Modernizing Conservatism

We Need a Visionary Like Margaret Thatcher for our 21st Century Challenges

04.08.13 6:01 PM ET

This clip of Margaret Thatcher magnificently expresses the confident purpose of the conservatism of the 1980s.

Throughout the capitalist world, economies had faltered and stagnated in the 1970s. In order to accelerate growth, reforms had to be made: inflation must be stopped, labor markets liberalized, state-owned enterprises sold. Advocates of these changes recognized that they would enrich some more than others. But as Mrs. Thatcher promised, virtually everybody would be made better off in this more open economy.

The challenge for the conservatives of the 2010s is that since the late 1990s, it has ceased to be true that all have been made better off. Between 1999 and 2007, the typical worker actually saw his or her income decline. This is a very different situation that cannot be wished away by an increasingly cliche-ridden "moral defense of capitalism." What's needed today are reformers as visionary and brave as Margaret Thatcher who will defend capitalism by making capitalism more defensible - by extending its benefits more widely and mitigating those of its risks that can be mitigated.