If you're remotely interested in politics it will be of no surprise that it is now thirty years since Thatcher came to power. I was only three when she was elected and entered Downing Street so I guess that makes me, almost at least, one of her fabled 'children', as I never really knew the world that came before her except in terms of what I can read about.
The Consensus that she tore up seems today, to me at least, an insane world which actually reinforced class consciousness and took the approach that everyone should only ever expect a life equivalent to the lowest common denominator. There was no point in aspiring to anything because as you climbed the ladder the system ensured that you stepped back a rung with a punative tax regime.
The idea that, before Thatcher came to power, a government committee decided how much a shop could charge for a loaf of bread, seems to me, complete insanity. Likewise I find it insane that until the privatisation of telecoms, it took months to provision a phone line, and you had to rent a handset, bakerlite or push button, from the GPO, and you had no choice.
Neither did you have a choice about who supplied you with energy. There was no shopping around for the cheapest package that was tailored to your need. It was the state owned industry or nothing. I won't deny that such a situation seems not only mad but alien to me. Its not just the lack of choice though. That Britain was once a place where the energy supply of the nation could be turned off at the drop of hat with a strike was surely insane too?
What's more, when the strikes came the fact that those striking could do so with complete impunity and job security simply doesn't compute for me. Then there was secondary action where other unions would go out on strike in sympathy with their striking comrades in other sectors. Did we really live like that where the power of the few in one industry could impact on the lives of the many by cutting their power and bringing the entire nation to a standstill? A place where the dead would go unburied and the rubbish would not be collected?
It seems like complete fantasy land to me that there was once a time when the Government restricted how much money you could take out of the country if you were lucky enough to be able to go abroad. Wasn't it your money to spend how and where you chose? Apparently not. Then there was the surreal scenario that the top rate of tax was 98%. What exactly would be the point in even working if you were taxed at that rate?
Of course the criticism of Thatcher doing away with all these things seems primarily to be that it caused massive unemployment. What confuses me though is that the logical conclusion of that criticism seems to be that the changes ought never have taken place. That privatisation, for example, was a really bad thing in all circumstances. It seems to me with the exception of rail privatisation - which was a failure of structure rather than a failure of privatisation per se - the rest have been quite successful.
I can get gas and electric from whoever I want. I can choose a different network provider for my fixed phoneline. The world I know is one where I have a choice and that world exists because Thatcher changed it from the one where I wouldn't. The historical fact of unemployment under Thatcher seems to me - when placed in the context of what the world was like then compared to now - a price that really was worth paying at the time.
This might sound harsh and uncaring, but for that unemployment not to have happened would have meant that the country remained in the rather bizarre state in was in during the 1970s. A scenario where a handful of men could bring the whole nation to its knees; where I had no choice about who provided me with core services; where I couldn't ever become rich from my own work, and where I was not allowed to spend my money where I wanted or pay what price I was willing too.
It seems crazy that we actually lived like that before Thatcher, but more importantly, it seems crazy that those that despise her might actually wish that we lived like that again.