Javier Milei’s chance to save Argentina from leftist fanatics

Javier Milei’s chance to save Argentina from leftist fanatics

Libertarian president-elect supports lower taxes, privatization and shrinking the number of government ministries from 24 to eight

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Javier Milei is the new president-elect of Argentina. An economist by training, he’s both a political libertarian and anarcho-capitalist by desire and design. The Austrian School adherent firmly supports free market principles and private enterprise, and rejects big government and state control.

That’s why the political left has unsurprisingly gone ballistic at the prospect of his forthcoming leadership. He’s basically everything they reject in politics, economics and life in general.

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This evaluation is wrong, of course. Milei is not only a breath of fresh air for Argentina, he’s exactly what the doctor ordered for this struggling and impoverished nation.

The political left conveniently ignores the fact that Argentina’s economy has been shattered for decades. The main reason? Peronism: a left-wing, labour-oriented ideology largely based on the political and economic ideas of the country’s late totalitarian leader, Juan Perón. It has corrupted the political process and crippled economic growth to the equivalent of a gimpy leg. (Some political observers have attempted to link Peronism to conservatism due to its casual support of traditional values. This statist-socialist mentality has nothing to do with either the traditional or modern roots of conservative ideology.)

Argentina has long been a political and financial mess. There’s been economic stagnation for decades. The country’s great depression between 1998 and 2002 created massive levels of poverty, unemployment and crime, among other things. The current monetary crisis has also devalued the Argentinian peso to a meaningless currency in its best days — and destroyed the spirit of a once-proud country.

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The proof is in the pudding. Argentina’s inflation rate soared above 100 per cent earlier this year, making it one of the highest in the world. Nearly 40 per cent of Argentinians live in abject poverty. The International Monetary Fund loaned the country US$44 billion (C$60 billion) in aid in 2022, yet cash reserves are already getting low.

It wasn’t always like this.

Argentina experienced a boom in the early 1990s. The Peronist leader Carlos Menem, of all things, shocked the political system and briefly introduced free-market reforms. He supported trade liberalization and the privatization of state-owned enterprises like banks and telecommunications services. It was only a five-year honeymoon (1990 to 1995), but it sparked a bit of life into the heart of Argentina until it was all taken away.

I remember an old London School of Economics professor, Prof. George Philip, who specialized in Latin America and the global expansion of oil, spoke positively about Argentina’s short-lived dalliance with the free market. He was on the political left, but understood that private enterprise was the right strategy for South American and Latin American nations. As he noted in his 1994 book, The Political Economy of International Oil, when it came to less-developed countries, “only Argentina and Peru were planning actual sell-offs of state oil companies.”

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What would Philip, who passed away in 2021, think of Milei? It’s hard to say. As a guess, he would probably be horrified and intrigued at the same time!

To be sure, Milei is an eccentric individual. He likes to speak his mind to anyone who will listen. He has virtually no filter when it comes to lashing out at his Peronist rivals and left-wing critics. He also has a vivid imagination. For instance, the president-elect’s top political advisers and “best strategists” are apparently his five dogs. He claims to have met one of them, Conan, who died in 2017, in a previous life in Rome’s Colosseum more than 2,000 years ago. He was a gladiator, and his faithful companion was a lion.

I’m not excusing this behaviour by any means. Then again, we had a Canadian prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, who spoke to his deceased mother in office — and a few dogs. He led our country for over 21 years, for the record.

Returning to Milei, his critics have certainly attempted to position his political and economic vision as the ravings of a madman. They’ve called him “far right” to discredit his political rise, and claimed he’s an Argentine version of former United States president Donald Trump. The former is complete nonsense — he’s not a supporter of fascism or totalitarian regimes. The latter is yet another ridiculous attempt to cast every outside-the-box politician as the second coming of The Donald. It’s tiresome in both instances.

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Rather, Milei is business-oriented and laser-focused on getting Argentina back to some semblance of normalcy. He supports lower taxes, dollarization, privatizing state-owned enterprises, reducing the number of government ministries from 24 to eight and eliminating the country’s constitutional protections for labour rights and social security. If you tune out all the leftist noise, you’ll be surprised to see that his political and economic views can be hard-edged and also rather sensible.

His libertarian philosophy of anarcho-capitalism specifically rejects all forms of statism and socialism. The importance and redevelopment of private enterprise, private property, individual rights and freedoms, open trade, wealth generation, free market principles and other components will be championed in Argentina. His countrymen will also have the tools, ability and authority to self-regulate and build a civil, independent society in a dollars-and-cents fashion.

Milei’s Argentina will therefore be free from government interference, state control and most importantly, meddling Peronist fanatics who systematically destroyed his country in a meticulous, calculating fashion.

This is the economic reset that Argentina has so desperately needed. Let’s see how the economist, dog whisperer and (ahem) ex-Roman gladiator does in his newfound role as modern political saviour.

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