Anti-heroes and “Villains”

Margaret Thatcher and the Free Market Revolution

Thatcherism attempted to promote low inflation, the small state and free markets through tight control of the money supply, privatisation and constraints on the labour movement.

She also introduced and publicised the fatally flawed comparisons between household and public sector and large company finances.

Under Margaret Thatcher's government, the taming of inflation displaced high employment as the primary policy objective. As a monetarist, Thatcher started out in her economic policy by increasing interest rates to slow the growth of the money supply and thus lower inflation.

As part of a famous television ad campaign from September 1986, an ordinary looking bloke is shown in a fictional village pub. Lost in thought, he almost knocks a passing postman from his bike. It turns out he is preoccupied with the news that he can buy shares in British Gas. After passing on the good news to the postie, he adds: "If you see Sid, tell him."

This was not simply a PR myth. Initially there really was a popular scramble by ordinary folk to sign up to the "people's capitalism" and reap the rewards. Four million people applied for British Gas shares at 135p a pop with a minimum purchase of 100. Many then sold them almost immediately for a quick profit. In Thatcher's second term, Jaguar, British Telecom, BritOil and British Aerospace were also sold off. Later, British Steel, British Airways, BP, water and electricity would follow. Thatcher said that privatisation was a chance to give "power back to the people". In fact, as Robert Philpot, director of the Progress pressure group, wrote last week: "Now, in 2012, it's clear that the result of electricity privatisation was to take power away from the people. Small British shareholders have no influence over the overwhelmingly non-British owners of the firms that generate and distribute power in Britain."

Until the late 1970s, the Square Mile was a genteel all-male club dominated by pinstripe suits, public school accents and a culture of long lunches. Money was made at the Stock Exchange with effortless panache, as a coterie of licensed dealers acted on behalf of stockbroker firms with redolent names such as Quilter and Co.

Transforming the Financial markets

The Big Bang blew the ancient regime apart. Within six months of Margaret Thatcher's election, exchange controls were lifted and foreign capital flooded into Britain. The deregulation of the Stock Exchange in 1986 was an invitation to the world's biggest beasts to enter the trading floor.

Traders began to send huge amounts of money fizzing around the world's financial networks. The towers of Canary Wharf rose silver and immaculate from the industrial desert of the former London Docklands

Education reforms

Thatcher's education secretary from 1986-89, Kenneth Baker, transformed the state school system, creating a proto-market that has been enthusiastically embraced and developed by one of his successors, Michael Gove. Baker insisted that attainment levels be made public, allowing a "league table" of schools to emerge. At the same time, he instructed schools to accept all applicants, local or otherwise, unless already full.

The choice agenda was born: parents could, in theory if not always in practice, decide which school their child would go to. Local authority control of education was also much-reduced by the Education Act of 1988, which gave autonomy over budgets and appointments to heads and school governors.

Gove has deepened that autonomy with his academy programme and added the further option of free schools.

Reflection on Thatcherism

Many of the ills that beset contemporary society stem from the essentially free market philosophies initiated by the Thatcher governments. The behaviour of the de-regulated financial services industry led, amongst other things, to the crash of 2007 – and the behaviour of privatised companies, such as the oil and gas sector, has contributed to the rise in greenhouse gases and global warming. But the biggest impact of all has been the retreat of government from regulating both the financial markets, big companies – and in turn the behaviour of the private sector. “Outsourcing “ all manner of previously public sector activities ranging from education, through non-core health provision, to power and water supply to rail travel has not created the improvements trumpeted by free-marketeers.

The introduction of central over-control of the UK public education system, with league tables, privatised academies and testing of pupils from a very early stage was commenced under Thatcher – and has continued to the present.

Last, but not least, the thatcher administrations undermined local government and weakened employee representation

But underlying all of this the overall effects on the environment have been negative, and the Free Market will have to constrained by positive governmental action – from both central and devolved local governments.

Donald Trump

Trump has been a remarkable president. He seems to be driven by ego; firing and denigrating anybody who disagrees with him. Thus, he has fired most of his White House administration in the three years he has been in office.

But maybe the most dysfunctional aspect of his presidency has been his attachment to his “base” , many of whom are white males located in the coal and steel producing areas, and many of whom lost their jobs as coal and steel production was reduced or “offshored” to countries such as China. The education level of a majority of Trump supporters is below the national average, as is their average age.

Trump's first term has been a relentless drive for unfettered fossil energy development. ICN's 2020 candidate analysis looks at the president's climate record.

"This is the start of a new era in American energy production and job creation. We will eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom and allow workers and companies to play on a level playing field for the first time in a long time, a long time. We're going to have clean coal, really clean coal."

—Donald Trump, March 2017

When U.S. government scientists released their latest volume of the National Climate Assessment, it revealed much about the robust, sobering scientific consensus on climate change. It also revealed the striking disconnect between President Donald Trump and essentially every authoritative institution on the threat of global warming. The president rejected the assessment's central findings—based on thousands of climate studies and involving 13 federal agencies—that emissions of carbon dioxide are caused by human activities, are already causing lasting economic damage, and have to be brought rapidly to zero.

"I don't believe it. No, no, I don't believe it," Trump said. Immediately, his cabinet members launched attacks on the report, portraying it as "alarmist" and clinging to Trump's agenda of fossil fuel energy expansion that the science says is at the root of the problem.

When Trump delivered his first major energy speech in the fracking fields of North Dakota as a candidate in May 2016, he called for American domination of global energy supplies. To make that happen, he wanted an end to all of President Barack Obama's executive actions involving greenhouse gas emissions.

"We are going to turn everything around," Trump declared. "And quickly, very quickly."

As president, he has rolled back regulations on energy suppliers at a rapid clip slowed only at times by the courts, while auctioning off millions of acres of new drilling leases on public land. Last year, domestic oil production hit a record high. The result of this, among other things, was the reversal of three consecutive years of declining U.S. carbon emissions.

Trump began the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty, the agreement signed by nearly all nations to reduce fossil fuel emissions. He replaced Obama's Clean Power Plan, intended to sharply reduce emissions from U.S. power plants. He took the first step to weaken fuel economy standards for cars

In the Trump administration's early days, climate policy optimists gamely sifted through the president's statements, his administration's actions, and other nations' reactions for grains of hope. Perhaps Trump would be persuaded to maintain the United States' seat at the table in international climate negotiations. Perhaps the efforts of his early, scandal-plagued cabinet members to erase climate regulation would fail. Or perhaps other nations would step up to fill the climate leadership void created by Trump, and the world would forge ahead with the action needed to address the climate crisis, leaving the United States behind.

All such hopes have been in vain. Although Trump occasionally feigns concern about climate—"I think about it all the time," he once said—his policy has been an unmitigated and relentless drive toward fossil energy development.


In 2016, a 61% majority of those who said they voted for Clinton were women, while Trump voters were more evenly divided between men and women. Whites constituted nearly nine-in-ten (88%) of Trump’s supporters, compared with a smaller majority (60%) who voted for Clinton. Clinton’s voters also were younger than Trump’s on average (48% were younger than 50, compared with 35% for Trump).

Among Clinton voters, 43% were college graduates, compared with 29% of Trump voters. And while non-college whites made up a majority of Trump’s voters (63%), they constituted only about a quarter of Clinton’s (26%).

About a third of Clinton voters (32%) lived in urban areas, versus just 12% among Trump voters. By contrast, 35% of Trump voters said they were from a rural area; among Clinton voters, 19% lived in a rural community.

President Jair Bolsonaro

President Bolsonaro has insisted that the Brazilian areas of the Amazon rainforest are sovereign territory.

Conservationists blame Mr Bolsonaro and his government for turning a blind eye to farmers and loggers clearing land in the Amazon, hastening deforestation.

But in an address at the United Nations in New York, he struck a defiant note.

He said it was a "fallacy" to describe the Amazon as the heritage of humanity and a "misconception" that its forests were the lungs of the world.

Brazil is one of the best countries in the world at protecting its own environment and fires are not destroying the Amazon rainforest, the country’s President Jair Bolsonaro claimed on Tuesday.

In an address to the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly, Bolsonaro said the Amazon “remains pristine and virtually untouched,” claiming that this was evidence that Brazil is “one of the countries that protects its environment the most.”

Brazil is one of the best countries in the world at protecting its own environment and fires are not destroying the Amazon rainforest, the country’s President Jair Bolsonaro claimed on Tuesday.

In an address to the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly, Bolsonaro said the Amazon “remains pristine and virtually untouched,” claiming that this was evidence that Brazil is “one of the countries that protects its environment the most.”

The Brazilian leader came under fire last month when it emerged that the Amazon rainforest was burning at a record rate. Data from Brazil’s space agency showed that the number of forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon between January and August surged by 84% from the same period in 2018.

However, Bolsonaro played down the rate and impact of fires in the Amazon, claiming the situation had been exaggerated by “sensationalist attacks” from the media.

He also claimed that the environmental relevance of the Amazon had been inflated and that the rainforest was not a global property.

“It is a fallacy to say that the Amazon is a heritage of humankind, and it is a misconception, as scientists claim, to say that our forest is the lungs of the world,” Bolsonaro said.

In his U.N. address, Bolsonaro said he was “especially grateful” to U.S. President Donald Trump for supporting the Brazilian leader over the fires.

“(President Trump) well epitomized the spirit that must prevail among U.N. member states: respect for the freedom and sovereignty of each of us,” he said.

Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister

Morrison says he is disappointed that Australia’s bushfire crisis is being ‘conflated’ with emission reduction targets

As firefighters continued to battle out-of-control bushfires across four states on Friday, the prime minister said it was “disappointing” that people were conflating the ongoing fire crisis with Australia’s emission reduction targets.

“We don’t want job-destroying, economy-destroying, economy-wrecking targets and goals, which won’t change the fact that there have been bushfires or anything like that in Australia,” Morrison told Sydney radio, 2GB.

“The suggestion that there’s any one emissions reduction policy or climate policy that has contributed directly to any of these fire events is just ridiculous and the conflation of those two things, I think, has been very disappointing.”

He has continued to attempt to put distance between climate change and the ongoing fires, which have razed hundreds of homes since they began in September – a long and severe wildfire season which has been accompanied by a 1 centigrade increase on long-term average temperatures.

"Australia is taking action on climate change," he told Australia’s Nine News. "What we won't do is engage in reckless, job destroying and economy crunching targets."

He added that he would not consider downscaling the nation’s coal industry. Australia is a world leader in coal exports and natural liquefied gas.

Government officials continue to downplay the link between climate change and wildfires. Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said that the country doesn’t need to do more to limit its greenhouse gas emissions.

“Climate change is a global phenomenon and we’re doing our bit as part of the response to climate change — we’re taking action on climate change,” Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in November. But he also said that “the suggestion that any way shape or form that Australia, accountable for 1.3% of the world’s emissions, that the individual actions of Australia are impacting directly on specific fire events, whether it’s here or anywhere else in the world, that doesn’t bear up to credible scientific evidence either.”

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