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Title: Thatcher's economists : ideas and opposition in 1980s Britain
Author: Allan, Lewis
ISNI:       0000 0004 2678 1247
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis is an historical study of the formation of Thatcherite economic thinking and policymaking with a particular focus upon investigating the part played by economic ideas and economists in Thatcherism. While some economists and economic ideas are closely associated with Thatcherism, Thatcherites were hostile to the bulk of Britain’s economists residing in universities and in the Government Economic Service and skeptical of the usefulness of economic theory in policymaking. Thatcherites thought that British academic and government economists supported a ‘Keynesian consensus’ which was purported to have been in operation since the Second World War and had allegedly retarded Britain’s growth from a quasi-mythical free-enterprise Victorian high-point. However, Thatcherites were keen to win the ‘battle of ideas’ and became eager ‘buyers’ of economic ideas – Keith Joseph particularly – in a ‘marketplace in economic ideas’ which developed over the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Yet, Thatcherites were not suddenly converted to neoliberal economic thinking by the marketplace in economic ideas. Instead, Thatcherites pragmatically sought out ideas which could be adopted and adapted in combination with long-standing ideological beliefs which were hostile to the size and role of the state and in favour of ‘sound money.’ Thatcherite economic thinking developed to include sometimes contradictory strands of supply-side economics, Austrian economics, monetarism/rational expectations and public choice economics but also contained, particularly for Margaret Thatcher, elements of ‘businessmen’s economics’ and ‘housewife economics.’ A case study of privatisation policy illustrates the point that pre-existing Thatcherite thinking, such as the desire to ‘roll back the state’, provided the core underlying rationale for economic policies. Yet, Thatcherites were also able to use a jumbled amalgam of economic ideas such as Austrian and neoclassical economics to promote secondary objectives such as introducing competition when conditions were judged as favourable by Thatcherites.
Supervisor: Humphries, Jane ; Pemberton, Hugh Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Economic and Social History ; History ; Economics ; Economic history ; Thatcher ; Thatcherite ; Margaret Thatcher ; economic policy ; 1980s ; economists ; economic ideas ; history of economic thought ; Government Economic Service ; privatisation ; privatization