What to Make of Margaret Thatcher?

In five years as Britain's prime minister, she's broken with forty years of British politics.


It was the fall of 1976. I was part of a small group entertaining the leader of Britain's Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher, at dinner in a private room at the Cafe Royal in London's West End.

After dinner the conversation moved from economic freedom to matters of personal freedom. It was a natural development, since the host for the evening, an aspiring Member of Parliament (MP), believed that economic and personal freedoms are inseparable and indivisible. And he perceived that the "libertarian" right of the Conservative Party was supporting economic freedom while either ignoring or being openly hostile to questions of personal freedom.

He began to explore this matter with Thatcher and illustrated his theme by advocating the legalization of marijuana. Thatcher was completely and utterly appalled. Sensing he was on rocky ground, our host moved away from the philosophical case to a more practical approach. Marijuana, he claimed, was freely available, so why not recognize reality? He knew at least one person who sold the substance.

"My personal detective is sitting outside that door," said Thatcher. "Call him in and give him this dealer's name and address. "

Our host changed the subject, and Thatcher let the matter drop. The detective was never called in, Thatcher went on to become prime minister, our host's aspirations to a seat in Parliament were fulfilled—and the dope dealer is probably still in business.

I met Thatcher many times over a period of 10 years from her days as education secretary and later shadow environment secretary to her time as leader of the opposition and later prime minister. My view of her has been shaped by those many glimpses of her political development.

Opinions on Margaret Thatcher among American conservatives and libertarians tend to fall into one of two groups. Either she is viewed as the best thing since sliced bread, a crusading antistatist who is creating a new climate of freedom and free enterprise, or she is a typical politician, knee-deep in broken promises, who has failed to cut taxes, reduce expenditures, dismantle the state, and restore freedom. But I must say from my personal knowledge and observation that neither view is correct.

It's now been five years since Thatcher was first elected prime minister and it seems an appropriate time to assess her personal philosophy, promises, and progress. But before that can be attempted it is necessary to understand the decades leading up to her election as Conservative leader in 1975 and her election as prime minister in 1979 and 1983.

During World War II, the level of government control of the British economy exceeded that of National Socialist Germany. Sixty percent of all production went to the state; five and a half million men and women were in the military; 40 percent of the working civilian population—and there was zero unemployment—was involved in war production; rationed goods absorbed over a third of after-tax income; and a worker could not change jobs without a government permit. So many people were involved in so many ways that it was known as the "people's war."

On top of this large-scale collectivism, the 1944 Beveridge Report on social security proposed state support "from the cradle to the grave." Memories of the depression that had followed World War I were very much alive. In 1918 the troops had been promised a return to "a land fit for heroes," not unemployment; and this second time around people were not about to be "cheated." Strong central control of all aspects of the economy was perceived to have pulled the country through six years of war; now, so people thought, a strong state could turn the "people's war" into the "people's peace."

Influenced by Friedrich Hayek's free-market classic The Road to Serfdom, Winston Churchill based his 1945 election campaign against the Labour Party on a vehemently antisocialist platform. Socialism, he said, is "inseparably interwoven with totalitarianism." To implement a socialist program, one would have to "fall back on a form of Gestapo."

Yet throughout most of the war, the Labour leaders had been in Churchill's coalition cabinet, running the country while he ran the war. There had been no "Gestapo," his charge made no sense, and Labour romped to power.

The new government of Clement Attlee kept the war-time controls and sent John Maynard Keynes to America to secure new loans. It nationalized the Bank of England, road transport, the railways and independent domestic airlines, iron and steel, and the fuel and power industries. The Beveridge Report was implemented with three major welfare bills passing through Parliament. Just as World War I had earlier served as a training ground for those who later administered the New Deal in America and the corporatist policies of the British government of that time, World War II led to the establishment of the welfare state and strong government control of the economy in the United Kingdom.

During the six years from 1939 to 1945, Keynesian doctrines of government management of the economy had completely conquered British academia and opinion-forming circles. Hayek now believes that in 1939 he still had a good chance of defeating such views, but by 1945 the war had reduced his chances to all but zero. War-socialism had ensured the Keynesian victory.

However, huge shortages rapidly emerged. Bread was suddenly rationed for the first time. Two months after coal was nationalized, there was no coal. Newspapers were limited to four pages. For five hours every day there was no electricity. Many ration levels were reduced. And it became a criminal offense to turn on a fire in summer.

Despite such moves, Labour hung on to power in the 1950 elections. It was not until 1951 that it was ousted. Labour promised more of the same, including nationalization of cement, insurance, and sugar. The Conservatives ("Tories"), Labourites said, would bring unemployment, whereas Labour would guarantee "a fair share at a fair price" for everyone.

The Tories' 1951 campaign was helped not only by the failure of Labour's programs but also by a strongly ideological antinationalization campaign run by Tate and Lyle, Britain's biggest sugar manufacturers and refiners. It used "Mr. Cube"—a cartoon cube of sugar to which were added arms, legs, and a smile—to impart its free-enterprise message. Churchill himself talked of "bonfires of controls" that would "set the people free." But many of the newer, younger MPs first elected in 1945 and 1950 had other ideas. One such was the 1947 Industrial Charter, which paid lip service to lower taxes and reduced controls but proposed wage fixing, accepted much of Labour's nationalization, and advocated a strong dose of central direction of the economy to engineer full employment.

The Tory party had accepted the creation of Labour's welfare state and the mixed economy, with many industries exclusively in state hands, as well as a strong role for central government in economic management. There was only a vestigial adherence to the free market, hence Hayek's 1944 dedication of The Road to Serfdom "to the socialists of all parties."

For 28 years, from 1951 to 1979, this social-democratic Keynesian consensus reigned supreme and did not even begin to crumble until the 1970s. As a leading British journalist and commentator, John O'Sullivan, recently stated, "It was a case of Tweedledee and Tweedledumber." The differences between the right of the Labour Party and the left of the Conservative Party were so small that a new word, Butskellism, was coined to describe this middle-ground consensus. It came from the names of R.A. Butler, a senior Conservative cabinet member, author of the Industrial Charter, and leader of the Conservative left, and Hugh Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour right and the man who replaced Attlee as Labour leader.

Under the Conservatives, government expenditures as a percentage of gross national product moved past the 30 percent mark and up to the mid-40 percent level. A critical moment came in January 1958 when the cabinet's "taxing ministers" tried to stand up to the "spending ministers." They wanted to control the money supply, reduce public expenditure, and cut taxes. They lost and resigned. Such was the consensus view of the time that Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was able to dismiss the whole affair as "a little local difficulty."

Beneath the surface, however, significant changes were rumbling. The Labour Party had always had its radical left wing, a fact the Tories exploited with election slogans such as "Socialism Leads to Communism." So the Labour Party leadership kept radical-left infiltration to a trickle through the 1950s and 1960s. But the trickle turned into a tsunami in the early 1970s. Leftists moved into Labour's local constituency party organizations, gained control, either waited for the sitting MP to retire or refused to reselect him, and then put their own person in place.

The result has been an increasing percentage of leftist Labour MPs with every recent election. This shift is, of course, reflected in the Labour leadership, as well. After a succession of right-wing leaders—Attlee, Gaitskell, Wilson, and Callaghan—the leadership of the party, and thus the position of de facto prime minister in waiting, has passed to the left in the form of Michael Foot and more recently Neil Kinnock.

Changes were also taking place within the Tory party. In the mid-'50s a young independent businessman, Antony Fisher, went to see Professor Hayek to tell him that he wanted to get into Parliament and promote Hayekian, free-market policies. Hayek very wisely suggested he forget about a political career and instead found an institute to promote market-oriented alternatives to the prevailing views. Fisher took the advice and in 1957 established the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in London.

The task was immense. Even the leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister at the time, Harold Macmillan, described laissez-faire as a "cold old doctrine" against which he reacted "violently and instinctively."

For many years, the IEA was a lone voice for the marketplace, but it produced a steady stream of high-quality scholarly and policy papers. Gradually a nucleus of academics, businessmen, journalists, young people, and others began to form around it, spreading its message throughout opinion-forming circles. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the impact of the IEA's work on the climate of opinion became increasingly apparent. The names of economists F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and other scholars began to appear in the press, in motions at Tory party conferences, and elsewhere.

In 1970 the Conservatives came back to power, this time on a platform of ending subsidies to "lame duck" industries, lowering taxes, and imposing fiscal responsibility. This was the famous Selsdon Park manifesto, so called because it was drafted by the shadow cabinet during a weekend retreat to the Selsdon Park Hotel. Unfortunately, it was rapidly abandoned. Subsidies to faltering industries not only continued but increased, denationalization was limited to a handful of pubs and a travel agency, Rolls Royce was nationalized, and the money supply was exploded in an effort to reflate, or "dash for growth," as Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath was to say.

But Heath began to face growing ideological criticism within his own ranks. The Selsdon Group was formed to fight to preserve the spirit of the 1970 manifesto, and when Heath—following in Richard Nixon's footsteps—introduced price and wage controls, he had to overcome a barrage of opinion both in certain newspapers and within his own party.

Heath's downfall, however, came from his all-embracing attempt to legislate on trade-union matters. Special courts were established, trade unionists were imprisoned for strikes and other industrial action prohibited by the National Industrial Relations Court, and an acrimonious fight over pay developed with the National Union of Mineworkers. Heath went to the country on the platform "Who rules: The unions or the government?" and he lost. Within nine months, he lost again when a second election was called to solidify Labour gains.

The results were many and varied. First, the middle-of-the-road social-democratic consensus was smashed. A union had taken on the government and thrown it out. The new, more left-wing Labour administration was in power as a direct result of this controversy. Unlike previous periods when the Labour Party was in power—1945–1951 and 1964–1970—it was no longer in partnership with the trade unions as a major part of the broader Labour movement; rather, the party was the pawn of the unions. Reg Prentice, a member of that Labour cabinet who later joined the Conservative Party, tells how lawyers retained by the Trades Union Congress drafted whole acts of Parliament that were presented to the cabinet on a "take it or leave it at your peril" basis.

Second, the middle class and the small-business communities were not merely alarmed but scared stiff by this display of union power. Organizations were formed overnight, attracting tens of thousands of members and joining in the fray. One, the Freedom Association, began taking trade-union abuses and other matters to court. For example, it was successful in having the closed shop virtually outlawed in Britain by the European Court of Human Rights.

New small-business groups such as the National Federation of Self-Employed began to campaign and lobby, taking for the most part a rigorous free-market policy stand. The Adam Smith Institute, inspired by the United States-based Heritage Foundation, was established and began to lobby actively for free-market policies.

Sir Keith Joseph, the most senior member of the Heath cabinet who was not considered a Heathite, and his close friend Margaret Thatcher founded the Center for Policy Studies (CPS) in 1974. It was "to study economic and social policies" with a commitment to "extend the liberty of the subject." Its view has always been that "the market is vital to prosperity" and that "freedom reflects a concept of society as organic and largely spontaneous." Although it acknowledged that the post–World War II bipartisan approach to a highly controlled economy had been very damaging, it explicitly stopped short of laissez-faire.

Third, the two election defeats of 1974 meant that Heath, who had also lost in 1966, now had a 1-to-3 win-loss record. In early 1975, new rules for electing the leader of the Conservative Party were brought forward. Margaret Thatcher proceeded to fight and win the leadership on a clear platform: a commitment to individual freedom and private enterprise, the maintenance of law and order, the wide distribution of private property, and a belief in hard work, thrift, reward for effort with lower taxes, and a "duty and responsibility to care for others." As a former member of Heath's cabinet, she accepted some of the blame for the policy U-turns of 1970–1974 but, unlike Heath, seemed prepared to learn from them. Instead of merely promising to halt the country on its slide towards socialism, she promised to reverse direction.

Her election in 1979 was the final nail in the coffin of the old social-democratic Keynesian consensus. The ideas of the Institute of Economic Affairs and other market-oriented groups had permeated to many parts of the Conservative Party, the media, and other opinion-molding groups. Free-market economists Hayek and Friedman, both Nobel Laureates by now, had become all but household names. Labour leaders received prominent coverage for attacking Thatcher for being "in the grips of a mad Austrian economist." Even the Sun, Rupert Murdoch's racy tabloid newspaper more famous for its bare bosoms than its intellectual content, ran a headline, "Who the Heck Is Hayek?"

Sir Geoffrey Howe, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, commented that Hayek's Road to Serfdom was the most influential book he had ever read. Sir Keith Joseph, the new secretary of state for industry, spoke weekly on campuses across the country quoting both of the Nobel Laureates. And Mrs. Thatcher listed Hayek's Constitution of Liberty and Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations among the three books to have most influenced her political philosophy.

The "winter of discontent" immediately preceding the election, a winter that had seen unions causing unprecedented levels of disruption, put her in an enviable position. The British public at large was heartily sick of such excesses. Many who had voted Labour in the past because "they can work with the unions and the Tories can't" now realized that not even a socialist administration living in the pockets of the union bosses could guarantee industrial peace.

The new administration Thatcher formed had to reflect a broad cross-section of opinion within her party, and the Conservative Party is a broad church. People hostile to her politically and personally were included in the cabinet. Experience and success (coupled with the petulance of left-wing Conservatives and their lack of ideas and organization) has allowed her to change the composition of the cabinet significantly in her favor. "Wets"—those who want to return to the middle-of-the-road consensus of the 1950s and 1960s—have been dropped or moved sideways to noneconomic positions. In their place, she has promoted "Drys"—supporters of sound money, balanced budgets, and the free market.

Important as such changes have been, the past five years of Thatcher cabinets have also seen two more changes of major long-run importance. First, prior to her victory in 1979, every postwar British cabinet had been made up exclusively or overwhelmingly of men and women who had participated either as civilians or in the military during World War II. If they had not been fighting soldiers, seamen, and airmen, they were at least functionaries of the Ministry of War Production or majors in an army supply division or some such. They had had firsthand experience of being small cogs in a big centralized war effort, and their propensity was almost invariably to want to be big cogs in a centralized peace effort. Since 1979, that has changed. A majority of Thatcher appointees were simply too young to have been involved in World War II. A new, unencumbered generation has come to the fore.

Second, the dominance in the cabinet of Eton and Harrow and Oxford and Cambridge is very much on the wane. A Thatcher appointee is just as likely to have attended a local government-run high school (as she did) as a private school. And while a Thatcher appointee will probably have attended Oxford or Cambridge, he or she would have gained admittance (again, as she did) purely on merit. She is in fact an arch meritocrat who identifies closely with people whose careers in some way parallel her own—working- or lower-middle-class background, local high school, Oxbridge or the equivalent, and a "real" job. The result, reflected throughout the Conservative members of Parliament, is a more independent, harder-nosed breed of politician.

How much did Thatcher's first administration achieve? On the positive side, one can point to some deregulation, denationalization, the start of privatization of local government services, the sale of public housing, a tough attitude toward the European Economic Community, cuts in top tax rates and in the size of the civil service, and a surprising degree of mastery of the trade unions. On the negative side, however, are her early failure to bring spending and borrowing down and the substantial increases in welfare and defense spending.

Exchange controls, price and wage controls, dividend controls, and credit controls—all were swept away. Heads of nationalized industries were told to put their houses in order, and many have done so. Once in order, they have been brought to the market and sold off (for examples of this, see my article "Margaret Goes to Market," REASON, Feb. 1982). State monopolies such as the ones on the supply of gas and electricity and on scheduled bus service were broken.

The concept of privatization of local government services moved from total obscurity to a trend and almost to a fashionable craze, in part because of the work of the Adam Smith Institute. Tenants in all public housing were given a right to buy such properties at discounts ranging from one-third to one-half off the estimated market valuation. This opportunity transferred over half a million housing units from the public to the private sector, is continuing to move such units, and is having a remarkable effect on the outlook of a new class of property owners.

While the British government under Thatcher has remained committed to membership in the European Economic Community (EEC), it has done so in such a way as to placate the overwhelming majority of British people who are very unhappy with British membership in the EEC. The Thatcher government has consistently negotiated the level of British contributions down and has taken a reasonably tough attitude on the thousands of pages of regulatory nonsense issued from EEC headquarters in Brussels. Thatcher herself has made it quite clear that she wants to see the Community move much closer to the ideals of the Treaty of Rome that created the EEC—free trade and the free movement of goods, services, labor, and capital.

Thatcher's government has slashed the top marginal tax rates. On investment income, the rate came down from 98 to 75 percent and on earned income from 83 to 60 percent. The basic rate of income tax was cut from 33 to 30 percent. The number of civil servants was also cut by 14 percent over a five-year period.

Her mastery of the unions stems from a number of factors. One must look to the unions themselves—their growing unpopularity, declining membership, and hostility to technological progress. But important also have been record levels of unemployment and Thatcher's overall strategy of eschewing an all-embracing approach and legislating against specific abuses.

Perhaps her greatest success, though, has been the way she has picked a few basic points and hectored and nagged all sections of the population to such an extent that once-unfashionable views are now accepted as truths. Take as an example the question of deficit spending to fuel growth and douse unemployment.

For close to 10 years she has subjected such ideas to constant abuse, using plain, simple language and analogies from the home and business. The result was that in last year's general election, Labour Party promises to reflate, institute new public works programs, and so on, never stood a chance.

What can we expect over the four years that remain of her second administration?

More legislation to control unions, more denationalization of state-owned industries, more privatization of local government services, and more sales of public housing are all quite clearly in the cards. Curbs on increases in local property taxes and the removal of a whole tier of local government are also reasonably certain. There is even a good chance that minimum-wage legislation will be scrapped and that some of the monopolies in the professions will be tackled. Among the best possibilities are the opticians' monopoly on selling glasses, the solicitors' monopoly on transferring deeds on houses, and the monopoly enjoyed by barristers—who rank higher than solicitors—on "rights of audience," or representing clients in higher courts.

Spending and tax cuts, however, are a lot less certain. The cabinet is much "dryer" than before, but battles between many of the spending ministers and taxing ministers continue. The absolutely firm commitment to keep the deficit down—as a percentage of GNP, it is now the lowest of any Western nation—coupled with an apparently equal commitment to increase defense and social-welfare spending gives little leeway for maneuver. In recent months Thatcher has repeatedly stated that tax cuts can come only after real growth in the economy—the very opposite of supply-side theory adopted by the Reagan administration.

One highly beneficial effect of this equation, though, is the impetus it gives to the sale of state-owned companies and other assets. The list of such companies and assets already sold is impressive, as is their performance since being sold. But the list of those being prepared for the market is doubly impressive. Indeed, so much is destined for sale that nationalized industry chiefs are almost bickering in public over who should be allowed to go first.

Although the Conservative Party received a slightly smaller percentage of the vote in 1983 than it did in 1979, it has 397 seats in Parliament, its best situation in 50 years. In contrast, the Labour Party won a mere 27.6 percent of the 1983 vote and only 209 seats in Parliament, its worst situation in 50 years. With Labour's current leadership, policies, and ever-leftward drift, it is essentially a dying party. The huge population shifts from the old inner cities to the suburbs and growth areas have eroded Labour's prime base of support.

More and more of the sons and daughters of traditional die-hard Labour supporters have moved out, possibly taking white-collar rather than blue-collar jobs as British industry becomes more service-oriented. Such offspring are also far more likely to be homeowners and supportive of anybody but the Labour Party.

The new young left-wing Labour "turks" seem to base their policies on a motto of "if it's unpopular, let's support it." Their opposition to the monarchy, the House of Lords, private enterprise, and home ownership, coupled with their support for the Irish Republican Army (IRA), trade-union privileges, increased redistribution of wealth, and so on, can only be interpreted as a manic determination to dig their own political graves.

Unless the right of the Labour Party regains control, the Labour Party will not be returned to power for the foreseeable future. And even if the party were to change dramatically, it would take a massive shift in public opinion to bring it back.

It was the leftward shift of the Labour Party that gave rise to the breakaway Social Democratic Party (SDP) that has joined the Liberal Party to form the Alliance. The SDP was formed by Labour leaders who left their party and took with them over 20 Labour MPs and one Tory. Their popularity rocketed in the second year of the first Thatcher administration; at one point, 55 percent of voters polled said they would vote Alliance. However, it plummeted equally quickly in late 1981 and early 1982, and in the 1983 general election only six SDP candidates were elected to Parliament.

With the 17 Liberal MPs elected in 1983, the Alliance has 23 members in Parliament. However, this total seriously misrepresents the Alliance's level of support. Over the United Kingdom as a whole, Labour's 27.6 percent of the vote gave it 209 seats whereas the Alliance's 25.4 percent gave it only 23 seats.

The problem for the Alliance is Britain's "first-past-the-post" voting system, in which the party that gets more votes than any other within a specific constituency wins, and all other parties within the constituency are unrepresented. This system naturally favors parties whose support is concentrated in specific constituencies sufficiently to outdo its competitors. And although the Alliance has broad general support across the country, it has neither the concentrated pockets of support nor quite the overall level of support needed to take off.

With the Labour Party apparently dying, though, the Alliance could emerge as a serious threat to Thatcher. Should that happen and the Alliance forms a government at some point in the 1990s, it will not necessarily herald a return to the policies of the 1950s and 1960s. The work of the free-market IEA and others at the scholarly level and in opinion-forming circles, coupled with the aspirations of the voters and by then perhaps 10 or even 15 years of Margaret Thatcher, will have moved the center of British politics a significant distance toward the free market and a more limited role for government.

Margaret Thatcher herself is in many ways the exception that proves the rule—a very bright, very honest, and highly principled politician. Certainly she compromises; but because she is honest, she tells you when she is compromising and explains why she is doing so. She never leaves you in any doubt about where she stands. After decades of political leaders mouthing meaningless generalities, shifting and sliding hither and thither, covering up old tracks, this is refreshing, and it has struck a chord.

Her views are very much those of a person who has risen by sheer dint of effort, native wit, and intelligence. Unlike many of her predecessors, she did not enter politics from a wealthy or titled background with the reforming zeal of the meddler. Rather, her background was modest and strongly Methodist. Thrift, hard work, achievement, caring for others in the community yourself through private acts of charity, saving rather than borrowing, studying, using your initiative and independence—all these were strong parts of her childhood that are clearly visible today in her personal qualities and political philosophy.

Her goal is a country where the line between state and private activity is clearly drawn and pushed some way back. She sees many legitimate roles for government—defense, providing a safety net through social spending, law and order, and so on—but her list of such roles is shorter than most.

How far has Britain under Margaret Thatcher moved toward the ideal of the free society? Those who say "a lot" and those who say "not at all" are both wrong. The leftist infiltration and near destruction of the Labour Party, the quarter of a century of scholarly and intellectual groundwork by Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon of the IEA, and in Margaret Thatcher the emergence of a leader who shares at least some of their ideas and has stuck to them, all add up to a clean break from the postwar consensus and a few steps down the road to freedom.

Unfortunately, these steps are almost solely in the economic realm. On social issues and civil liberties, Thatcher is a populist authoritarian, as her views on marijuana indicate. At this writing, her government supports a bill to ban "video nasties," recordings that depict violent acts. When an MP proposed an amendment—eventually unsuccessful—to ban soft-core pornography (hard-core porn already is banned), Thatcher let it be known that she supported the move. She has favored restoration of the death penalty, and a recent survey of freedom in Britain, Civil Liberties 1984, pointed out that her government's abuses of civil liberties in Northern Ireland have been condemned by Amnesty International and other independent human-rights organizations.

The survey also charged that press freedom has not fared well under Thatcher. She has been happy to leave the notorious Official Secrets Act intact. Also, her government was behind the 1981 Contempt of Court Act, which gives courts the power to punish for contempt anyone who publishes the names of witnesses in a court case contrary to the judge's instruction, as well as the power to postpone the publication of court proceedings when the court deems it "necessary to avoid prejudice to those or later proceedings."

Very few economic liberals in Britain are also social liberals. Pioneering legislation to legalize or decriminalize victimless crimes and to strengthen civil liberties has originated mainly in the Liberal and Labour parties.

It is easy both to overestimate the significance of Thatcher's progress on the economic front and to underestimate the tremendous scholarly, intellectual, and political fight it has taken to move this small amount. Spending on health and personal social services, for example, has risen 13.4 percent in real terms since Margaret Thatcher became prime minister (only partially attributable to a rise in unemployment). Indeed, both the overall tax burden and the level of state expenditures have risen sharply.

And there are many other areas of government incursion that she has as yet quite simply failed to tackle, even areas where intellectually she agrees there should be no role for government. Still, there is a good and growing list of achievements, and it is a much, much longer list than anybody could have predicted with any degree of confidence five years ago.

Demolition of decades of government intervention is a marathon task, and Margaret Thatcher is interested only in running a half-marathon. She's about a mile into her race, in good shape, and, on some issues at least, running in the right direction.

John Blundell is director of public affairs at the Institute for Humane Studies in California. This article is based on a talk first delivered to the Free Marin Supper Club.