Reason's Pivotal Role in the Thatcher Revolution

How Robert Poole's vision of contracting out services has saved the Brits billions.

The passing of Lady Margaret Thatcher (or "Lady T," as we called her) brings back many memories of those exciting years between 1975 and 1979 when the ideas that became “Thatcherism” were being hatched. Key among those ideas were: 

  • The privatization of the commanding heights of the economy
  • Bringing unions back under the rule of law
  • Selling public housing units at deeply discounted prices to sitting tenants.

Another central idea was the contracting out of local authority functions to private providers. Contracting out was all but unknown in the U.K. until former Reason editor and Reason Foundation founder Robert W. Poole published the seminal policy monograph, Cut Local Taxes—Without Reducing Essential Services in 1976. That study, which had been commissioned in the U.S. by the National Taxpayers Union, formed the core of what later became Bob's 1980 book, Cutting Back City Hall. The basic point of both publications was that virtually any and all services should be opened up to competition, if not forsaken by the public sector altogether. Properly structured, such a system would improve essential services while reducing costs.

I recall there was one small city in the county of Essex which had private garbage collection but that was the sole example we could come across. Somehow I stumbled across Bob's Cut Local Taxes and imported a few copies for friends in London-based policy-making circles, including Michael Forsyth a rising young star in the Conservative Party and an ardent admirer of Lady T. Indeed, I helped Michael to give her 50 red roses on her 50th birthday outside her home in Flood Street, Chelsea and in front of the world’s media.

Michael turned Bob’s work into at least three different policy pamphlets circulating widely in the late 1970s including at least one each for the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) and the Conservative Political Centre (CPC). To this day - over 30 years later - ASI tells me that Forsyth’s contracting-out paper is its best-ever selling publication at over 25,000 copies.

With Lady T’s advent and Forsyth’s Poole-based papers, contracting out spread like a really bad disease (though in this case, the infection produced good results). Not only was the level of service delivery hugely improved but there were huge savings as $90 billion in annual services suddenly cost $60 billion when subjected to competitive bidding.

So let me use this sad day not to mourn but to celebrate the $30 billion a year Reason’s Bob Poole has saved the U.K. taxpayer for decades now. Why the Queen has not given him an honorary knighthood is beyond me.

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  • Anonymous Coward||

    Who is this Margaret Thatcher and why haven't I heard of her before?

  • Best Of All Possible Tyrannies||

    Ronald Reagan's evil twin.

  • celena89re||

    Ashlyn. I see what you mean... Earn 10 to 60$/hr working from home with Google! I work two shifts 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening. And whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids I follow this great link, goo.me/Jobs

  • Dweebston||

    I wondered when h&r would finally get around to mentioning Thatcher.

  • Capt Ace Rimmer||

    I think his friend fucked Mr. T 's wife in 1975.

  • SIV||

    What did Robert Poole ever do for the late lovely Annette Funicello?

  • SweatingGin||

    Honestly, I only knew her from Berke breathed cartoons. I figured she was mondale's vp candidate in '84 or something.

    I was very wrong.

  • SIV||

    Annette was a virginal good-girl sex symbol with a smokin' hot body.I'd link to a vid or her as a reggae pioneer but the good ones all seemed to vanish from youtube.

  • Rock Action||

    Not perfect, just audio and pics http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVbi7pfL6G0

  • Rock Action||

    Out of practice.

  • Rock Action||

  • InlineSkate||

    Statists on Reddit praising her death as if it was the second coming of christ.

  • SweatingGin||

    Statists gonna state.

    That, and the general air of college sophomore, is why I hate reddit. Most of those kids were a glimmer in dad's eye when she was in power.

    Not going to look at reddit just to avoid it.

  • John Galt||

    I knew there was a reason I haven't checked out Reddit.

  • Matrix||

    I hate going to places like Gawker and CNN comments because they are overwhelmingly prog statists. I often feel the need to both rage and weep. Rage at the stupidity, but weep because those assholes are stripping us of our rights and dignity and continue to win day after day. Yeah, we make a few minor victories here and there while they get astounding wins. They have a firm grip on public education, and we are unlikely ever going to tear it away from them.

  • Matrix||

    Not all statists. Conservative statists aren't. Prolodytes are, though. They are cheering like the muslims in the ME were when the Twin Towers came down.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    The Toronto Red Star is not far behind!

    With the departure of Thatcher, the movement has likely run its course. The drift, I suspect, will continue toward the right, but the momentum is gone. What remains of Reaganomics is what you see - a genial, forgetful ex-president without entourage, like a football star out of uniform. Thatcherism will begin receding by tomorrow, along with its namesake.

    The politics of this decade will be spent recovering from the experience while searching for some better way.
  • Matrix||

    She gets a lot of hate for turning around the recession faced by Britian for DARING to give people more economic freedom.

    Progtard Statists really are the worst kind of people out there.

  • PapayaSF||

    John Blundell: Thanks, and for this article as well.

  • John Galt||

    Haven't heard anything from Bob Poole in quite some time. Makes one wonder what he's been up to.

  • obd2works||

    just hahahah

  • WomSom||

    Those guys seem to know whats going on for sure.

    www.SurfinPrivacy.tk

  • mayajan67||

    just before I looked at the check which had said $5387, I didnt believe that...my... father in law realie bringing home money part-time at there labtop.. there neighbour started doing this 4 only 6 months and by now paid the morgage on their place and bourt Bugatti Veyron. go to,
    HTTP://BIG76.COM

  • Marcus75||

    If you think Nicholas`s story is unimaginable,, last pay-check my boy frends dad basically got a cheque for $8594 just sitting there sixteen hours a week from home and they're co-worker's mom`s neighbour done this for five months and earnt over $8594 in there spare time on their labtop. follow the steps at this address, http://www.wow92.com

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