Power & Market

Javier's Milei's Populist Strategy in Argentina Is Working

The Austro-libertarian movement has the better ideas. They continue to be discussed, elaborated, and intellectually defended. But how can the right ideas be implemented? What good is it to be right if the reality is left-wing? In fact, most of the population, or at least public opinion, seems to be drifting further and further to the left, with cancel culture, climate hysteria, a sprawling welfare state and ever higher taxes and levies.

The right ideas and theories are there, but they have not yet been put successful in practice. How can this be changed? Of course, ideas are important, they must also be disseminated, from below, from the grassroots up. It's an arduous process. And there has been undeniable progress in recent years. Nevertheless, the left-wing zeitgeist is rolling over the freedoms of citizens almost unhindered; most shockingly during the Covid crisis. The left tries to paint anyone who stands in the zeitgeist´s way as an extremist or even a Nazi.

Against this background, what can a successful strategy look like? Murray Rothbard addressed this question in an article in the Rothbard-Rockwell Report entitled Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement. His contribution is groundbreaking and forward-looking. He anticipates the successes of Donald Trump in the United States and, more recently, of Javier Milei in Argentina.

Javier Milei is making a splash on all sides, because on August 13, 2023, he won the primaries for the presidency in Argentina. In the German media, he is described as ultra-right and ultra-libertarian. Recently, the Financial Times dealt with the self-confessed anarcho-capitalist in a column, in which the author insinuated that the libertarian Milei would follow the strategy of right-wing populism designed by Murray Rothbard in 1992. This gives rise to the question if that claim is true and what exactly is this right-wing populism?

According to the paleo-libertarian Rothbard, the program of right-wing populism includes 8 main points:

  1. Radical tax cuts
  2. Radical reduction of the welfare state
  3. Abolition of privileges for "protected" minorities
  4. Crushing criminals
  5. Getting rid of bums
  6. Abolition of the Federal Reserve
  7. A program of America First (anti-globalist and isolationist)
  8. Defending traditional family values

Indeed, Milei's election manifesto is very much in line with Rothbard's right-wing populism and paleo-libertarianism. Milei wants to radically reduce taxes. He never tires of calling taxes what they are, theft. He also wants to radically grind down the welfare state and likes to illustrate the reduction in government spending and his proposal of reducing Argentinian ministries from 18 to 8 with a chainsaw. His "Chainsaw Plan" is intended to radically trim the state.

Milei repeatedly speaks of equality before the law as a fundamental liberal principle and wants to abolish privileges for minorities. As a result, he repeatedly clashes with radical feminists who defend legal privileges for women.

The imprisonment of criminals is also on Milei's agenda. Gun freedom is in his program so that victims can defend themselves against criminals. Those who refuse to work are no longer supported by the state in his Argentina.

Milei also has the 6th of Rothbard's points in his agenda: Milei wants to abolish the central bank of Argentina. Using right-wing populist rhetoric he aims to physically blow up the central bank. In doing so, he would wipe out the power of one of the most inflationary central banks, which willingly financed all Peronist and Kirchnerist spending programs. He wants to dollarize the country and open it up to currency competition.

Milei also puts his own country first: Argentina first. Right-wing populism opposes the globalist agenda. It cuts development aid, climate programs and military adventures. Milei likes to point out that Argentina was one of the richest countries in the world at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to classical liberal policies and was destroyed by socialism in the 20th century. In 35 years, Milei promises, Argentina can be a superpower again. The prerequisite for this to happen is a return to libertarianism.

Finally, Milei also defends traditional family values and opposes the state takeover of family responsibilities. The vehement opponent of abortion has defended the right to life several times in debates with radical feminists.

Milei used to be chief economist at various institutions and a professor of economics. He is a follower of the Austrian School of Economics. One of his dogs is named Murray. He contributor a chapter two-volume Festschrift in honor of Jesús Huerta de Soto edited by David Howden and myself. A couple of years ago he was guest via zoom in my seminar in our Master's degree in Austrian Economics that we offer in Madrid, and spoke about his strategy.

In short, Milei is one of us. And he can win the election. He can become president of Argentina. An Austrian. An anarcho-capitalist. With an openly radical libertarian election program. In a country that has paid homage to socialism for decades. Amazing.

Milei has been very present in the public debate in Argentina for years. He gained fame as a polarizing and fiercely arguing talk show guest. Later, he decided to create his own party to lead the culture war against socialism and statism more effectively and to bring the right ideas to more people.

His rhetorical strategy in debates is vociferous, belligerent, and is sometimes perceived as offensive (if the truth can be offensive at all). He does not allow himself to be intimidated or belittled by left-wing opinion-makers. In a debate, he simply shouts louder than the leftists, whom he calls "Zurdos", and interrupts them to tell them to their faces that they are saying an absolute stupidity and have no idea what they are talking about. You should read Hayek, Mises and Rothbard first, Milei recommends to them. He also calls leftists and politicians parasites and thieves, in a debate. For taxes are theft. 

In keeping with Rothbard's strategy of right-wing populism, he clearly names the profiteers of the state apparatus. He rails again and again against the caste of politicians and bureaucrats. He calls them parasites that live at the expense of the hard-working and decent citizens. Politicians are completely useless and could not live without the productive Argentinians. Politics is not the solution, but the problem. And politicians form part of the problem. In this way, Milei wins over those decent Argentinians who suffer most from the yoke of the state. Equally clear are his remarks on the concept of social justice. So-called social justice is a monstrous injustice because it means unequal treatment of people before the law. It is a fig leaf for envy and resentment.

Milei's emotional and polemical nature resonates with many, especially among young people. After winning the primaries in mid-August, he has legitimate hopes for the Argentine presidency.

Milei's successes have become a topic of everyday conversation, especially in the Hispanic world. One speaks of Milei with astonishment and appreciation. Acquaintances and friends send short videos of his rhetorical gems. Libertarian ideas are back in vogue. People are venturing forward with libertarian opinions, everywhere and unexpectedly. The window of public and permissible opinions is shifting in the direction of freedom. Thanks to Milei.

Regardless of whether the charismatic Milei ultimately wins the election, his campaign has sparked a young and powerful libertarian movement. His triumph in the primaries may be more significant than the Ron Paul Revolution of 2008 and 2012. The incredible fact is that he is successful. With a right-wing populism that Rothbard recommended, in a run-down country, with his charismatic personality, with aggressive rhetoric. Nothing is impossible. Even a libertarian can win a democratic election. It's the strategy that counts. ¡Vamos Javier! ¡Viva la libertad, carajo!

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