Monday, April 8, 2013

To Americans, Margaret Thatcher stood for free markets and free people

by Anne Applebaum

Daily Telegraph

April 8, 2013

In America, we didn’t know about the miners’ strike, and I suspect that if we had, we might not have cared. We were mystified by the poll tax riots. We were bemused by the Falklands war – where are the Falklands, anyway? – and lukewarm about Britain’s fights with Europe. We like the idea of Europe, after all; we are in favour of having European allies, as we call them, and we are under the impression that Britain is one of them. So why shouldn’t you all just get along?

I am simplifying here, but only somewhat, because the American view of Margaret Thatcher is simplistic – but, I would argue, in the best possible sense. Without knowing the ins and outs of British politics, without really understanding the dynamic that brought her to power in the first place, without fully comprehending or, frankly, even caring about the nuances of her domestic agenda, many Americans appreciated her value as a symbol.

In American eyes, or at least in the eyes of those on the centre and centre-Right, she represented a set of ideals: freedom, anti-communism and the transatlantic alliance. She stood by Ronald Reagan in his battle against the Evil Empire. She used the same language as he did – free markets, free people – and entered into a unique public partnership with him. There has been nothing like it since: Clinton-Blair, Blair-Bush, Obama-Cameron, none of them endorsed one another with the same mutual enthusiasm. They saw one another’s flaws and they differed on small and large issues – as is normal between politicians of very different countries – and in public, these differences sometimes did (and still do) show.