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Margaret Thatcher’s Lessons for Europe

Margaret Thatcher's career showed that making the case for fiscal discipline and market economics is not a guarantee of political success. In the European context, it is not only difficult domestically, but also inevitably leads to hard choices about the future of the integration process.

PRINCETON – Margaret Thatcher was much more respected outside Britain than she was in her own country. In the United States, but also in Central Europe, she is recognized as a hero, especially in the fight for economic and political freedom.

That vision of freedom and dynamism was never really all that popular – or understood – by the British people. In the end, Thatcher’s achievement was also distorted by her own mistakes in dealing with the complex politics of a Europe that was rapidly changing in the aftermath of the collapse of communism.

As Prime Minister, she was widely disliked in Britain, mostly for bad reasons. Throughout her political life, she fought a two-front battle: against socialism, but also against the Establishment. Sometimes the two theaters seemed to merge.

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