You are reading a rare, detailed account of everyday life in Stateville Prison.

Click to read Paul's blog quoted on:
To contact Paul, please email: paulmodrowski@gmail.com
or write him at the address shown in the right column. He will get your message personally.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Iron Lady -- April 13, 2013

This post is written in memory of Margaret Thatcher one of the most influential and resolute global leaders of the later 20th century. On Monday, the former prime minister of Britain died and no story I could tell about prison life could come close to matching her remarkable legacy. Immediately upon gaining power, she set upon a conservative revolution, crushing socialism at home and communism abroad. She almost single handedly saved her country from economic as well as social collapse busting up trade unions and dismantling the pervasive big government which was strangling the nation. While the sun seemed to be setting on the past British Empire, she reinvigorated patriotism, winning a decisive war with Argentina and becoming America's staunch ally in the defeat of the Soviet Union. The partnership of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan become an unstoppable force for freedom and moral fortitude in the Western world. Their leadership was a striking contrast to that which exists in the White House today and hopefully the loss of the Iron Lady is not yet another symbolic reminder of Western decline.

Margaret Thatcher was born in October of 1925 and grew up in the Lincolnshire town of Grantham in east England. Her father Alfred Roberts was a small shopkeeper but also a man of strong political convictions. These probably helped shape the future prime minister's beliefs in hard work, self reliance, fiscal responsibility, and unyielding integrity. Her academic achievements helped her secure various scholarships including one to Oxford where she earned degrees in chemistry and law. She was a laboratory researcher and a barrister before she became elected to parliament in 1959. The Tory Party eventually gave her a cabinet position in 1970 as secretary of state for education. The 1970's were a period of decadence, decline, and weak political leadership. It compelled Thatcher to challenge her party's leader, Ted Heath. She was overwhelmingly elected, however, she was unable to become prime minister until the conservatives gained control of parliament four years later in 1979.

For many years, the powerful trade unions were wreaking havoc on the English economy. They basically controlled the Labour Party and brought politicians to their knees demanding vast wages, benefits, jobs and favorable legislation. When they did not get what they wanted, the country was paralyzed with massive strikes and aggressive picketing strategies. England was in a worse state than modern Greece and if not for an enormous loan from the International Monetary Fund, would have collapsed. Thus, Margaret Thatcher's first order of business was taking away the unions' grip of control. Unlike her conservative predecessors, however, she succeeded by chipping away at their power in a series of laws. Simultaneously, she strengthened the police force and gave them new powers to stop the carnage of union protests. After weeks of brutal fighting and even some loss of life, the two strongest unions were defeated. With the miners and printers capitulation, the other unions surrendered.

Unions were only one part of the problem in England. Nearly every major sector of the economy was owned by the government. The state controlled the coal industry, airline, automobile, telephone, rail, oil, steel and more. The government accounted for an incredible one third of the country's workforce. Like most state-owned companies, these were incompetently run and an enormous burden on the public. Society was forced to accept the inefficiencies and poor service as well as the enormous debt accumulated. Despite fierce opposition and rioting from those who lived off the government, the prime minister enacted widespread privatization. State-owned businesses were sold off to the public helping Britain pay off its debts and turning them into profitable corporations.

Margaret Thatcher was a strong believer in the free market. Economists such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman contributed greatly to her policies. Friedman is abhorred by socialists because of his espousal of little to no government interference. Some people love the free handouts and safety nets of government. They are fearful of having to sink or swim on their own merits. The social Darwinist tone of free market capitalism, however, is the best system to efficiently allocate resources, grow the economy, and pull everyone up. Britain's economy under the leadership of Thatcher rebounded and debts were paid off. Gross domestic product grew over 5% and deficits were turned into surpluses. Over half of all European investment was being sent to the country and it rose to the fourth largest economy in the world.

I have read some of Milton Friedman's work and agree with most of it, however, there are caveats. In the 21st century, there is vastly more international trade. Other countries do not play by the same rules and can take advantage of free markets. China, for example, subsidizes its industries, manipulates its currency, has wage controls, and dumps products on Western economies. There are also not the same quality control standards and the Chinese have no problem selling the U.S. poisoned food, toys painted with lead, or products with dangerous chemicals. China's state owned enterprises benefit from government and corporate espionage. Furthermore, while China is free to enter U.S. markets, U.S. companies are restricted and harassed. The U.S., Britain and other Western countries must protect their economies from this abuse as well as assert our own mercantilist policies.

Massive deregulation made London into a financial powerhouse. However, a decade later this was the powder-keg which helped blow up the economy in 2008. In America and across Europe one of the worst recessions ensued. Much of this was due to Europe's excessive social spending, but financial institutions had been allowed to grow too big with little oversight. All capitalist systems can be threatened by bubbles and excessive exuberance. No business should be permitted to dominate a market or be "too big to fail." Thus why there are anti-trust laws. I am glad the Obama administration has toughened the enforcement of these, but incredibly there is no plan to bust up the biggest banks which are now even larger than before the crisis. Even Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have not been liquidated and are still government controlled.

The Labour government, which was in power before Margaret Thatcher, tried to rev up the ailing economy with massive spending. Like most liberals they believe printing money and throwing it at problems is the cure-all solution. The new prime minister would have none of this and ushered in a policy of fiscal responsibility and austerity. The growth in the money supply was curbed, interest rates were increased, and concessions to the unions for lavish salaries ended. Inflation which had soared to almost 25% was brought down to 5%, albeit rising towards the end of Thatcher's Tory led government. Fortunately for the U.S., inflation is relatively low except for energy and food and the Federal Reserve has been able to get away with printing $85 billion of new money per month and keeping interest rates at almost zero. However, this stimulus will eventually come back to haunt the U.S. It has warped the markets to such a degree to hide the fundamental failings of the economy that it will most certainly have terrible consequences in the future. Furthermore, the $17 trillion debt the Fed and White House have racked up will eventually have to be paid.

Margaret Thatcher's answer to economic recessive and massive debt was not more socialism, spending, or higher taxes. Contrarily, she was committed to conservative reform. Conservatism was central to her ideology and she held steadfast to these principles throughout her time in office. The government's confiscation of 83 pounds for every 100 earned on Britain's most wealthy and an incredible 98% tax on investment or other income was capped at 40%. Currency, prices and wage controls were done away with and public expenditures which were nearly 45% of GDP were brought down sharply. Britain which had been a socialist basketcase in the 70s was brought back from the brink of disaster by the resolve of Thatcher.

The Soviet Union nicknamed Margaret Thatcher "The Iron Lady" to emphasize her unwillingness to compromise. However, it was her strong conviction and fortitude which allowed her to win over the public. Unlike most politicians that blow in the wind, she was steadfast. She did not believe in wavering to public opinion and is famous for saying such things as "I am not a consensus politician. I am a conviction politician" or "the lady's not for turning." In an age when most politicians alter rhetoric, tone, or policy based on continuous public polling, she did not. Whether one agreed or disagreed with Margaret Thatcher, she was a respected politician. All too often I have contemplated how direct democracy has led to the decline of Western civilization. The empowerment of the ignorant masses,  or what Rush Limbaugh would call the "low informed voter," through universal suffrage and structural changes to representative government have weakened America and nations throughout Europe. The British have a House of Lords which once was a check on the public whims and the uninformed who had base beliefs and values. In America, the senate was supposed to serve as this function with senators being elected from state representatives instead of directly by the public. The president as well was supposed to be chosen by members of congress from each state. Despite how these mob rule safeguards have been dismantled, the Iron Lady was able to push through painful reforms with her strong and inspiring leadership.

The British Empire which had collapsed after two disastrous world wars and public aversion at home from a civil rights and hippie era movement was still a source of great loss amongst many in the country. The invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina in April 1982 seemed to be just yet another defeat that would have to be accepted. The rocky and frigid islands were only home to about 1,800 Britons and had little value, but had great psychological meaning. After watching her country dwindle in power economically and militarily for decades, Margaret Thatcher was adamant in stopping its decline. She quickly declared war and by June the Argentinean military was defeated and islands secured. England suffered hundreds of casualties and the loss of six ships, but it was worth it. She restored the pride of Britain and showed the world it was prepared to fight.

Most Americans probably remember Margaret Thatcher for her unwavering alliance with the U.S. against the Soviet Union. Former President Ronald Reagan had a conservative partner across the Atlantic to take on the oppressive communist regime. While most of continental free Europe was apathetic, pacifist, social democracies unwilling to do battle with their looming giant to the east, Britain was an invaluable ally in ending the cold war. Thatcher helped the U.S. challenge the expansion of communism around the world. Largely the prime minister helped by her scathing public rebuke of the Soviet Union and vocal support of destroying what Ronald Reagan called "The Evil Empire." Even in private she was unabashed and brutally frank even amusingly telling Mikhail Gorbachev after welcoming him to England that she hates communism. Eventually, the Soviet Union would be squeezed to the breaking point and imploded in 1989. Western civilizations greatest nemesis was defeated and hundreds of millions of people in east Europe were free from the brutal, oppressive communist government.

Margaret Thatcher was the longest serving prime minister of Britain winning three general elections and not stepping down until 1990. The conservative revolution of the 1980s has a special significance for me and I am sure many others who grew up during the same era. Twenty years after my arrest, however, I find society and the leadership out of the White House totally foreign. Instead of free market capitalism, Barack Obama seeks to impose the socialism Thatcher and Reagan so vehemently opposed. Rather than reduce taxes and debt, the current president has done the opposite. Some people in the U.S. are forced to fork over half their income to the federal government and this still does not placate the redistributionist left wing radical. The debt, despite the sequester continues to rise and will most certainly go over $20 trillion before the end of his tenure. He also cares more about gay marriage than Americans 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. In foreign policy, he pats himself on the back for killing Osama bin Laden, while much of North Africa and the Middle East is in a quagmire. Finally, he shows no resolve in fighting the menace of Red China or its nuclear war threatening ally North Korea. Unfortunately, America does not have the Iron Lady as its leader. Her passing is a loss for not only Britain, but all of Western Civilization.

7 comments:

  1. I have a higher opinion of her, after reading your work....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Another wonderful post! Thanks Paul for the information told in a way most can understand. I also have a higher opinion of Thatcher now that I know more about all she stood for and accomplished. I was very upset to learn that Pres. Obama pretty much ignored her death and funeral. What an insult to our great friends in Europe. He's pathetic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad you enjoyed my post about Margaret Thatcher. I had plans to write at greater length in that post, but did not know if it would maintain blog readers' interest. Most of the time, I write about prison and I just had to take a break from the subject. Writing about my life regularly can be boring and very depressing.

      Delete
    2. Paul, you can probably tell by the trail of comments I've left that I've been making my way through your blog. Since I started reading, I've been thinking about how important your blog is. Thank you for sharing.

      Delete
    3. YG: Yes, I have noticed your trail of comments. I appreciate your remarks and am glad you find the blog posts interesting. When you have finished going through them all, I would like to know which one(s) you thought were the best and worst, as well as why. You can email me at paulmodrowski@gmail.com

      Delete
    4. PAUL U BETTER NO QUIT

      Delete
  3. I guess the first rule of Paul's blog is he gets to write about whatever he wants. England's claim to the Faulkland Islands is about as legitimate as Spain wanting the Florida Keys back. Stay strong Paul.

    ReplyDelete

If you choose Name / URL, you can write any name and you don't need a URL. Or you can choose Anonymous. Paul loves getting your Comments. They are all mailed to him.