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Ronald Reagan with Margaret Thatcher at the White House. Photo courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library.
Ronald Reagan with Margaret Thatcher at the White House. Photo courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library.
April 19, 2013 2:05 PM CDT

Thatcher's legacy should serve as a model for recovery

Leaders should adopt Ms. Thatcher’s penchant for private enterprise and thrift

By ,

Last week, the world marked the passage of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

During her 11 year reign, Ms. Thatcher led her nation with a strong will and a list of core convictions that brought her as many admirers as detractors.

Nicknamed the “Iron Lady” by a Russian Journalist, Thatcher was an unapologetic opponent of Soviet Communism. Like her earlier predecessor, Winston Churchill, she understood a political and economic system that put the priorities of the state above that of the individual, drains a population of its incentive, drive, national pride, and most importantly, foundational liberties.

Her close and productive relationship with President Reagan helped bring an end to the Soviet Union and the Cold War. Their partnership also restored a greater reliance on free markets that created a powerful stimulus and lifted both nations out of a stubborn economic malaise.

A recent examination of her life by Reuters noted that Ms. Thatcher possessed a: “personal credo, founded on competition, private enterprise, thrift and self-reliance.”

This philosophy was captured in part during a speech to the Zurich Economic Society in March of 1977 that also served as a template for her approach to governing. In the address she noted: “We want a society where people are free to make choices, to make mistakes, to be generous and compassionate. This is what we mean by a moral society; not a society where the state is responsible for everything, and no one is responsible for the state.”

President Obama and member of Congress have paid tribute to Baroness Thatcher, praising her life and accomplishments. Policymakers who have reflected on her extraordinary life would be well-served in examining the economic parallels of the late 70’s and early 80’s and apply the principles that Reagan and Thatcher used to reform our economic system, create new prosperity, and restore the ‘can-do’ attitude that propels people to harness their God-given abilities.

While every recession is different, and political complexities are dynamic, U.S. policymakers must first avoid the kind of brinksmanship, demagoguery, and continual campaigning that the Reagan/Thatcher team shunned. Their approach was not always perfect, but it is hard to imagine that if today's poltiticians employed their style of leadership, America would have advanced a misguided stimulus program, an ironically named Affordable Care Act, or a sequestration bill that indiscriminately cuts programs across the board, rather than on merit.

Lawmakers have real issues to contend with as they work to get the economy back on track, and determine the proper role of government. These leaders would be wise to adopt Ms. Thatcher’s penchant for private enterprise and thrift, and we as citizens, again rely on competition and self-reliance.

About the Authors

Matthew B. Keelen, founder and President of the government affairs firm The Keelen Group, is a widely known and highly regarded lobbyist and political strategist with experience building relationships with key figures and a reputation for consistently delivering hard-earned victories. Acknowledged for his innate ability to establish and develop long lasting political relationships, Keelen has dozens of time-tested relationships with Members of Congress, including many who are in positions of considerable influence today. To learn more about The Keelen Group, visit

Bud DeFlaviis joined the Keelen Group LLC in May of 2012 after serving for two years as the Executive Director for the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council.


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