No Ordinary Prime Minister

Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, born as Margaret Hilda Roberts, best known as Margaret Thatcher, has died at age 87.

In 1979, she became England’s first female prime minister, and she launched what many consider to have been a conservative, free-market revolution.

The late Margaret Thatcher. Image source: BBC/Public Catalogue Foundation

As it happens, she also crossed paths with Peter Drucker, whose chapter on “The Sickness of Government” in his book The Age of Discontinuity was an influence on many readers. “As Mrs. Thatcher said publicly many times, she derived her policies largely from this chapter—(it did, for instance, invent and advocate ‘privitization’—I originally called it re-privitization),” Drucker wrote later in his collection A Functioning Society. “And it gave her her key argument: that to be effective a government had to stop ‘doing’ and concentrate on setting policy and making decisions, on establishing standards and on giving vision, that is, on governing.”

Still, as far as Drucker was concerned, Thatcher was a product of her times in having a very narrow and, in Drucker’s view, modest agenda. “In her 10 years on the job she has concentrated on only three tasks: breaking the labor union’s stranglehold; privatization in industry, in housing, in education; making sure that growing involvement in the European Economic Community does not endanger Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the United States,” Drucker wrote in The New Realities. “On everything else she has been pragmatic, situation-focused, uncommitted.”

As for making government leaner and more effective, Thatcher had “little to show but growing deficits for her attempts to cut government back, to make it more effective and competent and to turn around the British economy,” Drucker added in Post-Capitalist Society.

For all his criticisms, did Drucker admire the Iron Lady? We suspect that his estimation of her as “arguably the ablest and surely the most determined leader of the so-called Free World since General de Gaulle” offers an indication.

What do you think was the most important legacy of Margaret Thatcher?