Fertile ground for libertarianism?
Outside of North Korea, it’s hard to think of any place where libertarianism should have more appeal than in Argentina. Once one of the richest countries in the world, 100 years of foolish statism has turned it into a “developing country”. By statism, I mean the sort of industrial policies that are becoming so trendy among younger America intellectuals.
With 30% of the vote, Javier Milei surprised pundits by leading the primary ballot in yesterday’s election in Argentina. He’s been called a “populist” and a Trump-like figure, which may be true in a stylistic sense. But on policy he’s not at all populist or Trump-like, rather he’s a radical libertarian (albeit with socially conservative views). I’m also a libertarian, although for reasons I’ll explain later I’m not a fan of Milei. But I do welcome the support he received. Indeed given Argentina’s sad history with statism, the real surprise is that he didn’t receive 100% of the vote. Perhaps Argentine voters are beginning to wake up.
Bloomberg had this to say:
Some of his controversial opinions include the defense of gun ownership, his stance against abortion and the sale of human organs.
This is incorrect—Milei actually favors organ sales.
Organ sales are one of the issues that I feel most passionate about. As many as 40,000 Americans needlessly die each year because of the ban on organ sales. Almost everyone I talk to supports the ban, and the reasons they cite for not favoring organ sales (it would create a black market, or it would be biased against he poor) reflect a high degree of ignorance of the issue. Allowing organ sales would reduce the black market and would clearly help America’s poor.
Milei also supports dollarizing the Argentine economy. That might works, but seems like a rather risky strategy. If I were an Argentine libertarian I’d focus on issues where success is more likely. To his credit, he also favors a radical reduction in government spending and regulation. Argentina has tremendous potential—indeed it ought to be the richest country in Latin America. There’s no reason it cannot become as rich as Italy or Spain. If it does the right things, dollarization won’t be necessary. If it fails to reform, dollarization will collapse.
Despite these reservations, I support most of the economic policies being advocated by Milei. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become increasingly distrustful of politicians. He seems like an unusually reckless figure, which makes me a bit concerned about how he’d do once in office. On the other hand, perhaps Argentina needs a wild man to shake things up.
Argentina has a democratic form of government, and no single person is likely to be able to enact radical change. If he were to win (which is not at all certain), Milei would likely be unable to achieve most of his policy proposals. Then the question becomes one of whether he has the good judgment to get his most effective policies enacted, or whether he wastes time on his worst ideas (which in my view are his social policies). That’s beyond my ability to forecast.
PS. He could ask for advice from the “Chicago Boys“.