Margaret Thatcher: A Free Market Environmentalist

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Tracy Mehan’s account of Margaret Thatcher’s approach to the environment reminds us that this remarkable lady was both concerned and informed about the issues.  Yet Mehan’s concentration on speeches in 1988-90 means that a wider context is missing.


In my view, Lady Thatcher’s approach to the environment is as deeply connected to her belief in the importance of the free market as it is to her belief in tradition and our shared inheritance.  She has been consistent in her belief that when the two come into conflict, we should not be blinded by our love of the latter into sacrificing the former.  This became all the more apparent to her as she realized the real motives of some of her initial allies.


As Thatcher explains in her autobiography’s first volume, The Downing Street Years (1993), she “always drew a clear distinction” between different sorts of environmental concerns (638-39).  Many were primarily local concerns that she believed could be addressed through the privatization of badly run municipal services.  She also inherited state-run programs that she saw through to success, including the cleanup of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Britain’s rivers (although the hugely successful private cleanup of London’s River Wandle shows that those programs could well have been run privately).