Three Recommendations for Javier Milei
Javier Milei, who says he is an anarcho-capitalist, has been elected president of Argentina’s government. It is difficult not to applaud the defeat of his opponent from the populist party that robbed the Argentines for decades. Still, I previously suggested that we should not get our expectations too high. If Mr. Milei asked my advice, I would give three general recommendations.
First, be careful how you talk. It is difficult to think individualist and to teach liberal individualism if you speak collectivist. Consider an example from the Wall Street Journal story of yesterday (and this morning) on Mr. Milei’s election (“Javier Milei, a Self-Described Anarcho-Capitalist, Is Elected President of Argentina,” November 19):
Milei’s proposals include … prioritizing commerce with capitalist nations like the U.S. over China.
There are no quotation marks so Milei may have expressed this idea in different terms. The translator could have interpreted it with his own usual way of thinking, or it could be the journalist (or editor) who unconsciously transcribed it in collectivist-talk. The government of a free country does not (except perhaps in wartime) “prioritize commerce” with anybody anywhere; the government is content to leave each of “its” own citizens (or group of citizens) free to import from whom he wants and export to whom he wants if he finds agreeable the terms offered by the other party (even if the latter is coerced by his own illiberal government).
My second recommendation relates to the interface between deeds and talk. Like any politician in a not totally free country—an understatement for Argentina—Milei will have to make compromises. Public choice theory taught us much on the constraints and incentives of politicians who need the support of special interest groups asking for favors and privileges. These demands are more difficult to resist the more dependent people have become on government. Milei will often have to compromise his classical-liberal or a fortiori anarcho-capitalist ideals, if that is what he truly pursues. What’s important, I think, is that he explains openly and clearly that anything he does and should not do is only a short-term compromise in order to continue the pursuit of individual liberty. He should explain that the welfare state is only kept in place to the extent that it is necessary during the transition to the liberty and prosperity that will make it gradually obsolete. And so forth.
This does not imply that reducing and eliminating inflation, which is officially at 143% per year, is not a pressing task. It is, and some other priorities will have to wait. If he fails in taming inflation, he will fail everywhere else. But I am focusing here on general, “methodological” recommendations.
Third, I would recommend Mr. Milei to stay away from bad companions. He should be careful not to be compromised by people whose opinions are obviously inconsistent with the long-term goal he is (presumably) pursuing. This includes the extreme right and the extreme left. The fact that he is described as a “radical libertarian” and “far to the right” fuels a dangerous confusion (see, for example, “Radical Libertarian Javier Miley Elected President of Argentina,” Financial Times, November 20, 2023). “I am very proud of you,” Trump pedantically told Milei from his social network platform. “You will turn your Country around and truly Make Argentina Great Again!” Like classical liberalism, libertarianism is beyond left and right.
For what they are worth, I would argue that these recommendations are valid for any politician in the world who takes liberal ideals seriously.