As I hope I made clear in my post on Monday, I’m willing to give the old devil her due. But let’s not get carried away. “Margaret Thatcher had more impact on the world than any woman ruler since Catherine the Great of Russia,” Paul Johnson wrote in the Wall Street Journal. In the Times, David Brooks, perhaps confusing her for the Count of Cavour, said that she led a “fervent bourgeois Risorgimento.” Meanwhile, Speaker John Boehner described her as “the greatest peacetime prime minister in British history.”
Even allowing for a bit of grade inflation since the days of Peel and Gladstone and Disraeli, such comments are over the top. Mainly, they are political. With conservatism in trouble on both sides of the Atlantic, right-leaning politicians and pundits are eager for some of Mrs. Thatcher’s aura to rub off on them. In a survey of academics who specialize in British history, carried out in 2010, Thatcher placed second in a ranking of postwar Prime Ministers, behind Clement Attlee, the self-effacing Labour leader who held office from 1945 to 1951. The Times of London, hardly a socialist organ, produced its own list of great Prime Ministers back to the eighteenth century, and Thatcher ranked fifth—behind Churchill, Lloyd George, Gladstone, and Pitt the Younger.
These rankings seem about right. Everybody remembers Churchill, but Lloyd George and Attlee sometimes get short shrift. In raising taxes to pay for old-age pensions and initiating a system of unemployment insurance, Lloyd George’s liberal government laid the foundation for the modern welfare state, which brought economic security and economic opportunity to millions of Britons from modest backgrounds, myself included. (As head of a coalition government, Lloyd George also led Britain to victory in the First World War.) Attlee’s Administration completed Lloyd George’s work, fashioning a “cradle to grave” social safety net and creating the National Health Service. Mrs. Thatcher undid some of this work, but by no means all of it. Even today, David Cameron and his economic hatchet man, George Osborne, dare not extend their budget cuts to the N.H.S.
As has been widely stated, Thatcher’s most lasting achievement was to reform a system of industrial relations that had become sclerotic and dysfunctional, and which was holding back innovation and productivity growth—the ultimate source of rising living standards. But it is important to be clear why this was so. Contrary to much of what has been written in the past couple of days, it wasn’t because Britain’s labor-union barons had too much power, or that unions are always inimical to economic growth. The continuing success of Germany, where labor representatives routinely sit on the boards of major companies, demonstrates that’s not true.
An important historical difference between Britain and Germany (and, to lesser extent, France) was that in continental Europe the unions were mostly national organizations structured along industrial lines. This mattered a lot. It meant that when German union leaders negotiated with management about installing new equipment and making changes to work practices they were able to deliver their members, and make sure the agreements stuck. Consequently, it paid German firms, such as Volkswagen and B.M.W., to invest in new equipment and upgrading their workers’ skills. The result was a high-skill, high-wage manufacturing sector that was able to weather competition from developing countries.
In Britain, by contrast, the unions tended to be fragmented, craft-based, and organized at the plant level. National union leaders, with some exceptions, were too weak to make binding deals. Time after time during the governments of Harold Wilson, Ted Heath, and James Callaghan, national agreements were undermined by stoppages and strikes at the plant level, where local “shop stewards” often exhibited all the foresight and enlightenment of the Peter Sellars character in the 1959 movie “I’m Alright Jack.” German-style corporatism simply didn’t work in Britain. The unions were too self-centered and bolshy to go along with it. The managers were too passive and myopic to overcome their resistance. The result was a low innovation equilibrium that saw the output and productivity of British industry fall steadily behind its overseas rivals.
By outlawing secondary picketing and other strong-arm tactics that the unions employed, Mrs. Thatcher changed the rules of the game. In a phrase, she restored the right to manage. (A more loaded but equally accurate way to put it: she tipped the class war in the direction of capital.) The result, eventually, was a jump in productivity, which closed some of the gap with Germany and the United States. Paul Krugman has pointed out that much of the improvement took place in the nineteen-nineties, after Mrs. Thatcher had left power, raising questions about how much credit she deserves, but that isn’t entirely right. In a 1997 monograph, “Britain’s Relative Economic Decline 1870-1995,” one of my old tutors, Nicholas Crafts, an economic historian who is now at Warwick University, noted that in British manufacturing, especially, productivity growth picked up sharply during the nineteen-eighties.
It’s no mystery how this happened. Newly empowered by the Thatcher government, British managers first closed down inefficient plants and expanded efficient ones, which led to higher productivity and higher unemployment. If this “batting average” effect had been all there was to Thatcherism, it wouldn’t have been very significant. But as the years went on, many British businesses, not just the old-line manufacturers, reorganized their production methods and invested in new technology, which generated more sustained productivity growth. In a follow-up paper published in 2011, Crafts noted, “As the age of information and communication technology came along, Britain was able to embrace the opportunities associated with rapid diffusion of the new technologies, which required big changes in working practices and management hierarchies, better than its continental-European peer group. This would not have happened with nineteen-seventies-style industrial relations and a heavily regulated service sector.”
A few figures that Crafts cites tell the story. In 1979, output per employee in German manufacturing was almost twenty per cent higher than in British manufacturing. A decade later, the gap had been reduced to five per cent. Progress was also made in the fast-growing services sector. In a survey of productivity growth in twenty countries carried out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Britain ranked twelfth in the period from 1960 to 1973. Between 1979 and 1994, it ranked fifth. To be sure, dear old Blighty was still no world-beater. Compared to the United States and Japan, for example, it was still lagging badly in manufacturing productivity. But it was no longer the “sick man” of Europe—by 2007, output per head in the over-all economy had reached German levels—and that’s the case for Thatcherite shock therapy.
The case against it is that it was all shock and no therapy. An aggressive act of economic engineering that ultimately depended upon the police powers of the state, its social costs were enormous and are still being felt. And while it facilitated a burst of catch-up growth with other nations that had raced ahead of Britain, it was too short-termist, too inegalitarian, and too inimical to the concept of public investment for it to lay the foundations for lasting shared prosperity.
Poverty, Inequality, and Unemployment
Perhaps the most visible cost of Thatcherism was mass unemployment, which remained a blight on the country well after she left office. Between 1955 and 1979, the unemployment rate in the U.K. averaged 3.3 per cent. Between 1980 and 1995, it averaged 9.7 per cent. And these figures don’t take account of millions of Britons who dropped out of the labor force to take disability benefits or enter the underground economy. For the first time since the nineteen thirties, chronic joblessness returned, and with it came a big increase in poverty. A helpful chart on the Guardian’s Web site shows the trend. If the poverty line is set at sixty per cent of median income, in 1979 13.4 per cent of households lived under it. By 1990, Mrs. Thatcher’s last year in power, the rate had shot up to 22.2 per cent.
The figures largely speak for themselves. But a couple of other things are notable about these developments. Many conservatives weren’t (and aren’t) above depicting the unemployed as “scroungers” living high on the hog at the taxpayers’ expense. In fact, Thatcher and her successors toughened the eligibility requirements for receiving unemployment benefits and slashed their value. In New York and many parts of the United States, the level of benefits is related to prior earnings, which ensures they provide a basic living. In the U.K., by contrast, all claimants get a flat rate benefit, which is currently about a hundred dollars a week for single people. (Yes, that’s one hundred.) Even allowing for housing and child benefits, British benefit levels are substantially lower than levels in many other countries, and this is one of Mrs. Thatcher’s legacies.
Additionally, the high unemployment rates were a direct consequence of misguided government policies. Thatcher’s initial embrace of monetarism and austerity policies led to higher interest rates and a higher exchange rate for sterling, which was already rising because of the discovery of North Sea oil. An overvalued pound rendered large swaths of British industry uncompetitive with foreign suppliers, and export industries such as steel, shipbuilding, and engineering were decimated. Many towns and cities, particularly in the north, never properly recovered from the Thatcher-era deindustrialization, which is one of the reasons she is still very unpopular in many areas.
In other regions and industries, particularly in the deregulated financial sector, some people did very well. Consequently, income inequality rose sharply. In the nineteen-seventies, the Gini co-efficient, a common measure of this gap between rich and poor, averaged 24.3 placing Britain near the bottom of the economic inequality league table. By the mid-nineties, the Gini had jumped to 32.4, moving Britain well up the table, and since then it has continued to rise. Indeed, by this measure, Britain is now the most economically unequal big country in Europe. (It still lags behind the U.S., though.) Adopting the commonsense value judgment that an additional dollar of income is worth more to a poor person than a rich one, economists sometimes adjust G.D.P. and productivity figures to account for changes in inequality. In his 1997 study, Crafts did just this, and he concluded: “The resulting change in the British growth rate is large and makes British performance look relatively and absolutely much less attractive—on this methodology the U.K. goes to the bottom of the league table.”
The Class System
Mrs. Thatcher’s defenders sometimes claim that she destroyed, or seriously undermined, the British class system: opening up the professions, enabling the working class to buy their own homes, and removing some of the privileges of the toffs. It’s an appealing story that doesn’t match the facts. Another way of saying a society is classless is to say it exhibits a lot of social mobility. But studies show that since Mrs. Thatcher came to power, in 1979, social mobility has gone down rather than up. Far from becoming more classless, Britain has gotten even more class bound. Some of the progress that was made during the post-war years has been reversed.
The seminal paper in this area was published about ten years ago by four British economists (Jo Blanden, Stephen Machin, Alissa Goodman, and Paul Gregg) who analyzed the incomes of one group of Britons born in 1958 (the pre-Thatcher cohort) and one born in 1970 (the post-Thatcher cohort). Specifically, the researchers looked at how closely correlated each person’s income was with the income of their parents. If the correlation co-efficient is high, it means economic status is passed down the generations, which is happens in a class-ridden society. Here is the conclusion of the study: “Even though these cohorts are only twelve years different in age we see sharp falls in cross-generation mobility of economic status between the cohorts. The economic status of the 1970 cohort is much more strongly connected to parental economic status than the 1958 cohort.”
In an article published in 2005, Blanden, Gregg, and Machin summarized their findings and related them to the broader debate about rising inequality:
The rapid increase in UK income inequality that began in 1979 is sometimes justified by the argument that society is now more meritocratic so that it is easier for the poor to become richer if they are willing and able to work hard. In fact, our research shows that the opposite has occurred—there has actually been a fall in the degree of social mobility over recent decades. Children born to poor families are now less likely to break free of their background and fulfill their potential than they were in the past.
More recent studies have produced similar results, and even some members of the Conservative Party have acknowledged the reality. An all-party parliamentary study that was published last year concluded, “British social mobility is low by international standards and does not appear to be improving.” Among the factoids contained in the report: more than a third of M.P.s, more than half of C.E.O.s at top British companies, and seventy per cent of high-court judges had attended exclusive private schools—the traditional means by which the British ruling class reproduces itself. Of course, Mrs. Thatcher isn’t solely responsible for this sorry state of affairs. (Blanden et al. suggest that, ironically enough, some of the blame lies with reforms during the nineteen-nineties that were intended to broaden access to higher education but which ended up being focussed on young people with richer parents.) Still, the data is pretty clear: the decline in social mobility began during her premiership.
Education and Innovation
The reference to education brings me to another drawback with Thatcherism. From the beginning, it exhibited a hostility to investing in education, particularly higher education, which has undermined Britain’s long-term competitiveness. By slashing the education budget and holding down the salaries of teachers and academics, Mrs. Thatcher drove away many able educators, some of whom came to the United States, where salaries and research budgets were more generous. An Oxford-trained chemist, she even cut the research budget for sciences like chemistry, biology, and medicine—a policy that earned her rebukes from senior executives at Glaxo and I.C.I,. which were then Britain’s biggest drug company and chemicals company respectively. If there’s one thing most economists can agree on, it’s that in advanced countries economic progress depends on fostering scientific research and an educated workforce, two things Thatcherism failed to do.
But that was Mrs. Thatcher. In taking on the unions and privatizing companies such as British Telecom and British Petroleum, she removed some of the barriers that had been holding back large parts of British industry. And in encouraging more competition and entrepreneurship, she unleashed forces that, over time, led to substantial innovation and efficiency gains in other areas, too. But that was only part of the story. Convinced that reducing tax burdens and getting government out of the way were the keys to growth, and to her narrow vision of liberty, she was implacably hostile to more subtle arguments about the need to remedy market failures, such as unemployment, underinvestment, and short-termism. And as for concerns about inequality and social exclusion, she regarded them as left-wing poppycock.
It was left to her successors—John Major and Tony Blair—to try and fill in some of the gaps in Thatcherism, while seeking to preserve the gains it had brought. Major’s Conservative government made a start by expanding the university system. Blair’s Labour Administration invested heavily in schools, health care, and public infrastructure. Taking seriously some of Mrs. Thatcher’s strictures about market forces, it also toughened anti-trust policy and strengthened competition throughout the economy, encouraging market leaders to innovate. Although it by no means did everything that was needed, it also took some steps to arrest the rise in inequality, raising taxes on the rich and expanding income support programs for low-paid workers.
Today, though, there are big questions about the future of the U.K. economy. For a long time, some of its underlying weaknesses were masked by the tremendous growth in financial services, and the City of London, which, together with a housing bubble, generated enough tax revenue to fund education, health, and redistribution programs. The financial crash of 2008-2009 gravely undermined this economic model, which seems unlikely to be revived anytime soon. In recent years, output growth and productivity growth have become almost non-existent, and tax revenues have fallen sharply.
The Conservative-Liberal coalition’s recipe for turning things around amounts to more Thatcherism—more cuts in government spending, particularly welfare benefits; more privatization; more deregulation. So far, it has failed dismally; the limits to Thatcherism are more apparent than ever. Like Mrs. T in 1981, David Cameron says he’s not for turning. But unless he does, he’s likely to go down, like many of his heroine’s predecessors, as a failed Prime Minister.
Photograph, of Thatcher in 1977, by Marion S. Trikosko/Library of Congress.
The main question of all students who have to write a reflective or personal essay is whether it is possible to come up with such type of academic paper without sounding too egotistical. From one side, it might seem that there is nothing easier than writing about yourself. From time to time, even personal essays should stick to specific rules. For instance, the writing style is an obligatory condition.
In this article, I will try to reveal the basics of writing an essay about yourself so that you may use these tips in your academic life.
Tricks and Tips on How to Write a Personal Essay
We have gathered several life hints that can help every student to prepare for writing an essay on yourself. First of all, you should try to focus on your personal life experience. People would like to learn about the things you have gone through instead of some imaginative things.
Second, you should describe an experience which is related to your education. Describing your first wedding ceremony or gig with the music band is not the best idea. It is better to dedicate time to the things you've learned from school, college, or other educational institutions. If you have a specific person who inspired you to enter target college or work in the certain field, reflect this role model.
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Even though the essay about you should be focused on your name and deeds, do not start writing with the trivial phrases introducing yourself. It is still better to put an intriguing question which requires an answer in the end or begin with an interesting fact/quote/joke.
Third, let your family read the final draft once you are finished with your writing. Sometimes, you know yourself worse than people around you so that you can trust them.
Finally, try to avoid sensitive subjects like:
- Political situation
- Race and nationality
- Income level
How Do You Start an Essay about Yourself
As a rule, an essay about yourself contains up to 400 words. Although you can think that there is no specific topic for such type of paper, sometimes tutors assign particular subjects to discuss.
For example, you may be asked to write where you picture yourself in five or more years. It is your chance to prove that high school or even college education is not enough.
You should start telling personal things. However, use the great words you know to explain why you deserve the place in the target educational institution or company. Avoid making up a story; you should be as sincere as possible. Come up with the story describing the challenges you faced as a surgeon's assistant. Tell about the personal struggles you have gone through to accomplish your internship as a bank cashier. Provide the background of your sports achievements.
However, whatever you decide to recall, make sure it has a connection with your future profession. You can include an interesting part related to your hobbies, but don't go much into details.
On the whole, make sure to highlight your:
- Educational background
- Work background
- Skills and knowledge
- Life goals
For the affordable price, you can get an eye-catching introduction of any reflective essay.
10 Simple Tips on How to Write a Personal Essay
- Choosing the best topic
Go to the section with great topic ideas to discover new and time-tested examples.
- Formatting your paper
When writing an essay on yourself, you don't need to add abstract or reference page. The structure of personal statement is much easier. At the same time, you have to mind your:
- Its size
In other words, a paper dedicated to your life should look accurate and structured.
- Manage your time
Any academic paper has a deadline. A paper describing yourself has a strict deadline as well. It is better to start writing as soon as you are assigned the task. Thus, you will have more time to proofread and edit your draft. By the way, you should involve several drafts.
- Get your family involved
No, I am not telling you to use your family members as writing guides or something. It is better to get professional writing assistance from the corresponding service. I mean that recalling the stories related to your family or personal experience is a good way to appeal to the heart of your readers. You may share a story of your family member who used to cope with the serious disease. When you work on the paper about yourself, it is important to stay sincere and honest. So, if you have some really good life stories to share, feel free to do it.
- Find inspiration
If you have no idea what an essay depicting your person should include, you may get inspired by another person. It's okay if you don't have a rich experience or amazing story to share with your audience. Find people who were once students like you or describe the fate of your friends. You may also find ideas from the:
- Internet blogs
- Social networks
Find more inspiration after reading these ways to make your college essay great!
- Focus on the needs of university
If you are writing a paper about yourself as a part of your admission, describe your personal skills and university goals equally. Give them an overall idea of what you can do well, and describe how you can contribute your knowledge to the prosperity of that particular college or university. In order to sound less egotistical in the essay about yourself, please look through this advice.
- Avoid using complex words
Don't type the words you don't know - your Word will most probably fix all your grammar mistakes, but you need to know what every word means when you use it in the essay about yourself. Choose synonyms to make your text richer, but replace difficult terms with simpler words.
- It's all about great introduction
Forget about general phrases like "My name is..." or "Everybody loves.." When you compose an essay about your life, you don't have to sound trivial. Use statistics and interesting facts to begin your paper. Various quotations might also work. It's just important to choose citations that are related to your story somehow. You may read more about composing powerful introduction and other parts of this article.
- Keep away from sensitive subjects
Writing a paper that reflects yourself should not hurt the feelings of other students, tutors, or people around. The worst topics you might find for your personal paper involve gender, racial, political, and religious issues. It is recommended to make your essay more positive even if you prefer to recall a hard time of your life.
- Always revise the paper and double-check the grammar
A finished draft is only half the battle. Download grammar checker or use online checkers to have a text free of grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors. You should also get anti-plagiarism software to find out whether your content is 100% original.
College Essay Examples about Yourself
We have discussed so far how to start a essay about yourself and the overall structure recommendations. Here we go with the top topic ideas for the personal essay. If you want to avoid difficult argumentative essay topics, you may find some great ideas on this blog. Choose one of them:
- My early days at school
- How I survived my college years
- My first work experience
- Looking through the mirror
- How my friends influenced my interests
- The art of telling lies
- Learning English (a good topic for international students)
- The impact of my brother on my life
You can search for more topic examples as well as personal essay samples here.
One more thing: in case you still have some doubts regarding the quality of your paper, you may contact a professional online writing service and order a full job written from scratch.
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