The Iron Lady:
A Grocer's Daughter Who Mounted the World Stage
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 10, 2013
Summary: Like her or not, Margaret Thatcher was a global leader of far-reaching significance. She championed the free market. She promoted privatization. She opposed meaningless subsidies. She cut public spending. She led with an iron fist. Her influence was felt as far away as Taiwan. It marked the beginning of internationalization and liberalization.
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Like her or not, Margaret Thatcher was a global leader of far-reaching significance. She championed the free market. She promoted privatization. She opposed meaningless subsidies. She cut public spending. She led with an iron fist. Her influence was felt as far away as Taiwan. It marked the beginning of internationalization and liberalization.
Without the reforms implemented by Thatcher during her 12 years in office, London today would not be a global financial center. The UK economy would still be mired in labor confrontation and disparities in wealth. The skies over England would still be covered in gray smoke from its sunset industries. The "Iron Lady" stepped down as Prime Minister over 20 years ago. But she left behind massive changes. Since she passed away, her legacy has become increasingly clear with the passage of time.
She was the most noteworthy British Prime Minister of the past half-century. Born the daughter of a small town grocer, she acquired her father's honesty and integrity. She grew up in a small town filled with of hard-working citizens. Her experience in her father's grocery store inculcated in her a pragmatic economic outlook. Her experience made her different from Britain's aristocrats, who were born into wealth and received elite educations. She experienced no Original Sin. She felt no duty to engage in Noblesse Oblige. As a result, she could look at the "British disease" through different eyes. Union struggles paralyzed Britain for thirty years. She dealt with them with an iron fist. Her methods alarmed even her conservative comrades.
Thatcher's opponents often described her as an arbitrary leader "without compassion." When she served as Minister of Education she ordered the cancellation of free milk for elementary school students. This led to taunts of "milk snatcher." When she was prime minister her privatization policy led to a significant increase in unemployment. Unions denounced her as "the blind Prime Minister." But Britain faced a political, economic, and social dilemma. Were it not for this dedicated and decisive Prime Minister, national transformation would have been impossible. Britain would not be where it is today. From this perspective, allegations that she was "without compassion" were gross oversimplifications.
National leaders can be divided into three types. The first type has clear objectives, stands on the front line, leads the charge, and relentlessly advances. The second type stands on the front lines, rattles sabers, and shouts "Charge!" But deep down inside, lacks values and direction. Everything is mere show. The third type lacks direction, dares not stand on the front line and dares not shout "Charge!" and instead changes directions with the political winds. Thatcher was clearly the first type of leader.
Britain's left-wing media frequently criticized her. But even they admitted that her greatest virtue was that she did not care whether people liked her or not. Her liberalization and privatization led to massive changes in economic power and ownership. She defied the politcal currents, at great risk to her political career. In the process, Thatcher demonstrated consistency in her beliefs. As she saw it, only individual liberty could enable a nation to become great. She promoted systemic reform. She championed the individual's right to direct his own life. During Thatcher's 12 years in office, she never indulged any selfish desires or engaged in any cronyist practices.
As Britain's only female prime minister. Thatcher attracted more world attention than any prime minister before or after. She was resolute in her beliefs. She was straightforward and fair-minded in her reforms. She was closer to the common people than the critics who blasted her. She liked to quote Lincoln. "You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong." "You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich." It was her philosophy of life, acquired from her experience as a grocer's daughter.
Thatcher's 12 years of governance created prosperity. It facilitated economic and social transformation. It narrowed the gap between rich and poor. Alas, the legacy she left the Conservative Party was internal division. This was perhaps inevitable in the wake of a "strongman." It included her opposition to the expansion of the EU, which led to widespread opposition, and may have contributed to her stepping down. Whether her departure was a blessing or a curse remains difficult to determine. In any event, at the end of the Cold War, Thatcher's decisive actions enabled British capitalism to find its way out of the fog. It set an example for other countries. It even helped Mikhail Gorbachev lower the Iron Curtain and open the Soviet Union. These were achievements that cannot be ignored.
The grocer's daughter became an Iron Lady who mounted the world stage, who cast a giant shadow, and wrote her own page in history.
2013.04.10 02:03 am