The leftist media has referred to him as the Donald Trump of Argentina, or as a far-right populist. On the other side, Fox News is reporting that Milei is the world’s first libertarian head of state. National Conservatives are claiming it’s foolish for MAGA to embrace him, as he’s a “creation of the Koch brothers, and Reason magazine.” No less than Ron Paul’s own foreign policy Institute has thrown him under the bus, claiming he’s not the great libertarian hope.
So just who really is this mop-top, chainsaw-wielding character who has captured the attention of the world, and even shaken up American right-wing politics since his landslide election?
Milei has promised to cut taxes, slash government spending, and make a bonfire of government regulations. “Everything that can be in the hands of the private sector will be in the hands of the private sector,” he said to Radio Mitre.
He has proposed radical economic changes to a country grappling with 140% inflation, droughts, and food shortages. Argentina has defaulted on its sovereign debt three times, the peso has fallen more than ninety percent against the dollar and 4 out of 10 Argentines live in poverty. Milei faces an unbelievable challenge, and since he’s not a dictator, he’ll be forced to work with a government made up of political rivals and the socialists who he called “sh*t leftists” during his campaign.
Milei’s path to becoming an economist began when at an early age he decided to quit football after he saw people throwing their bodies on top of groceries at supermarkets. He considers himself to be an economist from the Austrian tradition, a school of thought which inspired the free market conservative revolution in the 1980’s of the UK’s Margaret Thatcher and the US’ Ronald Reagan. Austrian economics is referred to as such because its founders were Austrians who fled the Hitlerism of Europe to set up shop in the United States. Milton Friedman’s own thinking was heavily influenced by it, and Javier Milei is a proponent of its most radical form: Anarcho-capitalism. There are around ten different schools of libertarian thought, of which the Anarcho-capitalism favored by Milei is one branch.
Milei may be an anarchist in the streets, but his policies reveal a minarchist in the sheets. Milei became an anarchist in 1995 after reading an article by Murray Rothbard, but he acknowledged the problems with putting those ideas into practice, and has defaulted to a form of “minarchism,” sometimes known as a “Night Watchman State” view of government. This would confine the role of government to defense and law enforcement.
He has proudly and openly called for supporters to engage in the culture wars, fight back against Cultural Marxism, and even hilariously claimed that his people are not only morally superior but “aesthetically superior” as well. This seems to indicate that Milei is well aware of the role that culture plays in shaping a nation’s views towards government and society. That’s a refreshing view that very much coincides with the American MAGA movement, whose cultural plays push back against fat activists, Brutalist architectural movements, and drag queen story hours. He’s already promised that the Ministry of Women, Gender, and Equality will close in 21 days.
So far any of these policies or talking points would be at home at any MAGA rally. But that’s where the Trump comparisons end, as Milei’s pure free market capitalist approach would see him reducing tariffs, loosening immigration standards, lowering corporate tax rates, and letting businesses compete.
Milei’s controversies as of late have seen him being attacked by some on the right for his open defense of the state of Israel (and desire to become Jewish), his broadsides on the Pope in a predominantly Catholic country, and his desire to scrap the Argentinian Peso and engage in a process of Dollarization. Doctrinaire anarcho-capitalists would turn their nose up at engaging in dollarization, but abolishing the central bank as he has promised won’t come overnight. What’s more, many of these criticisms are short-sighted; even if you disagree with some of Milei’s policy positions, the fact of such a disruptive figure being able to win a national election speaks to the power of an unvarnished, shock therapy-style political message when delivered by a sincere and charismatic messenger. If Milei can win with his message, then the Overton Window has been smashed, at least in Argentina.
“I didn’t come here to lead lambs but to awaken lions,” was Milei’s rallying cry, and as such he has seen imagery of an anthropomorphized lion representing him carrying a chainsaw. Time will tell whether this public image can be translated into public policy, or if he’ll be torn apart by the Peronist wolves who will do all they can to end this unique in-the-world experiment with minarchism. I know whose side I’m on, and whose side you should be on. Viva la liberad carajo!