Monday, April 15, 2013

Margaret Thatcher Remembered

Here is a comment by Gertrude Himmelfarb on Margaret Thatcher's endorsement of "Victorian values--better yet, Victorian virtues"--a charge from critics that, like the epithet "Iron Lady," Mrs. Thatcher enthusiastically embraced.  Himmelfarb points out that Thatcher was not an "individualist" who held an atomized view of the autonomous unencumbered self as the alternative to statist collectivism.  In contrast, she stood in the line of those, like (in their different ways) Burke, Tocqueville, Acton, and Novak (as well as the popes from Leo XIII to John Paul II), who emphasized the importance of the intermediate structures or associations that stood between individual and state.
It is curious that the champion of Victorian values​—​better yet, Victorian virtues​—​should be accused, by some social conservatives as well as liberals, of elevating the “self,” the autonomous individual, above “society”; indeed, denigrating society in the interest of the self. Margaret Thatcher addressed this objection in her autobiography, insisting that she, like the Victorians, consistently saw the individual in the context of community, family, the other agents of society, and, not least, the nation. It was in that context, she said, that she promoted entrepreneurship, privatization, social mobility, a dynamic economy, and a limited government. She praised “the American theologian and social scientist” Michael Novak for stressing the fact “that what he called ‘democratic capitalism’ was a moral and social, not just an economic system, that it encouraged a range of virtues, and that it depended upon co‑operation not just ‘going it alone.’ ” 
For Novak's personal recollections of the Iron Lady, see this post at Huffpo.

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