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Freedoms Thatcher helped create boosted UK economy

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Saturday, April 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Loved by many, hated by some, but respected by most, Margaret Thatcher was one of the most important leaders of the 20th century.

Queen Elizabeth I and Winston Churchill gave their names to eras. Uniquely, the former prime minister, who died this past week, gave hers to a political philosophy: “Thatcherism.” America, Europe and the world are in dire need today of leadership of the caliber she exhibited.

Many politicians “talk the talk,” but it is rare to find statesmen such as Ronald Reagan and Thatcher, who deliver on their promises and lift their nations from decline for the benefit of all.

Thatcher's policies devolved from freedom. She fought for freedom from foreign aggression, excessive taxation, stultifying regulation and the abuse of union and monopoly power. To her, these were not just words. To achieve such aims in a socialist quagmire of economic decline required enormous dedication, courage and self-sacrifice.

This freedom gave rise in the United Kingdom to an explosion of enterprise. Previously awash in debt, under Thatcher the United Kingdom experienced a debt repayment schedule.

As a member of Parliament throughout the “Thatcher years,” never will I forget the gasps of shock in the House of Commons that greeted Thatcher's reduction of the top rate of income tax from 92 percent to 60 percent, and finally to 40 percent. This was followed not by a reduction in foreign-exchange controls but their complete abolition.

Thatcher introduced democracy to the trades-union movement. She adopted my amendment to introduce a requirement for a secret ballot of union members before industrial action could be taken. She outlawed so-called “flying pickets” that could close unrelated companies. The result was that many trades unionists supported her to give her three record-breaking election victories.

Thatcher did more than just remove the monopoly power of state-owned corporations. She privatized their ownership so they became owned genuinely by members of the public rather than by the government. In addition, she ensured that the enormous powers of these newly privatized entities did not overwhelm the new competition with so-called “loss-leader” bids.

In the case of British Telecom (BT), for example, Thatcher organized “Offtel” to umpire the bidding as the airways were freed up. In the first several rounds of contract bids, Offtel precluded BT from bidding. This gave smaller companies such as Vodaphone bidding access into this lucrative industry. This incubation of smaller companies led to a blossoming of high-tech activity and employment.

In London, Thatcher instituted negotiated commissions and opened the ownership of stock exchange membership to foreign institutions. Known there as the “Big Bang,” this enabled London to attract American and other international ownership to regain its position as a pre-eminent financial center.

Thatcher shook the United Kingdom into enterprise and prosperity. She was brought down in a sea of political blood knee deep — not by the people or by her party in elections. Like Caesar, it was an orgy of treachery by her closest lieutenants.

After leaving office, Thatcher enjoyed a lucrative public speaking career but largely stayed out the public view in her later years after suffering from dementia. Britain's economy has since declined markedly.

John Browne, a former member of Britain's Parliament, is a financial and economics columnist for Total Trib Media. Email him at

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