Thatcher championed greed, and we all suffered

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!


It is never pleasant to hear about somebody's death, but it can be redemptive. Contemplating their legacy forces you to contemplate what will some day be your own. It begs the question: for what do you want to be remembered?

 I hope to leave the people I've known with the conviction that they have both the power and the responsibility to make the world a better place for everybody in it. The exact opposite, in other words, of the legacy left by Margaret Thatcher who swept to power with the seductive but corrosive notion that greed is a virtue and not a vice.

The best thing you can do for your friends and neighbours, she assured us, is forget about them. Focus all of your energy on your own self interest, and market forces will ensure the broadest distribution of opportunity and wealth. It's easy to understand why she was so successful: Who doesn't want to be absolved of responsibilities? Who wouldn't want to be assured that self-gratification will help your friends and neighbours?

But it was the political equivalent of a miracle diet. And like a miracle diet, it has actually done more harm than good.

Thirty years later, we are all suffering the effects. Income inequality is rising. The opportunities for prosperity are falling. Our hospitals, schools, social safety nets, and infrastructure are being squeezed. Our environment faces every-growing threat. Our democratic and civil society institutions are fading away. And we’ve come to hate taxes, revile public service, and resent the success of all but the super-rich.

Our most cynical politicians are paying enthusiastic tribute this week to Thatcher's legacy: she showed them how easy it can be to seize power by appealing to people's basest desire for easy self-gratification.

But as she and her poisonous philosophy take their place in the history books, I'm hoping we can begin a new chapter.

It's time to move beyond this cold, detached and sorry state of affairs and remind ourselves that it takes work and sometimes even sacrifice to build something truly worthwhile: a society that is fair and prosperous for all.


James Clancy is the President of the National Union of Public and General Employees.

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.