Theodore Dalrymple, the doctor and essayist, is always well worth reading and this item about Mrs Thatcher (oh no not again! ed) is particularly insightful, and fair, if a touch arch in tone. He points out her flaws on domestic policy, such as an obsession with certain targets as well as the strengths. But his essay is not without its own flaws. Here is a key paragraph, which starts well, but ends with a bum note:
“Her error in part was to have failed to recognize the change in the character of the British people. She imagined them as they were in pre-war Grantham, the small Lincolnshire town where she was born: honest, prudent, modest, striving, thrifty, virtuous, duty-bound and patriotic. The intervening years, however, had changed their character; they, or many of them, had become very nearly the opposite of all those things. And she increased their dishonesty further by a small reform that corrupted the legal profession and the population alike: she permitted lawyers to advertise, which they had never been permitted to do before. The law now stifles everything from thought and speech to law enforcement and economic enterprise.”
It seems nanny-statist to imagine that solicitors should not be allowed to advertise their services to the public. To be blunt, he’s arguing for censorship of a profession in terms of its ability to put forward its services. An absurdity. It is not much of a stretch to imagine that any supposedly important profession/trade should also be banned from the grubby business of making itself known to the public, lest the weak-minded public be led astray into bad habits. This is the sort of paternalistic approach that Mrs T. rightly pushed back against. If it encourages the odd frivolous lawsuit, well, freedom has its costs.
Solicitors soliciting for business. Fancy that.