Interest rates were 16 percent; inflation was programmed to rise to 20 percent; the government deficit was destined to swell. Enormous pay increases were promised to public-sector workers, a sort of postdated check left behind by the Labor government that would guarantee still-higher inflation. The state-owned companies were insatiably draining money out of the Treasury. … Some of the harshest criticism came from within Thatcher’s Cabinet. One of her ministers denounced the entire intellectual agenda, warning that “economic liberalism a la Professor Hayek, because of its starkness and its failure to create a sense of community, is not a safeguard of political freedom but a threat to it.”
… by the l990s, it would turn out that Margaret Thatcher had established the new economic agenda around the world.
—Excerpt from Commanding Heights, Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, 1998 ed., pp. 105-113.
I have the clearest recollection of my anticipation for Commanding Heights. I got wind of its release, acquired it near Day One, and devoured it. I was certain it would be a giant bestseller.
In booming America, Commanding Heights died.
Only after its release in collapsing Japan, to monumental acclaim, and only after the outrageously competent PBS series did the book really take off.
The book, and please read the book, is held together—rather, bound together—by Margaret Thatcher. (The “CliffsNotes” on Thatcher may be found here.)
I thank Daniel Yergin for his grace in appearing on Bloomberg Surveillance just after the announcement of Baroness Thatcher’s passing.
I thank Daniel Yergin for the truly must-read way he writes. Commanding Heights is one of only three books I forcefully force people to read.
I thank Daniel Yergin for balancing all that was Thatcher. The criticism, the triumph, the faults, her sheer force of will.
This Wednesday, Daniel Yergin should be in the front pew at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Discuss.