The Triumph of the Market Economy
For Britain the decisive turn-around came in 1979 with the election of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister. Unceremoniously the ‘Iron Lady’, as she soon came to be known, disposed of the social consensus that had existed since the end of the Second World War. Keynesianism became public anathema. Wholesale privatization, ranging from giant public utilities to millions of publicly owned homes, was put into motion. The powers of the trade unions were drastically curbed. Her own cabinet was uniformly tailored to present a common front. Public largesse in the dispensing of funds to all manner of organized working-class interests plus ‘needy recipients’ was drastically stopped. And monetarist policies designed to trim the money supply to levels where inflation no longer threatened stability were proclaimed as the panacea that would make Britain great once again ( Kavanagh, 1987; King, 1987).
Ronald Reagan's presidential election – the second formal leg of the ‘Reagan/Thatcher revolution’ – was to follow in 1980. However, his long-standing governorship in California, the most populous state of the union, had earlier served as a proven test-bed for the New Right reforms that were soon to be adopted nationwide. Inclining to seek a remedy for the ‘years of dissipation and neglect’ by means of the Chicago school money-supply measures – that is, abjuring government action, cutting taxation, and in all economic matters ‘setting the people free’ ( Schupparra, 1998) – the means then employed by his administration during the years in the White House, were somewhat divergent from Thatcherite policies. Nevertheless, however subtly different the means, the ends were the same. The ‘Reagan–Thatcher