Argentina’s Milei Looks to Take Conservative Revolution Global

Posted on Saturday, April 6, 2024
by Ben Solis


Argentina president Milei

Four months into his tenure, new Argentine President Javier Milei has largely delivered on his promise to take a chainsaw to Argentina’s socialist government and bloated state bureaucracy. Now, he’s also hinted at plans to help build an international coalition of conservatives to counter the global left.

In recent days, Milei laid off 15,000 more government bureaucrats, on top of the 9,000 he laid off late last year. Tens of thousands more layoffs are expected in the coming months. In addition, Milei has cut the number of state ministries in half, mandated in-person work for government employees, and dramatically reduced government spending, among other changes.

Milei’s tenure represents a dramatic reversal from Peronism, a socialist governing system which had dominated Argentine politics for the better part of 50 years, and a return to the capitalist principles that once made Argentina one of the most prosperous countries in the world.

Professor Cordero Quiñones, a former advisor on economic affairs to Brazil’s President João Figueiredo, told me that it was Peronism which “led the country to unprecedented decline.”

“Discarding the pro-free market ideas formulated for Argentina by economists and lawyers Juan Bautista Alberdi and José Benjamín Gorostiaga transformed it in a decade from one of the richest countries in the world to the beggar of the world,” Professor Quiñones continued. “Socialist leaders wasted Argentina’s wealth, which was created thanks to the free market economy, by imposing centrally planned governance and financing their progressive experiment.”

“With an excessive money supply keeping wages rising regardless of whether work generated more value, the progressive Peronists destroyed the market price system, the soul of free enterprise, which has never recovered.”

Soon after descending into socialism, Argentina saw investors flee and inflation soar, reaching as high as 280 percent. A country which once rivaled the economic powers of Europe became impoverished virtually overnight.

Western media and academia have long denied this narrative, as it is a powerful case study in the inherent flaws of socialist policies. “Western academia still denies that Argentina’s economic tragedy began with Peron’s abolition of the free market,” Professor Giacobbe Provenzano, a former advisor on financial policy to Italian Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani, who currently lives in Peru, told me.

Milei, however, a former economics professor, is acutely aware of the failures of Peronism.

Milei is a student of Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek, one of the most prominent economic and political thinkers of the mid-20th century. Eighty years ago, Hayek warned that the leftist ideas which underpin Peronism were a “new slavery” that would ruin countries.

In his work The Road to Serfdom, Hayek emphasized that the growth of commerce in the West reflected the principles and values of Christianity in public life: respect for the individual and the recognition of the value of human life. Collectivism, Hayek argued, deprived people of freedom, while individualism guarded freedom.

Hayek, a veteran of World War I and witness to World War II, concluded that societies prosper when they work to free the individual from limits to his or her economic activity.

This is the ethos that Milei has brought to Argentina. Not quite a true traditional conservative, Milei’s platform rests on the idea that Argentina will thrive again when the state stops meddling in the economy.

During his presidential campaign, Milei, also a former actor, reached audiences with a series of humorous skits that effectively conveyed his economic message. In one such skit, Milei, posing as a mental health doctor, tries to help a middle-aged businessman suffering a nervous breakdown. Milei diagnoses the man with “inflammation from bureaucracy.”

“Bureaucracy is a mortal virus that kills responsible citizenry – it attacks the spirit of liberty, enterprise, and individualism,” Milei’s character says.

As a remedy, Milei recommends a “Leave me alone” lifestyle, which he explains is the opposite of collectivism and statism.

As firmly as he defends the free market, Milei also stands strongly for Judeo-Christian morals. He has unabashedly declared that abortion is “murder,” and even offered his support for the March for Life in the United States.

But Milei has not been content to just advance the causes of individual liberty and economic freedom in his home country. Increasingly, he also wants to spread those ideas to the rest of the world.

During a meeting with Italian President Giorgia Meloni in February, Milei said that he wanted the ideas of liberty to be accessible “worldwide,” further calling for an international conservative movement to balance the global leftist movement.

To be sure, Milei recognizes that his approach cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution for every country. Retired Professor of Economics Paolo Avenzano, who lives now in Brazil, told me that, while many of their policy goals are the same, Milei had to adopt a different strategy from conservatives in the United States and Europe to win over the people of Argentina.

But, Professor Avenzano continued, Milei does hope to create a global political environment where conservatives help each other promote their ideas. “Milei believes that the left, with slogans, sells its utopias around the world as if they would be a ticket to paradise, while they are opposite.”

“It would be a group, gathering nations’ leaders interested in spreading policies consistent with free market values,” Professor Quiñones added. “As a lawmaker and now also most crucial decision maker, Milei knows that the spirit of entrepreneurship, competition, and free enterprise encourages good morals and responsible citizenry.”

As Professor Provenzano pointed out, Milei’s best global marketing strategy for conservatism will be the success of his policies at home. “The results of the restored foundations of the market economy in Argentina that prospers again will be attractive to others because it will be clear it is an alternative to mountains of debt, vehement bureaucracy, and a shrinking economy,” he said.

Now, it will be up to Milei to continue delivering on his promises and prove to the world why economic freedom and individual liberty are the only path to human prospering.

Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.