You are here:   Features > The Brexit cringe — Mrs T would say 'No!'

So how did all this work out in practice? Pretty well — as the British people recognised in three successive general elections. Not perfectly, of course. Perfection is not of this world. Indeed, one of the great strengths of Conservatism is that, in contrast to all the other “isms” that exist, it is the politics of imperfection. So where are we now, and what would Margaret Thatcher make of it?

It is safe to say that she would have been absolutely horrified by last May’s Conservative Party Manifesto (which, it has to be said, did not turn out to be a great success). Let me reproduce an extract from it:

We must reject the ideological templates provided by the socialist left and the libertarian right . . . Under the strong and stable leadership of Theresa May, there will be no ideological crusades. The government’s agenda will not be allowed to drift to the right . . . We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism.

A more explicit rejection of, and travesty of, Thatcherism it would be hard to imagine.

Leaving aside the unequivocal fact that free markets not only proved themselves superior to other forms of economic organisation during the Thatcher era, which saved this country when it was on the brink of disaster, but have done so around the world throughout history, it is worth spending a little time on precisely why this travesty is so pernicious and so wrong.

It is true that the free market is based on self-interest (including, incidentally, the interests of one’s family). But we should not condemn self-interest. It is rightly and inescapably inherent in human nature. And government in a free society would be impossible without it.

As far back as the 18th century, Adam Smith demonstrated how the market economy channels self-interest into public benefit. As he famously wrote:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but their self love.

And again:

Every individual . . . neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own gain, and he is . . . led as by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.
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April 5th, 2018
10:04 AM
Over at the Spectator it`s Red London looming for Labour and the tories bracing themselves for disaster in the local elections. Nick Cohen, Toby Young and Douglas Murray for the gulags then.

February 25th, 2018
3:02 PM
It does look like Corbyn is already getting the same mainstream media abuse as Trump. So Corbyn will be PM and for all the same reasons and unreasons that made Trump the President of the USA. Are the Tories really worried the Stalinist Labour voters will also want gulags for the Tories ? Brendan O`Neil at the Spectator thinks there`s a Stalinist Terror on the way for the UK. The Tories will end up like the failure Democrats. Unlike the Republican Party the UK Labour Party now has a proper manifesto (thanks to the Brexiteers).

February 7th, 2018
3:02 PM
Since Nigel Lawson quotes Adam Smith it may be pertinent to say that, to work properly, the Smithean Free Market model requires that all participants in a market be small in relation to one another. In a situation where, for example, 70% of retail trade in this country is dominated by four companies and 80% of vehicle manufacturing internationally by five, and 95% of internet services by two, the model breaks down. Instead, we have oligopoly. The number of major corporate scandals in the past 15 years demonstrates the enormity of such power and the manner in which it has become arrogant, corrupt and greedy beyond words. If the result of the free trade agenda has been (as in the USA) the wholesale off-shoring of our productive capacity, then something has been fundamentally wrong. Trade is fine, providing we trade at a profit. We don't, nor have done for decades.

February 5th, 2018
2:02 PM
The Tories have the worst `delusions of adequacy`. And express them. Just like Prince Charles. Every council house built is a vote for Labour so Thatcher gave tenants the right to buy and sell them to corrupt landlords who then triple the rent or resell at ten tines the price. And the Grenfell Towers tenants haven`t even been rehoused yet. The Chinese Communist Party are the best at` managing` capitalism so far, And #MeToo and #TimesUp have reached Islam. It`s popular culture and science that`s educating the world. The Labour Party is now part of popular culture.

Miklos Legrady
February 2nd, 2018
8:02 AM
it does sound like sovereign nation state are passé.

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