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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 12:43 | SYDNEY
Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 12:43 | SYDNEY

Thatcherism: Up North and Down Under



9 April 2013 15:56

A quick addendum to my earlier post. In that piece, the penultimate para is my best go at an objective (or at least as close as I can manage) assessment of the economic legacy of Thatcherism. It's also a classic economist's two-hander.

My own personal opinions on Thatcher's legacy have been shaped both by where I grew up and by where I live now. I did a fair bit of my growing up in what used to be a steel town in the Northeast of England. It's a part of the UK that's an example of the wrong side of that 'deep divide' in regional performance that I mentioned in my previous post. It's also not somewhere you would find many fans of Mrs Thatcher (in fact, it's a constituency that has never returned a Conservative MP in the postwar period). That environment has inevitably coloured my own memories of growing up in Thatcher's Britain.

Yet my overall assessment of Thatcherism today is probably more influenced by living here in Australia. In particular, when I look back to the economic reforms that this country underwent in the 1980s and 90s, it seems to me that Australia managed to deliver a similar (and similarly needed) economic transformation, but did so with what appears to have been rather less of the harshness and divisiveness that accompanied Thatcherism in the UK. Of course, that assessment might well be different if I'd lived through it here rather than through its British counterpart. And sure, there were obviously important differences in national circumstances that I'm almost certainly not taking into account. 

Even so, my impression is that Australia's experience suggests it was possible to get many of the benefits of major economic reforms without suffering from quite as many of the downsides associated with the Thatcher years. That seems to me to have been the better deal.

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