Why the LSE’s core values of independence, hard work and enterprise are more in keeping with the philosophy of the Iron Lady than the Fabians…
LSE’s roots lie in grand redistributive Socialist schemes, social justice, and an intellectual movement that sought to permanently redefine Britain’s treatment of the working poor. Yet, since its founding, LSE has seen another cultural strand emerge: that of the investment bankers, finance gurus and city hopefuls. This vast segment of the LSE population can be traced back in spirit to Friedrich Hayek, an LSE professor during the 1940s and 50s, and his famous championing of laissez-faire economics against the more interventionist John Maynard Keynes.
Such clashes not only cemented the LSE’s place as one of the UK’s top academic bastions but also laid the groundwork for the vision of the UK’s most infamous prime minister: Margaret Thatcher. In tracing the roots of the LSE’s history,we can not only understand what the university’s ethos should entail going forward, but we can also gain an insight into the power of Thatcher’s vision.
Thatcher brought with her premiership a clear idea as to what the UK should become. This vision promoted personal ambition and ownership, and independence against the force of collectivism. This may seem incongruent with LSE’s own values, running against the rhetoric of the majority of the bodies and societies within the SU or many of the articles and papers its academics produce. However, LSE’s ‘silent majority’ is largely Thatcherite in nature.
This ‘Thatcherite energy’ can primarily be detected in the personal striving and independence within LSE’s student body. The spirit of enterprise is something that runs through each student, from society leaders to internship applicants and even members of political societies. Such an independent spirit has in part led to LSE having the highest-paid graduates of any UK university. In bringing about the change that ledto the ‘Big Bang’ of the mid-1980s, Thatcher ensured that the City of London would become the financial powerhouse it is today, enabling LSE’s top cohort to grind their way to the top and attain some of the most lucrative graduate jobs in the world. As Thatcher’s children, we are gifted with an economy that we can turn towards on our continual journey of self-improvement.
Onto Thatcher’s final tie to LSE: Thatcher was a born winner. Becoming the first female prime minister, the first prime minister to serve three terms, and winning two landslide victories during her time in power, Thatcher was no stranger to winning big. In turning the UK’s previously crumbling economically, marred by then Labour leader James Callaghan, into an economic powerhouse, Thatcher revealed to our nation just how far its winning spirit could go. This was further evidenced by Britain’s victory over Argentina in the Falklands War, where Thatcher guided Britain’s troops to retain their overseas territory, resulting in a surge of national pride.
Part of the beauty of Thatcher’s message was in its simplicity, and in its reduction of human life to simple binaries. In a university so attuned to the psychology of success, many of us unknowingly channel Thatcher’s powerful nature. To wake up early, to eat healthily, and to have a vibrant social life are all Thatcherite lifestyle choices. In truly caring about the less fortunate, the LSE Fabians amongst us must seek to utilize a system that has lifted the greatest amount of people out of poverty, restored British pride, and transformed the world economy into one which allows hard workers to reap the benefits of economic and political freedom. In appreciating Thatcher’s greatness, we not only begin to understand the deeply planted roots that have spurred generations of LSE students onto fame and success, but also the underpinnings of human nature. Capitalism is a beautiful thing, and Thatcher’s power was in revealing its truth to us all.