Jeffrey's Reviews > There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters

There Is No Alternative by Claire Berlinski
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's review
Sep 29, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: biography, conservatism, economics, current-events, required-reading

Claire Berlinski has written one of the finest biographies of 2008. There Is No Alternative is a wonderfully written account of Margaret Thatcher and her policies. The sub-title – Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, give the clue as to the tone. Ms. Berlinski covers not just the facts of history, but delves into the meaning and political outcomes to those policies.

First off, the book is superbly written. Berlinski manages to liven up economics and labor talk that most authors get lost in the minutiae. She manages to interweave interviews and opinion in a way that keeps you engaged. The interviews are of former cabinet members and opponents that give the hidden from view Thatcher, that many of us were unaware existed, serve to illustrate just how Thatcher governed.

This is not to say that the book is a hagiography, for it is nothing of the kind. Berlinski has written a very fair minded book, showing the good with the bad. For all of her loyalty and strong will, there is also a lot of haughtiness and an isolation that creates the atmosphere for the eventual treachery that befell the good lady. The interviews with Neal Kinnock are especially insightful, as he was one of her main Labor opponents.

Reading this account of Thatcher, one learns that she was every bit the ideologue as Reagan. Their shared values and distrust of Socialist enterprises added to their dynamic. Her complete hatred of communism served her well in fighting that trade unions and defeating Arthur Scargill, a resounding victory on the domestic front that equaled the victory for the Falklands. It was this labor defeat that helped usher in a long-term period of growth.

I have long wondered about the hatred towards Thatcher by her fellow country men. Any fair minded person can see that her policies helped to save the national character and morale of the English people. Before her election, the English were suffering from a worse malaise than even the Americans under the dismal Jimmy Carter. Thatcher’s keen economic sense and steadfastness transformed the country. Yet, the media types still paint her as a failure. Whether it be The Now Show or movies liked Brassed Off, Thatcher and her policies are always seen as anti-poor and destructive. There is little balance in the press and almost no sense of truth in the coverage of her leadership.

One can argue, and I believe Berlinski proves, that it was the economic principles of Milton Friedman as enacted by the Tories that really changed the future for a country that was fast collapsing. At the time, the UK was receiving loans from the IMF, just like some poor banana republic. The Thatcher roll-back of socialism changed the tide. It is disheartening to see that some of the reforms have been scrapped as late as the UK has started Re-Nationalizing so many industries that have been affected by the current financial downturn.

There Is No Alternative should be read by anyone wanting to understand geo-economics and party politics. Claire Berlinski has written a masterpiece.
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Reading Progress

September 29, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
October 13, 2008 – Shelved as: biography
October 13, 2008 – Shelved as: conservatism
October 13, 2008 – Shelved as: economics
October 13, 2008 – Shelved as: current-events
October 13, 2008 – Shelved as: required-reading
October 13, 2008 – Finished Reading

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