With the release on “The Iron Lady”, there has been much discussion of Mrs Thatcher’s legacy. One of the things that tends to get missed is the old adage that politics is full of unintended consequences, something which can certainly be applied to her decisions in office. When Mrs Thatcher took power, she seemed to have in her mind a vision of a country of individuals and families taking responsibility for their lives, living within their means, and going about their daily lives with a moderately conservative social outlook. The values were of reward for hard work, personal responsibility, thrift, law and order, and respect for other people and their property. It was an updated Victorianism.
She did a lot. She removed red tape and bureaucracy from banking and lending institutions. She broke up the television monopolies, making profit more important than quality in the 1990 Broadcasting Act. She increased competition everywhere, from supermarkets to transport to telecommunications. She did these things, it seems, because she believed that when you freed all these things up, people would be sensible. They wouldn’t borrow more than they could sensibly afford. They wouldn’t drink more than before because booze was cheaper. The TV channels would not go ultra-downstream showing women decorating their genitals on television in
pursuit of higher ad revenue. But they did.
The great irony is that many of the ugliest aspects of modern British society can be traced back to the unintended consequences of her actions. The huge personal debts. The drunken thugs and half dressed women fighting on the streets, out of their heads on cheap booze paid for by easy credit. The transmission of all of this into a self replicating circle of reality programmes legitimizing the sort of behaviour that would horrify Mrs Thatcher.
Truth is, she didn’t mean to do it, but the coarsening vulgarity of British society is primarily the fault of a woman who would be appalled by it.