Argentina and the Watching World

  • February 2, 2024
  • 0

Javier Milei has already been sworn in as the new president of Argentina and faces a Promethean challenge, having inherited a country riddled with debt and inflation. Balancing the books is going to be his priority before he can implement most of his innovative ideas, and that is going to cause temporary pain as he has clearly admitted. He does not seem keen on wasting time though, and in his first weeks we have seen a historic revocation of more than three hundred laws that have formed part of the crippling, overregulated Argentinean system for decades (many inherited from the military dictatorships). We have also seen a reduction in the number of ministries and public workers, an update of the official peso-dollar exchange rate to match the real market rate, a colossal effort to deal with the central bank’s debt (mostly in short-term bonds), implementation of an open skies policy, deregulation of the labor market and an ambitious plan to privatize a large number of Argentina’s numerous superfluous state companies, to name a few. Although some of these measures, contained in an overarching decree known as Bases para la Reconstrucción de la Economía Argentina (Bases for the reconstruction of the Argentinean economy), can still be repealed by the opposition in Congress, the industriousness and commitment of the government are evident.

Notwithstanding this promising start, we cannot rule out that the particularities of realpolitik will at some point clash with his philosophical principles, and we might have to witness unsavory shock policies, punctual tax hikes, and dubious collaborations and additions to his government. During his campaign he could afford to surround himself with intellectuals like the renowned economist Alberto Benegas Lynch, but now he needs professional politicians, and unfortunately they have to be drawn from the existing pool. He has already recruited ex-rival Patricia Bullrich, no doubt as payment for her endorsement in the run-off election, in a move that might be considered unsettling. But, of course, we were always aware of this and understand the situation he is in; we can only hope that he does not deviate substantially from his core principles and promises.

The next years will be crucial not only for Argentineans but also for the ideas of liberty worldwide. The unprecedented position of Milei as the first self-declared libertarian as head of a government has put many eyes on Argentina for different reasons. Some look on with curiosity or skepticism, others with hope and excitement, but there are many enemies of freedom all over the world who would love nothing more than to see Milei fail resoundingly to smugly claim a victory point.

And if that comes to happen, noblesse oblige would make us accept it. However, we can certainly expect no small amount of sophistry and fallacies to prove that point. Not to mention the difficulty of reconciling a statocentric paradigm with Argentina’s new direction. I am sure that many readers have heard people mutter, “Let’s see what Milei will do,” expecting the destiny of the South American country to be intrinsically bonded to the actions of the messianic leader. They fail to acknowledge that Milei will not do anything per se; only Argentineans can drive their country forward, and all we should expect from the president is not to put a stick in their spokes. The chasm becomes all the wider when we introduce temporal scope into the equation as most people have lost awareness of the long way to prosperity, beguiled by politicians’ bombastic and vacuous promises.

There is, moreover, an additional obstacle that we have to confront. Whereas I want to believe that most libertarians tend toward essentialism, modern society at large appears to be under the influence of a general current of nominalism. That is to say, for us Milei is a libertarian insomuch as he behaves in a way and implements policies that conform to that philosophy, regardless of any self-imposed label.

On the other hand, for the majority his identity has already been defined by that label and it is now set in stone, no matter what he does, even if he turns out to be a fraud. Milei’s mandate will be used as a yardstick for the ideas of liberty in years to come, whether for good or bad, so let us hope that he can live up to the immense responsibility that rests upon his shoulders.