage was already done - the Kremlin's days were already numbered, so long as Margaret and Ron stayed the course, which of course they did. But to lead in Britain you need to be a top-notch debater, and no one was more relentless an advocate than Mrs. Thatcher. She simply overwhelmed her opposition with cold, implacable reality of the facts, reducing them to blubbering and unhinged invective. (As an example of the latter, there's the notorious Elvis Costello song, which is actually a pretty good number despite its hateful tone).

Their legacy has been tarnished of late, in a sense victims of their success. Both Thatcher and Reagan tirelessly promoted the free market against all manner of government interference as an antidote to socialist inroads. While they won that war, the triumphalism of the capitalists has left a bitter taste in the mouth. Worse, their disciples confused the misbehavior and bluster of assorted dictators for the same existential threat the Soviets presented and led us into one misadventure after another.

But we shouldn't let the excesses of her followers, or even the subsequent abuses of her free-market ideology, detract from her great achievement of reinvigorating a once-great nation that seemed to be slipping ineluctably into decrepitude and standing fast with Reagan and John-Paul against the encroachment of tyranny.


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