Thatcher and Reagan

Posted: Apr 08, 2013 12:46 PM

Throughout their mostly concurrent terms in office, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan were titans for liberty, close friends and staunch ideological allies.  Together, they helped relegate the Soviets' "evil empire" to the ash heap of history; separately, they employed conservative fiscal policies to rejuvenate flagging economies on both sides of the pond.  These irrepressible forces have now both left our world, which they changed for the better.  

In 1989, Reagan reflected on Margaret Thatcher's leadership and stewardship in the pages of National Review:

Looking back to the late 1970s, we recall it as a depressing period economically. In America there were gas lines, high inflation, rocketing interest rates, and some fellow talking about a "malaise." The "misery index" reached an all-time high. But the situation in Europe, particularly in Britain, was even worse than our own. What we called the misery index they called "the British Disease": a combination of zero growth and high inflation, which in one year reached over 25 percent. Still worse, after almost forty years of socialism, the habits of inefficiency on the factory floor and lack of enterprise in the executive suite had become deeply ingrained. The British spirit of enterprise, which had transformed half the world in Queen Victoria's day, seemed to have been put to sleep. Margaret Thatcher changed all that. She demonstrated two great qualities. The first was that she had thought seriously about how to revive the British economy and entered office with a clear set of policies to do so. She brought down inflation by controlling the money supply, and she began removing the controls, subsidies, and regulations that kept business lazy. Her second great quality was the true grit of a true Brit (or perhaps I should say, of a true-blue Brit). We both realized that our policies wouldn't solve such deep-rooted problems overnight. The first effects, in the world recession of 1981-82, were painful. I remember meeting her in Washington at a time when people in both our countries were calling for a change of course. She never wavered. And she was proved right by events.

Britain today is enjoying an unprecedented economic recovery — one as long as our own. British businesses, woken from the long sleep of socialism, are our feisty competitors in world markets. And, finally, Margaret Thatcher has begun to dismantle the undergirding of socialism itself by privatizing large nationalized industries like steel and airlines. Just as I would claim modestly that our tax cuts of 1981 have stimulated a wave of tax cutting around the world, so Margaret Thatcher's privatization program has been imitated as far afield as Turkey and New Zealand. We could do with a little more of it in the United States. As a result, Margaret has brought about a resurgence of those things Great Britain always stood for. Never was this more evident than in her immediate response when Britain's sovereignty over the Falklands was challenged. We used our good offices to try to get a peaceful solution on which all sides could agree. But it was always clear to me that if such a settlement wasn't available, then the British would fight. I knew Margaret's strength of determination by then; others maybe did not.  

When Reagan died in 2004, Baroness Thatcher recorded this stirring tribute to her departed friend -- whom she called "a great president, a great American and a great man."  The mutual admiration and respect ran deep:

The Heritage Foundation honored Thatcher with this video last year:


Last January, I penned a review of The Iron Lady, the Hollywood biopic starring Meryl Streep.  In spite of a few quibbles, I found Streep's portrayal to be moving and unmistakably positive.  To celebrate Thatcher's memory, I plan on re-watching the film, and cracking her epic political autobiography, The Downing Street Years.  Today the world mourns the loss of a trailblazer, a dignified leader, and a bona fide heroine for the cause of freedom.  Rest in Peace, Lady Thatcher.  There's no chance of heaven "going wobbly" now.

UPDATE - YAF has released rare footage of Thatcher visiting Reagan's California ranch in the early 1990s; they also reveal the contents of a letter of encouragement the British PM sent to her American counterpart at the height of the Iran-Contra affair:

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