Mises Wire

Rothbard, Milei and the New Right in Argentina

Since I recognized almost twenty years ago that no person or institution has the right to initiate aggression, now is the first time I can tell a normie what my political stance is without them having no clue what I am talking about. Now I can say that I am an anarchocapitalist without causing much surprise, as a large part of the public now has some idea of what this term means.

This is thanks to the fascinating electoral success of Javier Milei, an anarchocapitalist who has a chance of becoming the next president of Argentina in tomorrow’s presidential election. Milei has five mastiff dogs that he calls “four-legged children” and named one of them Murray, in honor of the economist Murray Rothbard, a great inspiration of his. Rothbard, a dean of the Austrian school of economics, is also the father of modern libertarianism, which he called anarchocapitalism. We anarchocapitalists are aware that any form of state is criminal, and any and all services it provides can and must be provided by the free market. Rothbard provided the ethical and economic justifications for anarchocapitalism, refuting all myths used to legitimize the existence of the state.

Nevertheless, in addition to providing the framework of anarchocapitalism, Rothbard also laid out a strategy describing how only someone like Milei could break down the barriers of respectable (social democratic) political discourse imposed on us by the Marxist Left and reemerge a libertarian Right political force. Rothbard refers to the old American Right, which in the first half of the twentieth century was opposed to the socialist programs implemented in the US and its foreign wars and was “for a restoration of the liberty of the old republic, of a government strictly limited to the defense of the rights of private property.” It was not a revolutionary Right. In fact, the revolution had already happened with the New Deal, and the revolution had been a socialist one. In the same way, Peronism was a socialist revolution that in eighty years transformed Argentina, which was a free country and one of the richest in the world, into a poor country. This means that a conservative stance serves to preserve socialism, while socialism continues to advance when socialists are in power. Therefore, as libertarian novelist Garet Garrett said, “The revolution was, and therefore nothing less than a counterrevolution is needed to take the country back. Behold then, not a ‘conservative,’ but a radical Right.” Agustín Laje, author, political scientist, and ally of Milei who has strived to understand and explain the new global Right, agrees:

This New Right has a revolutionary ethos, as opposed to a left that is beginning to embrace a conservative ethos. I know this might sound odd, but in what sense do I say it? If we take “conservative” as that which wants to preserve a status quo, the left is the one who today want to preserve a status quo in Argentina, while the right is trying to destroy this status quo.

Rothbard notes that while Marxists made it clear that their strategy would center on the proletariat as the group that would bring about social change, the Right got to decide “who are the major bad guys, the unwashed masses or the power elite?” He concluded that the fight should be against the ruling elite, because the masses, however untrustworthy they may be, are too busy trying to raise their families and living their lives and don’t have much time to devote to politics. Meanwhile “the bureaucrats, politicians, and special-interest groups dependent on political rule . . . make money out of politics, and so they are intensely interested and lobby and are active 24 hours a day.” Rothbard adds a distinction pointed out by John C. Calhoun, who observed that society is divided between two classes: those paying taxes and those receiving taxes. Milei focused his speech on this real class struggle, inciting the masses against their exploiters in the power elite, which he appropriately calls the political caste.

Given this, Rothbard raises this question: “If the ruling elite is taxing, looting, and exploiting the public, why does the public put up with this for a single moment? Why does it take them so long to withdraw their consent?” The masses are kept in this lethargic state of voluntary submission as the political caste co-opts “the intellectual and media elites, who are able to bamboozle the masses into consenting to their rule.” To resolve this dilemma, Rothbard identifies two wrong strategies and recommends the right one.

The first wrong is the so-called Hayekian strategy, which consists of converting the main philosophers to the correct ideas that would then convert academics, journalists, and politicians until the masses were converted to support freedom. Besides taking a lot of time, the crucial flaw in this strategy is that the media and academics do not place truth above their personal interests; therefore, this strategy is doomed.

The second improper strategy is the so-called Fabian strategy, used successfully by the socialists of the Fabian Society. It consists of creating think tanks to try to influence the centers of power. The fatal error is that what works to increase the state does not work to reduce it. Obviously, ruling elites will welcome socialist ideas that will increase their power and reject libertarian ideas that will diminish it. That said, Rothbard explains what the winning strategy is:

And so the proper strategy for the right wing must be what we can call “right-wing populism”: exciting, dynamic, tough, and confrontational, rousing and inspiring not only the exploited masses, but the often-shell-shocked right-wing intellectual cadre as well. And in this era where the intellectual and media elites are all establishment liberal-conservatives, all in a deep sense one variety or another of social democrat, all bitterly hostile to a genuine Right, we need a dynamic, charismatic leader who has the ability to short-circuit the media elites, and to reach and rouse the masses directly. We need a leadership that can reach the masses and cut through the crippling and distorting hermeneutical fog spread by the media elites.

That’s what Milei did. A distinctive feature of the Argentine mainstream media are TV and radio shows with long and heated debates. A loophole existed in the system, and Milei began to be invited to these shows. Being a scholar of the Austrian school of economics and a wholehearted libertarian, Milei commented with propriety on all subjects and passionately defended freedom. Unlike the followers of the Hayekian strategy who treat the pernicious and criminal leftist ideas and their proponents—which cause so much harm and poverty to the people—with respect and politeness, Milei understood that we are at war and was frequently furious, cursing and shouting, reflecting all the resentment of the explored masses. (Thousands of hours of videos of Milei’s appearances on Argentine TV can be found on YouTube.)

Combining ardor and wisdom with a striking media personality, soon Milei was the economist with the most television time and became a national celebrity. In addition to being aligned with the right-wing discourse of fighting crime and defending traditional values, his libertarian speech—saying things like “tax is theft,” “politicians are parasites and we don’t need them for anything,” “the central bank is one of the biggest thieves in the history of humanity,” “your welfare is taken through a gun pointed to the head of others”—managed to directly reach the masses who woke up to the truth about the extortion they suffer from political profiteers.

During the Ron Paul revolutions of 2008 and 2012, Ron Paul was able to gain some attention from the mainstream media through his participation in the GOP presidential debates. He managed to open the eyes of multitudes of Americans to libertarian truths. However, Dr. Paul did not achieve national celebrity status, and the gates of mainstream media and the bipartisan political system soon closed to him, unlike what happened with Milei.

Milei began his political career by being elected congressman in 2021 and managed to make his presidential candidacy viable in 2023, winning the preelections in August. In the presidential debates, Argentina is seeing a libertarian imploding socialist myths, giving answers that a Walter Block would give.

For example, in the debate on October 1, when asked if wage differentials between men and women were the result of patriarchal discrimination, Milei responded that salary inequality disappears if the types of profession are taken into account and that if this disparity really existed, the exploitative capitalists who seek profits at all costs would hire only women, but this does not happen. The Rothbardian strategy of libertarian populism worked, as he said it would, and Argentina is about to have the world’s first anarchocapitalist president.

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