This Is Just The Way It Is: Comment

I left this comment on an Irish Times article titled ‘Spending cuts and tax increases should continue, watchdog says‘, dated 10th April, about the most recent recommendations from the Irish government’s Fiscal Advisory Council.

There is a lot of discussion at the moment about Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. I have heard quite a few people bemoan how back in the days of Thatcher versus Foot in the Houses of Parliament, there was a sense of ‘conviction politicians’ at work, by contrast with the apparent centre ground occupied by opposing political parties nowadays. Some of those who claim to disagree with what Thatcher stands for still praise her as a ‘conviction politician’.

However, what I think is an important part of her legacy, and it is displayed in this article, both in its presentation and the opinions it cites, is her role in shifting matters of public policy, in social and economic terms, away from democratic control. The figure of ‘the economy’, a fetish object if ever there was one, disguises the fact of private power, and, since Thatcher, increasing concentration of private power, particularly in the financial sector, over the lives of people who have to work for a wage to sustain themselves, both in the workplace and outside it.

Part of this disguise is the presence of ‘independent’ bodies who make pronouncements about ‘the economy’ –as if such a thing were independent of people’s lives!- with a scientific veneer, as though human pain and upheaval on a massive scale is automatically, unquestionably, necessary so as to meet the demands of financial speculators, CEOs and unelected political institutions, since the consequence of not doing so would be even greater pain and upheaval. Thatcher is often credited with popularising the notion that There Is No Alternative, but her mediating role in the transition to the notion that This Is Just The Way It Is – on display in this article- is rather underestimated.

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