PARIS -- As dignitaries gather in London to pay their respects to one of modern history's greatest leaders, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died last week at the age of 87, the riff-raff of Great Britain have emerged, subsidized by either the state or by mummy and daddy, to rejoice in her death.
Case in point: Britain's Daily Mail reports that the architect of plans to disrupt Thatcher's funeral on Wednesday is a 25-year old Oxford student whose parents live in a $1 million house. Photographs in various British newspapers indicate that many have invested time in building elaborate effigies of the Iron Lady to parade through the streets. These people, quite frankly, are the biggest losers on Earth.
And that's really saying something, because there's considerable competition for that title. But none of the other contenders are just sitting around at home constructing scapegoat balloon animals to dishonor the death of a politician who left office nearly 23 years ago. As an adult, I barely have time to stop and buy shampoo at the end of the workday, let alone find the supplies needed to make something worthy of a third-grade art fair entry.
Productive working Britain was mostly too busy to fritter away their precious time commiserating over how Thatcher's policies destroyed their lot in life. Yet some apparently have the time and energy to spend days partying over her death.
Exceptions to the "working people have better things to do" premise include the Durham Miners Association, which, according to the British press, had planned to join in the classy and logical act of protesting against someone who's now wholly incapable of caring. Presumably the miners are still sore from Thatcher's schoolmarm smackdown in reaction to the mining industry constantly holding the British economy and government hostage via strike actions. Before Thatcher became prime minister at the end of the 1970s, British coal miners had managed to score themselves (and everyone else in England) a three-day workweek due to the energy rationing their strikes necessitated.
But why even work a three-day week when you should be able to do precisely zero work and still live comfortably? Actually, that has now become a reality. The unspoken truth about Thatcherism is that it didn't go far enough in reforming Britain. It couldn't go far enough, because there was never any appetite for a decrease in welfare-state public spending. But the real uniqueness of Thatcher and her American contemporary, Ronald Reagan, was that they had the ability to inspire people to lives of achievement, ambition and productivity in exchange for reward.Thatcher created funds for entrepreneurship and dropped the basic tax rate from 33 percent to 30 percent while cutting the top rate -- the one that prompted the Rolling Stones to leave England -- from 83 percent to 60 percent. Everything Thatcher did in office was consistent with the worldview of an independent, educated, exceptional woman who had worked her way through life strictly on her own talents and merit. Despite challenges presented by classism and sexism, she never made excuses.
"I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work," Thatcher once said. "That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near." But she always believed that there was ample room at the top, that it wasn't an "Everest" with a tiny peak.
Thatcher represented something you don't see very often, if at all, anymore in politics: authenticity and genuine leadership. She had true convictions and didn't waver from them, regardless of pressures.
To me, Thatcher has always provided the ultimate loser litmus test. Anyone I've ever met with a viscerally negative reaction to her has either been (a) lazy, (b) incapable of thinking for himself, (c) misogynistic, (d) ignorant, (e) socialist/collectivist, or (f) a nanny-state freeloader.
To have lasted more than 11 years in power while fighting against the ubiquitous British nanny state, achieving an eventual and hard-won economic uptick, was a testament to Thatcher's ability to economically motivate enough people to work hard and be productive enough to collectively carry the nation on their shoulders. But that was always an uphill battle, as this week's protests demonstrate.
The natural tendency is for people to want more for doing less, and never has that attitude been more widespread than it is today. Factor in a more liberal immigration policy in the years since Thatcher left office, which has created a further drain on the welfare state, and the system is so far gone that it would now be nearly impossible for a Thatcher type to ever be elected.
Thatcherism was a mind-set -- that of winners. It's up to the British as to whether they want to bury it alongside her.