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.