Power & Market

A Rothbardian Dissection of Javier Milei – Part I

A Rothbardian Dissection of Javier Milei – Part I

Do you hate the State? Javier Milei, the current president of Argentina, seems to. “The State is a killing machine.” “The State is a criminal organization.” “Taxation is theft.” “Philosophically, I am an anarcho-capitalist.” These are quotes from Milei, a man who offered Argentina a “true liberal option”—classical liberalism. He claims to be a “liberal-libertarian” and an admirer of Murray Rothbard (123). He has said he is a minarchist in the short run, but willing to embrace anarcho-capitalism in the long run.

Rothbard asked why there should be any significant political disputes between anarcho-capitalists and minarchists in our statist world. “We could and would march hand-in-hand in this way if the minarchists were radicals, as they were from the birth of classical liberalism down to the 1940s. Give us back the antistatist radicals…” Milei himself appears to be an anti-statist radical.

A libertarian may not be so consistent as to be an anarchist (an anarcho-capitalist), but must at least be a minarchist and an anti-statist who radically confronts the statist status quo—both at the national and international levels, for a libertarian defends his ideals for the people of all nations.

Libertarianism and Austrian economics have become more widespread than ever since Milei won the presidency. He and his actions have come to represent libertarianism in the global political scene, which is why it is crucial to promote a correct understanding of libertarianism and an appropriate assessment of what’s happening in Argentina. I will also discuss what Rothbard would have thought of Milei. Theory is insufficient for this, it will be necessary to talk about Rothbard as a political activist and commentator as well. So, in the context of Rothbard’s writings in the ’90s and the comments of Lew Rockwell, I will compare Pat Buchanan with Milei before he became president. Buchanan was the last famous politician who received Rothbard’s clear support and esteem in the last years of his life.

Milei and Buchanan

When the Soviet Union collapsed, it seemed necessary to Rothbard to rethink the basis of American policy. Yet no rethinking among the shapers of American or even world opinion occurred. US foreign policy went on as if the Cold War had never ended. Buchanan, the paleos, and others urged that American intervention be guided by the national interest. But then, the alliance of liberals and neoconservatives pretended to agree and redefined the national interest itself.

Having led the movement against the Gulf War, Buchanan earned Rothbard’s respect. Rothbard expected him to lead a break from conventional conservatism and support a program against the welfare state and warmongering of the American government. Rothbard was enthusiastic about his speeches and his calls for the return of the troops. It was good of Buchanan that he opposed Rockefeller to rescue Mexico, but he should not have rejected Rothbard’s free-market thinking. Rothbard’s political realism, as Rockwell wrote, “led him to examine all programs and plans by a single acid test: will this person or policy move us closer to, or further from, the goal of freedom.” Rockwell also pointed out that many saw in Buchanan the political embodiment of “paleoism,” an intellectual movement allying paleoconservatives (known for their supposed non-interventionism and advocacy of localism) and paleolibertarians (a term used for several years to distance the libertarians who cared about stopping federal consolidation and American imperialism from the ones who did not). They were united by their opposition to the welfare state and the warmongering of the neoconservatives who dominated on the right.

Rothbard noted that the ruling class wants to lull the masses to sleep and wants a “measured, judicious, mushy tone,” not a Buchanan—“not only for the excitement and hard edge of his content, but also for his similar tone and style”—or a Milei. Buchanan often got angry, as did Milei (12). And since Buchanan was not only a right-winger but hailed from a designated oppressor group (white, male, Irish Catholic), his anger, according to Rothbard, could never be seen as righteous rage.

The liberal and neoconservative American establishment and especially the Kirchnerist-Peronist faction of the Argentine establishment have been similarly willing to viciously attack Buchanan and Milei. Though Milei has not always been comfortable with the right-wing label—in fact, he rejected it for years (12)—he got used to associating himself with the right since he entered politics.

In Rothbard’s view, Buchanan was a genuine rightist spokesman, who had managed to escape the neoconservative anathema which had come to lead the broader conservative movement. Still, with the Cold War over, the movement was mutating. National Review no longer monopolized power on the right. New rightists, the young and others, were springing up everywhere—Buchanan for one, the paleos for another. Rothbard rejoiced: “The original right, and all its heresies is back!” But the original right had never used the term “conservative.” Rothbard explained two main problems with it: (1) it connotes the preservation of the status quo; and (2) it “harks back to struggles in nineteenth-century Europe, and in America conditions and institutions have been so different that the term is seriously misleading.” Besides, not choosing the term served to separate libertarians from the official conservative movement that had been largely taken over by the enemies of libertarianism.

Read the full article at LewRockwell.com.

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