Saturday, July 19, 2008

Margaret Thatcher's legacy (and, an art question)

The June 2008 Imprimis features a look at Margaret Thatcher's achievements and legacy, presented by John O'Sullivan, the author of The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World.

An excerpt (reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College):

When Lady Thatcher revived the British economy, she was reviving profound social virtues that the British had once exemplified to the world—the Thatcherite “vigorous virtues” described above. In 1979, they seemed utterly destroyed by 50 years of statism and socialism. In fact, they had merely been driven underground by government over-regulation and intervention.

As James C. Bennett has observed, it took only a few years of Lady Thatcher’s application of free market solutions for these virtues to become vigorous again. Once that happened, it took only a few more years for those revived virtues to transform Britain from the sick man of Europe into the world’s fourth largest economy.

Deep social patterns can rarely be extirpated altogether. Cultural transformations of nations and societies imposed by governments nearly always fail in the long run. The old ways only look dead; in reality, they are merely dormant. They are the resources of our civilization and they can be revived to meet new challenges.

If Lady Thatcher demonstrated that truth in matters economic, she believes today that the resources of the Anglo-American political tradition of ordered liberty are not exhausted either. She believes that the virtues of that tradition—dispersed authority, open debate, popular sovereignty, spontaneous social evolution—are not dead, merely dormant. Indeed, they are flourishing in those new democracies, such as Estonia and Poland, where they have been introduced since 1989 (and where economic success is far more obvious than in countries that have clung to more centralized models). They are flourishing too in the English-speaking world outside Britain—notably in the U.S., Australia, and a reforming India. And they offer the best hope for Third World countries emerging from poverty and backwardness into a world of globalized opportunities.

Ironically, however, these virtues are threatened in Britain by growing statist regulation under New Labour; by the nation’s absorption into a European political structure built upon a very different tradition of constructivist rationalism; and by the failure of many conservatives to see the dangers in a European and global governance that lacks democratic accountability and threatens liberal freedoms.

A side note: the speech from which the article is adapted was given at the dedication of the first statue of Margaret Thatcher to be erected in the United States. It's not the sort of statue I'm used to, for major world leaders. But perhaps the informality will grow on me? Perhaps there will be a trend in seated statues, and it won't seem so strange? It's not that I dislike it, you understand, but I'm not sure that I much like it, either. Give me a while to get used to it, and then I'll decide what I think.

I do like the quote on the plaque with it, as recounted in the article linked just above:

Sculpted by Bruce Wolfe, the statue is over six feet in height and depicts Thatcher sitting in a pensive posture. A plaque on its base includes a quote from a 1990 Thatcher speech:

"The new world of freedom into which the dazzled Socialists have stumbled is not new to us. What to them is uncharted territory is to us familiar and well loved ground. For Britain has returned to those basic truths and principles which made her great—personal liberty, private property and the rule of law, on which democratic freedoms everywhere are based. Ours is a creed which travels and endures. Its truths are written in the human heart."

If anyone can find links to pictures of the other statues made for Hillsdale's Liberty Walk I'd appreciate it. It's nothing more than idle curiosity on my part, but I want to see how George Washington and Winston Churchill are depicted, compared to Thatcher. And I guess there's a Thomas Jefferson statue coming later this year? How's he posed, I wonder?

(Pause while I try googling a few more search phrases...) Semi-success! Here's a picture of the model of the Churchill statue, but I don't know if they really went with this idea. It's not your typical heroic stance, either, but I kind of like it. Sort of. (Again, I think I need some time to adjust to it, or something.)

I don't want to spend any more time on this just now, but if you stumble across links for photos of the other statues, please drop a note in the comments. For that matter, I'd be interested in evidence that this somewhat informal style is (or isn't) a wider trend in public sculptures of famous people. (Certainly the recently unveiled statue of Adam Smith in Edinburgh isn't along those lines.) Thanks.

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