You can now read 10 articles each month for free on BostonGlobe.com.

The Boston Globe

Opinion

JEFF JACOBY

Democracy’s champion

America under Jimmy Carter was unhappy and in decline, its economy crippled with stagflation, its diplomats held hostage in Tehran, and its befuddled president clueless before a seemingly unstoppable Soviet empire. “Malaise” became a catchword, and to Ronald Reagan’s simple but withering query — “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” — Americans overwhelmingly answered: No.

But the gloom was far worse in Britain, a fiscal and moral wreck that was being called the “sick man of Europe.” Suffocating from Labor Party socialism, paralyzed by public-sector strikes, staggering under high taxes and double-digit inflation, Britain was visibly decaying at home and increasingly irrelevant abroad. That was the demoralized, debilitated nation that turned to Margaret Thatcher in 1979, sending her to 10 Downing Street for what would turn out to be the longest tenure of any British prime minister of the 20th century.

Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than $1 a week