Among her greatest achievements was the defeat and break-up of the Russian Communist Empire, which she did in concert with Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan.
The Wall Street Journal has an excellent editorial about the life of Baroness Margaret Thatcher.
“In that dreary winter of 1979, the piles of uncollected trash in London’s Finsbury Park seemed to stretch for miles. The garbagemen were on strike. So too, at one time or another, were hospital workers, ambulance drivers, truck drivers, railwaymen. Also gravediggers: In Liverpool, corpses had to be warehoused as they awaited burial—yet another long queue that socialist Britain had arranged for its patient masses.
“This was the “Winter of Discontent,” when Great Britain came about as close to economic collapse as at nearly any point in its peacetime history, and it was the country Margaret Thatcher inherited when, on May 3, she defeated the Labour government of James Callaghan to become Prime Minister—the first woman in the office and 49th in a line that includes some of the greatest figures of Western civilization: Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli, the Duke of Wellington, William Pitt the Younger.
“Thatcher died in London Monday, at age 87, having earned her place among the greats. This is not simply because she revived Britain’s economy, though that was no mean achievement. Nor is it because she held office longer than any of her predecessors, though this also testifies to her political skill. She achieved greatness because she articulated a set of vital ideas about economic freedom, national self-respect and personal virtue, sold them to a skeptical public and then demonstrated their efficacy.
“Consider economic policy. Britain in 1979 had a double-digit inflation rate, a top income tax rate of 83% and rising unemployment. Public expenditures accounted for 42.5% of GDP. There were price, dividend, currency and wage controls, although the last of these were flouted by trade unions on whose support the Labour government depended.
“The government accounted for about 30% of the work force. The state controlled most major industries: British Aerospace, British Airways, British Telecom, British Steel, British Leyland, the British National Oil Corporation, Associated British Ports, Cable and Wireless, Rolls Royce. What was left of a private economy was smothered in red tape.
“Most British policy makers of the time had no real grasp of economics: no idea what caused inflation; no idea how to run state-owned enterprises (much less that government shouldn’t run businesses at all); no idea—beyond increasing civil-service rolls—how to create jobs. Worse, the cluelessness was bipartisan. “The Tories loosened the corset of socialism,” Thatcher wrote in her memoirs. “They never removed it.”
“Thatcher was different, an “instinctive conservative” whose economic philosophy drew from her father’s observations of stocking a grocery. Her memoir recalls her youthful wonder at “The great complex romance of international trade which recruited people from all over the world to ensure that a family in Grantham could have on its table rice from India, coffee from Kenya, sugar from the West Indies.” She had also, with her cabinet colleague Keith Joseph, spent years transforming those instincts into practical theories for governance.”