Sunday, March 12, 2006

To Margaret Thatcher: An Apology

This week marks the 25th anniversary of 364 economists signing a letter protesting about Margaret Thatcher's economic policies. I wonder if they'd all now like to sign a letter of apology. Thought not. The Sunday Times says that when MT was asked to publicly name two economists who supported her policies she said Patrick Minford and Alan Walters. When she returned to Downing Street one brave soul is supposed to have said to her: "Prime Minister, it's a good job you were not asked to name three!" I can imagine the withering look he got.

13 comments:

Jonathan Sheppard said...

I think the IEA have produced a pamphlet revisiting this very issue.

kinnockkid said...

what's to be sorry for? Let's remember what Mrs T gave us - the two worst recessions since the war. The first the deepest, the second the longest.

Perhaps she ought to consider apologising to the many millions of families who endured three million unemployment and 15.4% mortgage rates when she was in office.

And let's not forget that capping moment of economic triumph - joining the ERM just so she could get a cut in interest rates on the Friday of Labour Party conference.

Iain Dale said...

Kinnockkid (what a name...) You may remember that the Labour Party supported us joining the ERM. We were both wrong. As to the rest, like you, I obviously recall the splendid economy of the 1970s where inflation was 25% and the dead went unburied. It was that shambles which it took Margare Thatcher 10 years to put right. Even she would admit that not everything was perfect by the end of her term in office, but Britain was a far better place in 1989 than it was in 1979 - even you would have to admit that, surely.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

And the country was in such fine shape in 1979!

Anonymous said...

Kinnockkid - she also gave us periods of sustained growth, reformed the public sector and redistributed wealth on a grander scale than any pathetic labour government possibly could. It's just painful to watch this lot slowly undoing it all... so there can be no doubt there'll have to be another bout of mass unemployment to cure the exponential growth in the public sector and the excessive borrowings of Brown.

Lady Finchley said...

Mmm yes, kinockkid, because the 70's were so great - the UK was a complete joke and might as well have been a third world country. Methinks you are living in a parallel universe.

Anonymous said...

Redistributed Wealth?!?! Under Thatcher child poverty rocketed!

Iain Dale said...

anonymous, that's bollocks and you know it. And remind me, who was it who allowed council house tenants to buy their own homes? Surely one of the greatest acts of wealth redistribution ever. And who was it who made it possible for ordinary people to own shares?

Anonymous said...

How many of those economists would have signed a letter supporting the Labour alternative at the time? Not a lot.

That doesn't take away from the fact that a lot of mistakes were made in economic policy in the 1980s. In particular, monetary policy was too tight in the early 80s that the recession was far deeper than it needed to be (condemning huge numbers of actually very productive workers to long term unemployment and closing down perfectly viable industrial capacity). It then went to the other extreme and was too loose towards the end of the 80s, causing a resurgence in inflation and a second major recession in the early 1980s.

Now I broadly support the thrust of many of Thatcher's economic reforms (anti-inflationary and cutting income tax particularly for those on ludicrous rates at the top end) but it is a desperately rose-tinted view to see it as a golden age for economic policy. It was an era where the broad thrust was correct but serious errors were made in the execution (with real and terrible consequences for hard working men and women in certain industries who never fully recovered for the remainder of their working lives) which provide a lesson for the future.

BondWoman said...

If allowing tenants to buy their own houses was wealth redistribution it was surely not redistribution from the "haves" of society to the "have-nots", but a shift to the present generation by depriving the future generation of relatively easily accessible public sector rented accommodation. A trend which has merely been exacerbated by the rampant asset price/house price inflation which has been encouraged by both the last two governments.

BTW the very high visibility of pictures of ID on this redesigned blog makes me wonder just how far he now is proposing to take the cult of personality. Perhaps he can enlighten us.

Iain Dale said...

In order to have a cult of personality, you have to have a personality... as someone once said to me...

WhiteCrowUK said...

Nice use of Mrs Thatcher as your cover girl ...

What I'd like to know using what definitive proof would you conclude that Thatchers policies were an overall success?

I am just a scientist myself (much like the good lady) rather than an economist or politician, and so like to see a more reasoned argument to such a claim.

Obviously there is a lot of claim for and against her policies being an overall success depending on the indicators you choose. Meaning it can be quite subjective analysis.

That Thatchite policies have left an indelible mark on the countries economics though there can be no doubt ...

Anonymous said...

Actually, council house sales were happening well before Thatcher - she simply made the right to buy universal.

I'm not keen on Mrs T, but I must say all this blaming her for everything is ridiculous.

And "cult of personality"? My dear Bondwoman, pretentious babble is becoming your trademark.