Monday, April 08, 2013

The death of Baroness Thatcher

Between the extremes of paens from and the purile "Ding Dong the witch is dead"'s; is it possible to examine the policies enacted during Baroness Thatcher's term of office?

It is far too easy to castigate her for the "greed is good" culture that flourished during the eighties. It was her policies that allowed the bank crashes to happen; the massive closer of state-funded grammar schools that gave such a leg-up to the 'poor'; the presence of homeless on the streets; and the castration of the unions. However at no point can it be said that this was in fact the end result she envisaged. An examination of policies enacted is a worthwhile endeavour as they lie at the heart of the current Conservative government.

The underlying principle seems to be to remove people's dependency on the state. Sadly the only alternative to the state being private enterprise the floodgates were opened to, essentially, let such act as they pleased. The mindset was that people wouldn't need to depend on the state if private enterprise handled matters; and the only reason they didn't was due to the state's monopoly on such services. The thinking went - if the government didn't provide these services, private enterprise would step in to fill the breach; if they didn't it proved there was no demand and such a service should have been cut anyway and was simply being maintained from inertia.

In an ideal world competition would see a reduced cost to services than that collected via tax and distributed via the massive and inefficient state. It would be able to react to public change faster than an elected body simply out of desire to continue to profit; it would give people want they wanted. Unfortunately it wouldn't necessarily give people what they needed.

A simple flaw was that a large number of services weren't being paid for by the people who needed them;, but by those who didn't. This was fine while only the state-funded services were available, but with private options becoming available led to one group of people funding a set of state-funded while also choosing to pay for their own private services (the NHS and private healthcare being a prime-example). The shout from those soon became "Why am I funding this public service and paying for private service" and became the nascent warcry against "scroungers" that is in full effect today.

It became impossible to sheer off the state services to be replaced privately and the hodge-podge began that led to the craze of out-sourcing of public services and the out-pouring of public funds to private companies who then quickly syphon it off overseas or pay dividends to shareholders. It became less the ideal of re-investment of money to make more money, but of milking a captive market and keeping as much as you possibly can.

As an ideal it was admirable. As a concept it was flawed by reality and the consequences of trying to change too much too quickly.