10 things to love about the economy of the 1980s

The 1980s were a better decade for fashion than the 1970s, and produced a plethora of brilliant movies. They were also noted in the UK for a turn-around in the economy that took Britain from being the basket-case of Europe into the top rank.

1. Under Margaret Thatcher the trade unions were brought under the law. It was done steadily, step by step, instead of in the wholesale reform attempted unsuccessfully by her predecessors. Instead of confiscating union power, she devolved it from the leaders to the members. Members were given the right to elect leaders by secret ballot, and to be balloted before strike action. This resulted in more moderate leaders and more moderate behaviour.

2. Secondary picketing was banned, and unions could be sued and assets confiscated if they broke the law. The UK went from having the highest strike rate in the EU to become the country with the lowest. The lack of industrial unrest created a better environment for business success and economic growth.

3. Exchange controls were abolished, allowing investment in overseas assets as well as allowing travellers to take currency abroad. Pension funds could now include foreign equities and foreign bonds in their portfolios, allowing alternative counter-cyclical investments to UK equities and bonds. They were able to grow substantially as a result.

4. Many of the state monopolies were broken. When Telecoms were privatized, a competitor called Mercury was allowed alongside it, and later reviews added more competitors. The result was to put Britain among the most competitive telecommunications markets in the world.

The state energy companies were privatized and opened up to competition. Ones that had previous been thought of as natural monopolies were made competitive by the separation of the networks from the suppliers, so that customers had a choice as to who they wanted to supply down that network.

5. Inflation was brought down by control of the money supply and fiscal prudence. The double-digit rates disappeared. Businesses were able to plan ahead for the investment and sales in the confidence that spiralling inflation would not make a nonsense of their plans.

6. The mass privatizations under Margaret Thatcher turned loss-making state enterprises into profitable private ones that paid taxes instead of receiving subsidies. Many of the newly privatized companies were able to compete on world markets, contributing to economic growth in the UK.

7. Personal taxes were brought down. The top rate went down in stages, first to 60% and then to 40%, and the basic rate was lowered to 25%. The result was that revenues were raised, and the top 10%, who had paid 35% of total income tax, now paid 48%. This made work much more attractive and raised living standards.

8. Business taxes were lowered. Small profit Corporation Tax was lowered to 25%, and its standard rate gradually brought down to 34%. These were substantial reductions, hugely beneficial to business and the economy, and contributing to the economic growth that characterized the 1980s.

9. After state services were privatized and exposed to competition, they improved their quality output in order to attract and retain customers. They were further able to make investments based on expectations of future custom, rather than on what government felt it could afford. The result was that services improved dramatically in both quality and consumer responsiveness.

10. Once state production was transformed into private companies, there were substantial improvements in the quality of its products. Ships, trucks, aircraft, cars and other things climbed up in quality. This was partly due to better management in the private sector, partly to competition, and partly due to investment in new technology. It was also down to the fact that in a competitive environment, quality matters, and successful firms recognize that and monitor it to maintain it, whereas the state did not.