This book is about the political and economic ideas which have influenced the governments of Britain and the United States during the 1980s. In Britain, these ideas are commonly referred to as those of the ‘New Right’ — hence its common currency. It is also commonly employed in the United States though its meaning differs. In the United States, the term ‘new right’ is more closely associated with moral rather than economic arguments; this book concentrates primarily upon the British usage. None the less, there are sufficient similarities between recent British and American governing experience to justify a comparative study based on the shared assumptions and policy objectives evident in both the Thatcher and Reagan administrations. The distinct personalities of the current British and American political leaders, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and their political abilities have been extensively examined elsewhere. This book’s concern is different: it attempts to explicate the set of economic and political ideas upon which these two leaders have drawn. Whilst the policies of these two governments are shaped as much by pragmatic political calculations as by ideology, New Right economic and political ideas have exercised a peculiar influence upon the intellectual framework within which policy is determined; and, given the demise of the post-war Keynesian welfare state consensus, are likely to continue to influence the nature of political debate.
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