Power & Market

Have Argentine Voters FINALLY Chosen Liberty? Time Will Tell

A historical event has taken place, not only for the libertarian movement but for the history of the world. The first libertarian president has been elected in none other country than Argentina.

The Argentinian people faced a dichotomy, either continue with the socialist road to serfdom embodied by the ruling Peronist regime or adopt a radical change towards liberty, the leader of said change being Javier Milei, self-proclaimed Rothbardian and anarcho-capitalist. Finally, with more than 55 percent of the votes, Argentinians elected Milei as their new president.

Argentina’s situation is critical and the people know it. 142,7 percent accumulated inflation this year, 40 percent of the population under poverty levels and at least 80 percent of public debt in terms of GDP, just to mention some of the main economic problems. Crime -which is rampant in many parts of the country- is the other main concern of the public that Milei has had to address in his campaign. He has done so mainly through his vice-president Victoria Villarruel, expert on defense and security matters.

Argentinians chose a free market path, a liberty road towards prosperity and justice.

Now, besides the celebration and enthusiasm that such an occasion merits, we -libertarians (especially Argentinian libertarians)- must draw upon the wisdom of the British economist Alfred Marshall who said that one must stay on our toes to keep our heart warm. Milei has introduced many libertarians’ ideas to Argentinian political discourse but not all of them have been received favorably by the general public or the media. Milei has had to engage in retreatism due to backlash regarding some free market-oriented ideas such as a voucher system for education, eliminating gun regulations, 100 percent bank reserves and privatizing both education and the health system.

Milei has offered as much liberty as the Argentinian people are willing to accept. Socialist and collectivist ideals still prevail in major parts of the population, it would be an error to affirm that even half of the electors that choose Milei are full libertarians. Milei’s upcoming administration will be a test, if it succeeds in pushing for a libertarian program, then more people will rally behind the Gadsden flag and Argentina will serve as a beacon of freedom in Latin America.

Even more important is the cultural shift that has taken place due to Milei’s political activism. Books by the Austrian School of Economics and libertarians can be found in any bookstore (before Milei, those works were harder to access, almost clandestine) and liberty friendly universities and programs are now more frequented. Being a classical liberal or a libertarian is no longer a cultural crime in Argentina.

A libertarian hardcore has been formed and continues to grow, they are the vanguard of the movement, convincing lay people to support Milei’s reforms. True enough, many times they may not convince everyone to embrace libertarianism but at least they persuade them not to oppose it. That’s how the libertarian spirit in Argentina can grow.

Milei’s plan is a moderate one if seen through ideal lenses but as I have already pointed out, it is the most libertarian program that could be advanced upon without being ostracized by the public and mainstream media. Compromises were made after the general elections. The Libertarian-Republican alliance was formed to confront the Peronist regime in the ballot boxes, Milei allied himself with his former competitor Patricia Bullrich and former president Mauricio Macri to rally the necessary votes to win in the ballotage against the leftist Peronist candidate Sergio Massa. The alliance succeeded in calling for the votes necessary to win. It was an epic campaign, thousands attended Milei’s rallies crying out “Liberty!” In many parts of the country, shouts of joy and relief were heard when the Peronist candidate recognized his defeat on live TV. I of course joined the people in the cries for victory.

Bearing in mind the compromises made in the alliance to defeat Peronism, the most crucial libertarian proposals such as slashing public spending and taxes, deregulating the economy and labor market, free trade, privatization of public companies (like the oil company “YPF” and the state airline “Aerolineas Argentinas”) and abolition of the central bank are going to be implemented, at least on paper. Milei, although an anarcho-capitalist has had to moderate in order to gain office, once taking the reins of the state we shall see how much of the freedom program he proposes is implemented.

Will it be a revolution of liberty? History will only tell.

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