Mises Wire

Javier Milei vs. the Status Quo

Javier Milei’s administration is generating much deserved commentary, both positive and negative. Critical discussion is vital since he is the first libertarian president, so keeping a distance between libertarianism itself and his government actions is a must if libertarians don’t want to fall with him should his government plans fail.

Just because he is a libertarian and has accessed the presidency doesn’t mean he has immanent support from the rest of the libertarian movement. Thus, it would not be wise to jump into his -short term- winning wagon. Staying in a critical stance until further results are shown is the better way.

A great question among libertarian and non-libertarian social settings has been rolling around since Milei kicked off as an outsider and gained vast popularity. The question is: Is he causng a revolution of liberty in Argentina? Meaning, has the Argentine population gravitated towards the free market and away from statism? It is surely a hard question to answer, in this article we will approach an answer.

Recent polls suggest that even with the recession, Milei keeps a high positive image among the population. In congress he has had no success yet but with the executive tools at his hand he has been making both real and symbolic changes in policy. From assuring that currency inflation will cease to selling state owned planes and vehicles (and much more). Both the real and symbolic changes have had an impact in the public opinion, he has kept his promise of reducing the state apparatus.

Interestingly, the best analysis of the Milei phenomenon has not come from his own supporters but from detractors. That analysis is the one made by sociologist Pablo Seman and Nicolás Welschinger. The authors point to many reasons why the public landscape has changed since Milei entered the political arena. Their analysis is also self-critical since they admit many failures by the progressive politicians and institutions.

The progressive voter seemed to be willing to sacrifice efficiency for public ownership, in the sense that it didn’t matter if the institution was inefficient, if it was state owned then everything was fine. This kind of dogmatism seemed unbreakable since it appeared to withstand any calamity produced by the state institutions in their inefficiency. Yet, the apparent dogmatism was not as indestructible as it looked. Progressivism took its supporters to such an extreme level of economic downfall that the support of its institutions was not dogmatic anymore but based on experience.

This downfall of the progressive discourse generated frustrations and shattered dreams which Milei was able to capture. He named the perpetrators of the Argentine disaster, calling them “casta” (caste) and explained in detail how the state institutions had come to the present situation. Milei brought hope to these disillusioned voters who did not necessarily identify with him but saw coherence and reality in his discourse. The “estado presente” (the Argentinian version of the welfare state) has transformed from a positive right to a suffering circumstance. Its defense is even more difficult than before. Progressives are reduced more and more to their dogmatic circles.

Milei’s supporters -as Selman and Welschinger explain- are gathered in three consecutive rings, feeding the forces of discontent for the “caste” from the circle within to the outwards circles. The first circle is the “market fundamentalists” one, ideologues, acquainted with far right and libertarian doctrine, they create the symbols that are perceived by the second and third ring of voters that begin to brace Milei in different stages of the electoral race.

Milei’s rise comes as the connection between the progressive elites and the people erodes to an extreme that the statist discourse seems to be coming from another dimension. The egalitarian realities that it allegedly leads degenerate and end up as parodies of themselves.

There is a demand for a framework that allows for individual effort to bring about prosperity. The individualism of much of the Argentine population comes to bear here, they see the path towards stability and success in individual hard work. Sacrifice is what brings about achievements for this part of the populace, they demand not gifts but opportunities. Milei was able to represent these sentiments by making a difference between “la gente de bien” (people of good) and “la casta” (the caste). The caste is portrayed as parasitic public actors that live off as leechers of the people of good. The caste only aims for survival of its own situation which is the status quo. Milei comes to expose them.

Some political analysts have expressed their concern about Milei’s plan to overturn the status quo. If the wellbeing of the nation must be sacrificed to keep the political system “orderly” then it must be done, since they argue that broken political systems are hard to reconstruct. This argument is not only far from well-meaning and caring for the suffering of the people, but it fails in its portrayal of Milei. He doesn’t come to destroy but to reorganize. As he himself has said, one of his political aims is to reorder the political theater into ideological parts. So, the collectivist voters vote for collectivist parties and free market supporters vote for free market parties. That’s the logic of Milei’s plan that for now seems to have achieved some results.

The powers of the status quo have disconnected themselves from the public, they do not represent “the people” anymore but only their own interests. Thus, outside voices are held in higher stem than they would in normal circumstances. Milei comes to be that outside voice. It dignifies his supporters by acknowledging them as individuals that can change their future from the decadence decreed by “the caste”.

Above his results once in office, Milei has achieved a communicational victory. Making free market thinking as popular as it ever was. This doesn’t mean that people are suddenly libertarians, but the “Zeitgeist” has veered away from collectivism. This change in direction must be sustained and capitalized if a long-term victory is to be held. If not, then Milei’s moment will pass to history as one more “free marketer” adventure.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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