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If Thatcher championed laissez-faire market freedom, how come England suffered one of her greatest depressions under Thatcher's rule? How come unemployment increased 3x under her politics? How come there was no increase in economic growth compared to the 60s and 70s? ...why is her track record so bad if she followed so many free market principles?

Free market theories make a lot of sense to me, but it would be nice to have some historical examples of them actually being effective.

Thanks for explanations.

Some data:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/datablog/2013/apr/08/britain-changed-margaret-thatcher-charts http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.ch/2013/04/uk-real-per-capita-gdp-19192001-where.html

there are many more links such as these.

asked Mar 18 '15 at 17:32

Reg's gravatar image


Margaret Thatcher's thinking fell more in line with the likes of Milton Friedman, who did indeed support lower taxes, less regulations, and a general belief in the idea that every individual should have a right to his own life. The alleged results of such thinking are not directly her fault. If I am a citizen in the UK, it is still my responsibility to find a job and support myself. If I can't, for whatever reason, how is that her fault? Also, Margaret Thatcher dealt with a very loud and obnoxious opposition that tried to undo everything she wanted to do.

(Mar 19 '15 at 09:04) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

Also, a truly free market economy has unfortunately never existed before, so any "historical" examples are not available to you.

(Mar 19 '15 at 09:05) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

Hey these answers don't rally work. If free market policies are effective, they should show results to the degree of their implementation. If the theories only apply if 100% executed it wouldn't be such a great idea. It should be gradual: the freer the market, the richer the country. Under Thatcher England was freer than under the labour regime, so why wasn't it better off economically as well, to the degree of increased freedom?

The answer "people didn't chose to work" is such a copout!

(Mar 20 '15 at 14:56) Reg Reg's gravatar image

It's not the job of the government to prevent economic depressions, only to stop causing them.

(Mar 21 '15 at 06:29) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"The abolition of slavery makes a lot of sense to me, but it would be nice to have some historical examples of it actually being effective."

Consenting adults have the right to contract freely. People have the right to keep what they earn without having it taken away by taxes. Measuring the rate of unemployment on a national basis isn't bad in itself, but deciding whether or not to continue to violate these rights for the sake of keeping/making the rate of unemployment low is evil.

My opinion is that this sort of collectivist/utilitarian question shouldn't even be answered.

(Mar 23 '15 at 07:46) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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This question focuses most heavily (and negatively) on the record of Britain's economic history during the term of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister. But there is another far more significant aspect of this question:

Free market theories make a lot of sense to me, but it would be nice to have some historical examples of them actually being effective.

Britain under Margaret Thatcher is a poor historical example to select because Britain was and still is a thoroughly socialist country (to my knowledge). When a country mixes socialism with limited elements of freedom, it can be a major challenge to identify which elements were most responsible for producing any given result. The two references cited in the question do very little that I could find to identify exactly what supposedly free-market policies Margaret Thatcher actually advocated, to what degree they were actually implemented, and who was most responsible for attempting to implement those policies or attempting to defeat them. According to the specifics mentioned in the Wikipedia article on Margaret Thatcher, her term as Prime Minister would have to be evaluated as very mixed at best toward free markets and the freedom of production and trade in general.

In a comment, the questioner asserts:

If free market policies are effective, they should show results to the degree of their implementation.

This assertion doesn't take into account the problem of mixtures of good and evil and the relative strengths of the conflicting elements. Some very minor token good elements can easily be swamped by a long-standing and rising, massive tide of evil. A truly definitive evaluation of Margaret Thatcher's legacy would need to examine all of her policies, the degree to which they were actually implemented or were opposed and defeated, and their actual results. Broad-brush statistical data by itself doesn't do this.

For far better historical examples of free markets in actual operation, the most significant example to examine is the U.S. during the latter half of the nineteenth century, as Ayn Rand does in her book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (CUI). A fully free society did not exist even in the U.S., but the U.S. came very close to it during that period. CUI even includes an extensive list of references for further reading.

Ayn Rand's basic politico-economic thesis all along was well stated in her earlier book, For the New Intellectual (FNI, p. 53 in an edition in which the title essay spans pp. 10-57):

Let them both [businessmen and intellectuals] discover the nature, the theory and the actual history of capitalism; both groups are equally ignorant of it. No other subject is hidden by so many distortions, misconceptions, misrepresentations and falsifications. Let them study the historical facts and discover that all the evils popularly ascribed to capitalism were caused, necessitated and made possible only by government controls imposed on the economy. Whenever they hear capitalism being denounced, let them check the facts and discover which of the two opposite political principles—free trade or government controls—was responsible for the alleged iniquities. When they hear it said that capitalism has had its chance and has failed, let them remember that what ultimately failed was a "mixed" economy, that the controls were the cause of the failure, and that the way to save a country is not by making it swallow a full, "unmixed" glass of the poison which is killing it.

Mixed systems constitute an attempt to strike a compromise between good principles and bad principles. But principles do not stand still; they grow and evolve over time unless they are effectively opposed. Ayn Rand discusses this in some detail in her article, "The Anatomy of Compromise," in CUI. A brief excerpt can be found in The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Compromise," along with numerous other related excerpts by Ayn Rand. A definitive evaluation of historical examples of free markets would need to examine how the principles of compromise operated, not just "bottom-line" benefit or harm to the lives of those affected.

answered Mar 21 '15 at 23:53

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

edited Mar 21 '15 at 23:59

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Asked: Mar 18 '15 at 17:32

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Last updated: Mar 23 '15 at 07:56