Sean Gabb, of the UK Libertarian Alliance, offers a fairly acidic take on the late Baroness Thatcher.

Gabb’s bottom line: Thatcher was an authoritarian and a corporatist. He offers multiple examples of her hostility to civil liberties and notes that she didn’t seem to have received the memo about the distinction between being pro-business and being pro-market:

Her encouragement of enterprise never amounted to more than a liking for big business corporatism. Genuine enterprise was progressively heaped with taxes and regulations that made it hard to do business. Big business, on the other hand, was showered with praise and legal indulgences. Indeed, her privatisation policies were less about introducing competition and choice into public services than in turning public monopolies into corporate monsters pampered by the State with subsidies and favourable regulations – corporate monsters that were expected in return to lavish financial rewards on the political class.

While I am a free speech absolutist, I doubt that Thatcher’s tightening of “the laws constraining free speech about race and immigration” was anything like the worst of her sins. I don’t suppose  that unions are all hotbeds of violent thuggery. And of course I would add criticisms to Gabb’s list. Thatcher’s militarism—consider the Falklands war and her support for Bush 41’s Gulf War—is further reason to see her as a foe rather than a friend of liberty, for instance. And her privatization program hardly involved the kind of radical handover of state enterprises and other state assets acquired with stolen funds to workers and community members that I’d be inclined to favor.

Some libertarians are touched by the fact that Thatcher praised Hayek and identified The Constitution of Liberty as a source of useful guidance. I am inclined to view her praise for Hayek as on roughly the same level as Ronald Reagan’s famous willingness to photographed reading The Freeman. I have no burden to argue that everything Thatcher did was an instance of unmitigated evil—the world is always messier than Manichæans would have us believe. But it is difficult to see her as any sort of libertarian hero. She was first and foremost and foremost a defender of order—of state power and of the continuing authority of various traditional social institutions she happened to favor—rather than of liberty.

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  • Sergio Mendez

    I agree totally, with a little difference concerning the Falklans. The british were fighting a defensive war there, so I fail to see it as some form of militarism or imperialistic adventure.

    • Jonny

      I think Argentina’s claim to the Falkland’s isn’t particularly strong but am just posting to offer some additional information for thought.

      Consider a barren, unpopulated island that exists 25 miles off the cost of Montserrat and belongs to that country. A second country arrives with 50 of its citizens who build houses and live there.

      50 years later a dispute arises over ownership of the island, a referendum is held and 49 vote to wish to remain citizens of the second country. The result is held up as offering legitimacy to the second nation’s claim to the island.

      This isn’t an exact analogy to what happened with the Falklands but just a questioning of whether it truly was a defensive war and whether the recent referendum is as relevant as some might think.

      • The Other Side

        The Falklands case really isn’t very complicated. The British took over the islands in 1833 and had unbroken sovereignty since then. The only people who have ever lived there permanently have considered themselves British. Now, the only way to argue they belong to Argentina is to argue that: a) all lands appropriated since 1833 should be returned to their owner at that time regardless of the wishes of the inhabitants, and that b) Argentina had a legitimate claim on them in the first place.

        You can argue those two things but you will then need to redraw your map of the world quite heavily and upset an awful lot of real people for the sake of something which is in any case a bit abstract and arbitrary (why 1833 and not 1492 for example).

        • Sean II

          You forgot a few perfectly good reasons to take Argentina’s side in the Falklands dispute. Namely…

          c) Because the essence of being a hip libertarian is to figure out what a conservative would say, then always say the opposite.

          d) Because the essence of being a Bleeding Heart Libertarian is to parrot what leftists say on non-economic issues, in the vain hope that they’ll somehow forget the supremacy of economic issues among their own priorities, and then become our best friends.

          (NOTE: In territorial disputes, leftists always favor the suit of the least free or least civilized claimant.)

          e) Because the straightforward account of things is just so boring, while taking counter-intuitive positions is edgy and fun.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            You are on a roll.

          • http://www.facebook.com/sergio.mendez.372661 Sergio Méndez

            Sean II:

            Although I supported the British in the war in the Falklands, I think your points deserve an answer:

            c) Conservatives are almost always wrong about everything. Don´t blame us if it became a reflex to contradict them :o)

            d) Leftists are usually right about economic ills, for the wrong reasons (so they prescribe wrong solutions).

            e) I didn´t knew that the conservative position on anything was the intuitive side of things. Maybe for people with conservative tendencies, but then intuition is a poor replacement for reason or logic.

            On your note…well, the wars of imperialistic powers like the British of the US are hardly of a defensive, territorial nature. The Falklands being a notable exception.

          • Sean II

            I think you misunderstood e). That’s not a left-right thing. I was taking a swipe at the academic process, with its endless search for new approaches to old questions (which works out great when the questions are interesting, and which yields hilarious folly when the questions are dull). For example…picture 10 Ph.D. candidates passing through the same English program in 10 consecutive years, writing 10 highly contentious theses:

            Thesis 1: Shakespeare was a genius.
            Thesis 2: Shakespeare was a hack.
            Thesis 3: Shakespeare was a genius and a hack.
            Thesis 4: No, he really was a genius
            Thesis 5: Hack!
            Thesis 6: Forget that, he was really Marlowe
            Thesis 7: Wrong! He was actually four different women.
            Thesis 8: Shakespeare was a gay genius.
            Thesis 9: Shakespeare was a gay hack.
            Thesis 10: There is no Shakespeare.

            At a certain point, when you’re trying like hell to be interesting, the plain and obvious truth becomes your enemy.

          • matt b

            I’m not sure who exactly does this, Sean. Last time I checked, the majority of libertarians spent 2012 going Wayne Allyn Root on Obama’s “socialist tyranny” and even flirting with the idea that Romney was the savior. Indeed, while most libertarians haven’t quite jumped into the bed with the right they’re there at last call getting cozy. So maybe there’s just not a lot of “hip libertarians” who bash the right all the time but I would say that the essence of BHL is not to just agree with the left on non-economics. I would point to Teson on foreign policy, the defense of many BHLs of gun rights, and finally I would point to the fact that while there is a lot of agreement on non-economics this is kind of true of libertarians generally. Ask your average Rand fan what his views are on abortion, the drug war, marriage equality, and immigration and he will line up fairly well with a lot of people on the left.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I think that in many contexts the use of the terms “left” and “right” sows far more confusion than clarity. If you are going to say things like this: “Indeed, while most libertarians haven’t quite jumped into the bed with the right they’re there at last call getting cozy,” I think you should carefully define your terms. On what issues specifically are libertarians getting “cozy with the right”? Why are these positions “right”?

            As I am sure you realize, your position on humanitarian interventions will most certainly been seen by a majority of people commenting here and perhaps by libertarians generally as irrefutable evidence that you are a neo-fascist, neo-con, right-wing nut job. Are you comfortable with being on the “right” in foreign policy? Is this use of this term by your ideological foes fair and accurate? Is yours?

          • matt b

            I’ll start at the end and say that when I dine with Richard Perle we talk about how we’re going to conscript Fallon to fight a war for Israel ’cause that’s us evil neocons are all about. Haha. His attempt to paint me as a neocon entertains me. I don’t think most people even know what a neocon is and I aprpeciate your points more broadly. I actually consider myself a Kennedy Democrat on foreign policy. I really do believe in using American might to promote traditional American ideals and I do resent the way that gets you labeled a vicious imperialist in libertarian circles. So you’re right to demand that we define our terms clearly. Let me do so: when I say “cozy” what I am refering to is the general chumminess between libertarians and conservatives. For example. the way Ed Crane at Cato spent years talking about the glorious Goldwater-Reagan legacy (I actually like Goldwater) without mentioning Reagan’s authoritarian social policies. I would also point to the way that libertarians generally talk about left-wing economic policies in the language of liberty versus tyranny but rarely talk about right-wing social policies in the same sense. See Hayek’s chumminess with Thatcher and Friedman’s chumminess with Reagan and the Republican Party (and I adore both those guys but it’s still problematic). Also consider the fact that libertarians write far more for right wing publications on economics than on left wing publications on non-economic issues. It’s just a general sense I find of “the right are our friends, we just need to sort out their views on a few issues and the left is dangerous.” I think this has a lot to do with the fact that a lot of libertarians are fairly well off white guys and naturally view taxes and regulation as more liberty limiting than anti-gay or anti-immigrant positions. Talk to libertarians in red states we’re the state is really trying to impose theocracy-lite and you get a more critical view.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Fair enough. I would only suggest that maybe “social conservative” is a less confusing term than “right-wing” when it comes to social issues. In this context I am not sure what “right” refers to. If the “right” wing position on abortion is that life begins at conception, then (consistently) the left wing position must be to support infanticide. Before dismissing the last comment as crazy right-wing rhetoric, read this: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/2013/04/09/planned_parenthood039s_defense_of_infanticide_305403.html. Murray Rothbard has flirted with this view, as has Peter Singer, but I am not sure that it is a “leftist” position, nor that the other extreme is usefully called “right-wing.”

          • matt b

            You raise a lot of good points about labels like left and right Mark, I liked your line in the previous post about sowing confusion rather than clarity. I think Thiessen is a totally egregious Republican hack so I’ll have to pass on the link but I’ll listen to you :)

          • Fallon

            You already conscript my coin and conscience, why not finish the job? After all, you are the self-anointed Decider of the Next Humanitarian Intervention That Self-Evidently Justifies the Destruction of Individual Rights And Conscience As Means To Ends.

            What special powers you have.

          • Fallon

            Your hyperbole defeats you.
            That diatribe was loaded with hard facts and pertinent questions. MB wishes to perpetuate the myth of humanitarian intervention. I called him on it. He has no answers to the presentation of realistic and complex history accept that of a useful idiot. Fine, if he is that ignorant. If not, libertarianism (was?) is defined by a distinct rejection of Machiavellianism in foreign policy. Or libertarianism means nothing.

          • les kyle Nearhood

            Once again, I really do not see this supposed support for ending the drug war from the left. Sure maybe the old hippy left or perhaps a few academics, but I never hear a peep about it from, you know, the left talking heads or the politicians.

          • matt b

            You make some important points. The failure of most left wing politicians and talking heads to raise the drug war is shameful and hugely objectionable. But, by the same token, how many right wing pols and talking heads do you hear calling for, say, ending Medicare and Social Security or ending entire departments or ending occupational licensing or ending farm susbidies. Instead they talk about ending foreign aid. Oh so tough. Cause we spend so much money on that. So yes the left is generally not great on an issue they really should be good on but the right is really not great on issues they should be good on. Oddly enough, it’s the hard left that is most vocal on this with the nation and mother jones far more likely than say the new republic to write stories on the drug war.

          • les kyle Nearhood

            Well I agree, You come out of the left and I come from the right but we both have pretty much just disgust for the gap in rhetoric and deeds from both sides.

          • les kyle Nearhood

            Once again you hit the nail right on the head.

  • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

    Thanks, Gary. I don’t know enough about the details of Thatcher’s regime to weigh in with much of substance. But it seems to me that Gabbs’ comments are a useful counterbalance to some of the effusive praise that’s been emanating from libertarians and conservative corners today.

    Also useful (characteristically so), are Glenn Greenwald’s remarks.

    • matt b

      An excellent point Matt which goes back to the talk you gave to SFL about libertarianism and the left. So long as libertarians praise right wing politiicans as defenders of liberty and say “socialist” anytime a left-wing politicians name comes up we are going to be grouped in with the right and that’s not something that even a lot of the con symp libertarians want.

    • http://www.facebook.com/barry.macleodcullinane Barry Macleod-Cullinane

      Hi Matt,

      Reading Mr. Gabb’s unreasonably negative critique of Lady Thatcher, one comes, quickly, to the conclusion that he singularly misses the point when discussing her achievements and her legacy – and an endorsement of his critique runs enormous risks for the Bleeding Heart Libertarian project.

      Why? Because critics like Mr. Gabb appear to blame her for being the successful politician that she was. There is an apparent refusal to accept that Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, who led the Conservatives to three General Election victories against a backdrop of significant economic, social and cultural upheaval, a politician who inspired with word and deed those who would throw off the shackles of the state in the West or behind the Iron Curtain, might be someone whose life and achievements Conservatives and libertarians the world over might wish to celebrate and give thanks for.

      Mrs. Thatcher was a consummate politician; whilst she was clearly driven by a unwavering belief in how greater individual freedom and greater personal responsibility would enrich and strengthen a nation’s prosperity and lift the level of its social welfare, Mrs. Thatcher was also enough of a realist to understand the needs of political expediency. Mrs. Thatcher well understood the not so simple matter of winning elections; and she clearly grasped that the politically feasible is not the same as the ideologically pure – and, as importantly, that the ideologically pure may not be the best option for successful public policy. Indeed, there seems to be a perennial divide between those wanting to achieve even modest steps in the direction of greater liberty and those that want to “remain true to their principles”, aloof, untainted and remote from reality and the dirty world of politics – and with as much influence on the political structures that dominate and order our lives. Should we sit in our armchairs and gesture and rage impotently at some “sell-out” of the Cause rather than admit that some politician has taken even a small step towards greater freedom? And what of Mrs. Thatcher? She took many, many giant steps towards making ours a freer country and freer world – and a more prosperous one to boot.

      Politicians need to win elections to be in a position to implement policies; and Mrs. Thatcher did that repeatedly. Sure, some of the policy decisions she took were not very libertarian – but many moved the policy debate in the direction of greater freedom and personal responsibility. Mr. Gabb’s critique suffers for the very reason that he appears unwilling to admit her successes. The sale of council houses to their tenants that extending the dream of home ownership to millions of families for the very first time is ignored. As to is the freeing up of the movement of capital through the abolition of exchange controls in 1979. Freer movement of goods through tariff reductions, the mass and popular privatisation of failing state companies, the revitalisation of British industry and British society and the unleashing of innovation that this led to is an important tale… and her rhetoric – with its frequent defences of freedom and free markets – this is something that libertarians need to understand, especially Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

      I was one of “Thatcher’s children” – I was amongst the first 4,185 children nationwide to receive an “Assisted Place” a school voucher to help poorer parents send their children to better, private schools – and another policy neglected by Mr. Gabb. Where catchments for good schools add between 10% and 20% to house prices, children from poorer backgrounds are often condemned to failing state schools; the Assisted Place Scheme offered an escape – at the cost of a few thousands of £s per child per year (averaging around £10k for their total schooling) – to over 800,000 children by the time Tony Blair and his new-egalitarians swept to power in 1997.

      (I was lucky enough to be able to thank Lady Thatcher personally a couple of years ago: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/localgovernment/2011/10/how-lady-thatcher-changed-my-life.html)

      I believe that if BHLs are to effectively make the case for freer markets, for better, more market-based institutional approaches to advancing the cause of social justice and improving human welfare, then they need to understand and celebrate the achievements of politicians – however flawed – like Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan. Without real world examples, without the understanding of what is politically feasible and without political entrepreneurs determined enough to challenge the status quo, it seems to me that the Bleeding Heart Libertarian project will be reduced to shouting from the sidelines at a basketball match that is being played on another court in another city entirely.

      • Sergio Méndez

        Mr. Macleod:

        I will like to make 2 points, in relation to your entry in this discussion.

        1. The issue of political action: For what I see in your entry, you seem think that libertarians, especially bleeding heart ones, conceive political action in a traditional way. I cannot speak for all bleeding heart libertarians, but at least those like I, who identify with the left libertarianism, tend to see the question from a very different perspective. We don´t believe in the traditional model of “winning elections to get our candidate(s) change the world”. We believe in very different sort of mechanisms for political action and social change (in the case of left libertarians, on countra economic action, grassroots political organization, persuasion etc…). In other words, not in political action based in the muscle of the State (and of course, the different forms of State based politics…whatever If it is a dictatorship or a modern representative democracy): I cannot say if it is the case with all others forms of libertarianism, but I hope that even if some of the objectives regarding what kind of society we want are different (I am thinking of libertarians of a more conservative kind), we should all agree in rejecting the State as form of political action, because it is based on coercion (it is immoral ) and because it is inefficient.

        2. The question of how libertarian were Margaret Tatcher policies: In these area think in your entry you miss the point. You seem to think that even if Margaret Thatcher was a non 100% a pure libertarian, she moved things in the right direction, in the “direction of liberty”. Considering the examples given, I fail to see how is that even possible. I mean, one thing is being imperfect or producing imperfect libertarian policies (a problem magnified by the problematic of using the State as a the means for political action) and another is producing overtly anti libertarian policies. Militarism, repression (of miners, or even young people using drugs in rave parties), maintaining the status quo in Ireland…how Those can they be remotely libertarian or in “direction of liberty”? How her faux privatization schemes could be considered libertarian in any sense of the word? Even in other areas that are very common for libertarians, like government spending, it seems that she was quite the contrary to what she claimed ( see: http://reason.com/blog/2013/04/08/the-real-thatcher-and-the-symbolic-thatc ).

        • Richard

          ” maintaining the status quo in Ireland”

          You mean acceding to the wish of the majority of people in Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom? Can’t see much wrong with that.

      • http://independent.academia.edu/DannyFrederick Danny Frederick

        Nice one, Barry. Thatcher was no libertarian, but I am still a fan. One of the most important things she did was to change the whole climate of political debate. Academe was about the only place unaffected.

    • Sean II

      Greenwald bites into an incredibly silly premise: “Those gushing depictions can be quite consequential, as it was for the week-long tidal wave of unbroken reverence that was heaped on Ronald Reagan upon his death, an episode that to this day shapes how Americans view him and the political ideas he symbolized.”

      First of all, the reverence was not “unbroken”. Then, as now, critics all over the world spoke and were heard. Perhaps it says something interesting that his memory lapses on this point.

      Second and more importantly, there is no reason to suppose the funeral orations shaped the Reagan legend, or will shape the Thatcher legend now. Clearly it is the other way around: the funeral orations are shaped by the already built legend. (One notes this is very different for political bosses who die in office, or die soon after leaving it. Then of course it is quite easy for a funeral to have a shaping effect on the character narrative.)

      Part of what moves people to grab a podium and start the dis-euologies (also known simply as the “disses”) now instead of later, is this very strange fear that… what? Thatcher’s name is never going to come up again, so now is the last, best chance to set the record straight?

      That’s ridiculous, and an ordinary respect, not for etiquette (which would be silly), but for tactical-rhetorical timing, suggests that now is not even a good time. And here is where Greenwald should not have departed from the family funeral analogy. Start an argument about your father at his gravesite, and you end up in an argument about manners. Start an argument about him on the first anniversary of his death, you might have a chance to take the old bastard down a peg.

      • les kyle Nearhood

        I agree, the only way a Pangyric might have an effect upon the memory of a public figure is if perhaps that figure died in the midst of their public works. But when people die many years out of power, their story is mostly already written.

  • trinidad_tobacco

    “…consider the Falklands war”

    You mean the incident provoked by Argentina, who invaded British territory – incidentally, populated by people who wanted to remain part of the UK (there seems to be a near-consensus among the locals, judging based on the latest referendum)?

    I wouldn’t say that’s a prime example of militarism.

    And after growing up behind the Iron Curtain, where unlike you I didn’t get to see meat or coffee in a shop until 1990 – I was living in socialist utopia, after all – I think that Thatcher was a great leader.

    She was no libertarian, for sure. But she stood against socialism, collectivism, and for individualism, opportunity, and – very importantly – a smaller state. Looking at the alternative at the time, the socialist totalitarian nightmare, I think it’s great that Britain got Thatcher.

    In the wider sense, she moved the politics closer to libertarian ideals than further away from them. And this was hard, considering where Britain started from in the ’70s, and where she started personally.

    As far as I’m concerned, she was a very interesting person, about as accomplished person and political leader as they come, and for that I take my hat off to her. May she rest in peace.

    • matt b

      I mentioned your comment on the Falklands in my post on the Gulf War as I think you make a great point there. But I really disagree with your assertion that she stood for individualism. Rather, everything she’s ever said and done suggests an attachment to the old order based on conformity, tradition, convention, custom, and religion. She was a social conservative, albeit one who thought men kissing and women getting abortions probably shouldn’t involve the government. But let’s not mistake her as being at all sympathetic to Millian individualism or any other form. She was a fairly tight ass pro- conformist type in a lot of ways.

      • trinidad_tobacco

        I think that her policies of encouraging poor people to buy their council houses – which still enrages the authoritarian left – is a great example of pro-individualism. What is owning your house, instead of renting from the local “council”, but individualism?

        Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that Thatcher was a libertarian in any shape. She was a Conservative and a classical liberal. But I have to think in context.

        • matt b

          I just think there’s a whole lot to genuine individualism that Thatcher not only failed to capture but sometimes actively opposed. But I do take your point, her policies on housing was awesome.

  • j r

    I think that this is an area where it is important to make a distinction between being a libertarian and being a net supporter of liberty. I have no problem with holding people to absolute standards regardless of their time in history. For instance, Thatcher was absolutely wrong on South Africa. However, I think it is important to take into full account the world that was the 1970s when assessing Thatcher’s legacy. There really was a Soviet Union. And there really was an economic orthodoxy that was driving much of the west to ruin.

    Margaret Thatcher, along with Reagan, was certainly no bleeding heart libertarian. She might, however, have been exactly what the world needed in 1979.

    • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

      I agree with you here. From what I have read, and I do not claim any special expertise, the trade unions were literally strangling the U.K. to death back in the 1970s. Basic services were being denied to the citizenry by public sector strikes, and the economy was breaking down. She acted, and won reelection, so there must have been some public support for her moves.

      • trinidad_tobacco

        … and by “literally” you mean “figuratively” :)

        • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

          Yes, I just knew somebody was going to call me on that.

          • matt b

            Mark,

            You’re in good company. Our VP uses literally in literally every sentence :) Come to think of it that’s bad company but your use of it was far from being egregious compared to good old Joe.

          • Sean II

            Does he pronounce it “LIT-TRA-LEE”? Most chronic abusers of the term do.

          • matt b

            Take a listen for yourself. And people say Bush had issues with the English language http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qx8B-3ZGVg0

      • http://twitter.com/gshevlin gshevlin

        Eventually she was forced to resign by her own party, but she had worn out her welcome by then. Most of my fellow Brits were fed up with her by then, and wanted to see the back of her. The Conservative Party got rid of her because they concluded that the only way they could win an election in 1992 was if they had a leader whose name was not Margaret Thatcher.

  • matt b

    Gary raises some good points as per usual but accusing Thatcher of militarism is mistaken. See commentator Trinidad Tobacco’s explanation why regarding the Falklands War and then consider the fact that the Gulf War came about as a result of a mass murdering dicator invading Kuwait with a plan to subjugate its people, turn it into a colony of Iraq, and then move on from there to expand his power over the oil reserves in the Middle East. There’s nothing militaristic or imperialistic or whatever bad istic you want to use about taking action to reverse gains made by a tyrant in a war of aggression.

    • Fallon

      Saddam was bailed out by the American taxpayer serf and military industrial complex during the Iraq-Iran war. The Saudis and Kuwaitis lent Saddam enormous sums as well– which he was not paying back. Arms sales to Iraq were enormous in 1982. Just a few years earlier Saddam was officially deemed a Terrorist by the USA. But Saddam was also the ‘most Progressive leader in Middle East history’ during the 1970s. Won many international honors. Free hospitals, free education for both sexes, huge development projects, you name it. Oil money driven. But Kuwait was undercutting OPEC– which hurt Saddam’s ability to pay off the debts. Kuwait was breaking the cartel deal. Kuwait was probably slant drilling into Iraq too. And speaking of land–Were any of these countries around before the WWI victors drew the map? Everything in land can be justly contested in the Mid-East. Then there is this insane ‘Israel at any cost’ meme…

      Oh but, surely you are right. The story, regardless of detail, is as simple in meaning as you and your neocon friends say it is: We good. Saddam bad. (Four legs good! Two legs bad!)

      • j r

        Wow. That was one long and convoluted journey to get to a place where you’re justifying Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. And was the First Gulf War a particularly neocon venture? The coalition explicitly ended the war before seeking to affect any sort of regime change in Iraq.

        • Fallon

          You are awful.

          • Fallon

            (maybe I am being too harsh??? hmmmm)

          • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

            Cut it out.

          • Fallon

            As you wish.

        • Fallon

          Damn, you got me.

        • Fallon

          Darn, what to say.

        • Fallon

          Gosh Mr j r, what do i do?

        • matt b

          I was going to make precisely this point but Fallon is intent on seeing me as pyschotic war loving neocon so I doubt anything I say will lead away from the view that I heart vicious American imperialism.

          • Fallon

            You are a politician. If I was intent on using mental health as a device it would be a sign of weakness. But here you are– doing just that.

            Answer me the original question from 23 comments ago, then: How is the projection of American power in e.g. Gulf War One possible without pre-existing (rationalization of) “vicious American imperialism”?

        • Fallon

          Ok. I will answer you as if you are not trolling. Though, you do have a track record. There is no justification for any invasion of any sort in my comment. If there is– be kind and break it down for me lne by line. Good luck.

          Surely, you can’t mean to say that pointing out historical complexity and thereby upsetting Matt B.’s simplistic neocon friendly summation is equal to taking sides? It is true that Matt B. may only be a foreign policy “realist” and not a neocon ‘Israel and world democracy by noble lie and sword’. Matt B. does cite Kagan et al. favorably and supports bloody intervention after bloody intervention in his comments, though.

          What is necessary to project American power in the way Matt B. desires, j r? e.g. Can one rightly self-identify as a libertarian and justify the Highway of Death? and all of its implications?

          • j r

            You lost me at my “track record.”

          • Fallon

            Chicken.

      • Sean II

        Wait, I thought Saddam had four legs. Cause you know, if not, then there must be a misprint in my eighth grade Social Studies textbook, published January 1991.

        • Fallon

          Quite right. Saddam fashioned himself a Stalin like figure. Yet my major point was to expose Matt B.’s penchant for the simplistic narrative so convenient for the military industrial complex. If only Matt B. refrained from calling himself a libertarian while doing this…Does libertarian mean anything at this point? At any rate, roots of neocon thought are indeed traceable in part to Trotsky-ist social democracy; yes, it is that close to the original inspiration for the four-legged v. two-legged metaphor. To fast forward a little bit: Matt B. has bought the “Noble Lie” per Leo Strauss, has he not? Even if Matt B., putting aside his affinity for neocon Robert Kagan, is merely a foreign policy “realist” and not a neocon ideologue outright– how in the hell would that qualify him as a libertarian?

          • matt b

            Fallon,
            There’s nothing inherently unlibertarian about rejecting a non-interventionist foreign policy. If you want to claim that despite my opposition to the drug war, immigration restrictions, Medicare, Social Security, trade restrictions, licensing requirements, anti-prostitution laws, campaign finance laws, and the like that I’m a neocon, statist, or anything like that I guess that’s your right (the fact that I said “I guess” must seem like a suspiciously unlibertarian qualifer I’m sure).

          • http://www.facebook.com/sergio.mendez.372661 Sergio Méndez

            Matt b:

            I agree with you that being a neoconservative requires more than a pro interventionist foreign policy. That said, I still fail to understand how pro interventionist foreign policy can be libertarian in any sense of the word (in the best case minarchists will use the army only to defend the borders of the nation, not to intervene outside those borders, especially in the way the US does).

          • matt b

            Ilya Somin says it really well here. http://www.volokh.com/posts/1184706624.shtml The basic idea is that libertarians righly prefer less government in the economic and social sphere because the alternative is freedom of choice and voluntary arrangements that respect individual autonomy and make the world more prosperous. But on the world stage, the alternative to intervention isin’t fredom but often slaughter and tyranny. For example, if the U.S. had not intervened in Libya it’s not like people there would have defeated Quaddafi and set up a minarchist/ anarcho-capitalist utopia. Rather they would just be a lot less free and a lot more dead.

          • http://www.facebook.com/sergio.mendez.372661 Sergio Méndez

            Yeah…so much for the “democratic” goverment that has emerged in replacement of Gadhafi. Anyways, I think the libertarian objection to interventionism is also based on:

            1) Whatever it is done with the best intentions, interventionism is illegitimate as any othe goverment program (it is done with other people money and without its consent).

            2) Usually the intend has nothing to do with noble ideals such as toppling down dictators or helping a more democratic society emerge. It has more to do with created interests along goverment intervention (and spending): military industrial complex, imperialistic interests, eliminating political adversaries in the world (to replace them with other equally anti democratic or anti freedom) etc.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            On this same thread you said that the British fought a just (“defensive”) war in the Falklands. Do you believe that everyone in the U.K. supported this war and wanted their taxes spent on it? So, this just war “was done with other people[‘s] money and without [their] consent.” Thus, this fact, on your own analysis, can’t render a war unjust.

          • http://www.facebook.com/sergio.mendez.372661 Sergio Méndez

            I meant that in the more fundamental sense a just war must have (if it is legitimate to use arms and violence in the sake of resolving a conflict or a dispute). Just wars are essentially defensive wars. So even if the means -state based ones are illegitimate- the war was not, per se.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Right, so we agree that makes a war just or not (“in the more fundamental sense”) has nothing to do with whether there are some objectors in the country involved that are forced to finance it. Because in any county even the most just war you can possibly imagine will have some objectors, yet this fact does not render the war unjust in the most important sense. If you say otherwise, you are simply arguing by definition, i.e. all states will have objectors, so a state, qua state, can never fight a just war. This simply assumes what you are required to prove.

        • Fallon

          *Though I think the anti-Enlightenment roots of neocon thought to be dominant (and this is why neoconservativism can easily be called an Americanized fascism). One should be wary of single threads of history, anyway…

  • Joseph R. Stromberg

    Even if one grants that (contrary to probability) a British government acted on high principle and had an initially just cause, Gary’s point about Thatcher’s militarism remains entirely unscathed. How the war was conducted and how it was exploited politically are among the outstanding issues (discussed in Anthony Barnett, “War over the Falklands,” *New Left Review,* #134, July-August 1982). Thatcher’s militarism was a core value; the Falklands War an opportunity.

    Where South Africa is concerned, Thatcher and her people obviously spent a lot of time poring over South African statute books looking for new ideas on the “national security” front, whatever British foreign policy actually was toward that country.

  • Graham Brown

    Thatcher will never be a libertarian hero, but that’s not to say she wasn’t otherwise heroic. Britain was crumbling under the weight of socialism and the unions before her, I shudder to think where the country would be without her term in office. I’m no fan of the over-arching power of national governments but accept that it would have been impossible to rise to the top of any of the political parties then with any kind of libertarian leaning. It still is. But considering where Britain was heading before Thatcher, it’s possible to see that she led that country, and to an extent the World, closer to free market ideals than any other leader dared at the time.

  • les kyle Nearhood

    no she was not a libertarian but she was a good leader at a time when GB was sinking fast. The facts remain that she did privatize, She did stand up to unions which in the UK are an arm of a powerful statist political party. And let us not forget that she did stand up for human rights in the old Iron Curtain countries. Remember there was actually a cold war at one time. So I think that She and Reagan were products of their time and while I do not applaud all they did, they did cause a rebound in the economies of the west after the horrific 1970’s.

    • http://twitter.com/gshevlin gshevlin

      As I wrote on my blog, Thatcher was a leader in the right time and place for the UK when she was first elected in 1979. The country was drifting after 20 years of incoherent unstable governments, and there was a perception of crisis. The electorate tossed Margaret Thatcher the keys to the car and said “you drive us out of this mess”. The drive ended when she was forced to resign by her own party, but believe me, by then she had long outstayed her welcome. Authoritarian leadership styles in an elective democracy seem to have a limited shelf-life, and Margaret Thatcher either never noticed this, or noticed it and decided to behave the same regardless.
      As regards the libertarian measures of her time in office…a decidedly mixed bag. She reduced the bloated power of trade unions. She did stop throwing away subsidy money on industries that were fundamentally non-viable, such as the volume car industry, but that in turn led to near social collapses as older industries collapsed with nothing to take their place in some parts of the country. Her attitude to civil liberties generally was pretty cavalier, and she was contemptuous of local democracy. She was quite prepared to funnel support to despots, as long as they were Her Kind Of Despot. In short, she was more of a classical authoritarian than a libertarian, and the parts of her governance approach that happened to be libertarian simply coincided with her brand of authoritarianism.

  • Sean II

    I make it a point to ignore most rules of etiquette, and I’m no fan of eulogistic puffery, but somehow this just infuriates me.

    Every time someone dies who was popularly linked to classical liberalism or libertarianism, we have to rush out and clarify what a sell-out they really were. As if it all comes down to this moment: either we set the record straight right now, or the public perception of libertarianism will harden right along with Thatcher’s corpse.

    Nonsense. What matters about Thatcher is not how she compares to Gary Chartier or Matt Zwolinski. The proper comparison set is: Leonid Brezhnev, Jiang Qing, Arthur Scargill, and yes god damn it, Leopoldo Galtieri.

    I swear, oh brothers and sisters, there is a terrible amnesia in this movement. The further we get from 1989 the more everyone forgets just how close the world came to living in an eternal Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    Thatcher was part of a successful effort to prevent that, which is the only thing I’m thinking about today, and to hell with everyone else.

    • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

      Yes, and well said.

    • http://www.facebook.com/greg.robbins.90 Greg Robbins

      Yes, I agree. Purists will kill this movement.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sergio.mendez.372661 Sergio Méndez

        A movement that has Margaret Tatcher as some kind of idol or heroe, well, it deserves to die.

    • CbyN

      This is precisely what I was thinking as I read the post.

    • Aeon Skoble

      Well put and quite right.

  • Pingback: Gabb on Thatcher | The Libertarian Alliance: BLOG()

  • CbyN

    Having relatively big feet, when I used to go shoe shopping, I would always make the mistake of seeking first the ideal shoe and then asking the salesman for my size. Only after numerous disappointments, I realized it was far more efficient to just ask the salesman to bring out everything in my size and pick the one I like the best, despite it being often far from my ideal. Would it not make more sense, as Sean II points out very well elsewhere, to have some historical context and consider her peers and the downright loathsome (from a libertarian) environment that engulfed the UK during her ascent to power?

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