The proto-denialist statements of Javier Miley about the military dictatorship – “it’s not 30,000”, “It’s a war”, “there are excesses” – can be surprising coming from a libertarian. For someone who considers the (democratic) State absolutely Evil, it is surprising that he relativizes it precisely under a regime of State terror. His celestial militancy against abortion, which he considers a mere crime, is also often shocking. How to explain these apparent contradictions?
The key word is “paleolibertarianism”. This term refers to a precise tactical-political moment of Murray Rothbard, the American libertarian theorist whose texts pushed Milei out of his life as a neoclassical economist and became first an anarcho-capitalist and then a kind of prophet of the Argentine revolution (his repeated comparison with Moses is very important). But in this local reception of paleolibertarianism there is – as in all “out of place” ideas – a series of disagreements and adaptations.
Rothbard proposed paleolibertarianism in the 1990s as an alliance with reactionary right libertarians (the old right anti-New Deal), even in openly supremacist groups, with the idea of ”going to the people” – and abandoning the hippie libertarianism of the Libertarian Party.
The New Yorker early and prophetically anticipated the rebellion of the Republican base against the neocons “statists” (which gave rise to the Tea Party and later Trumpism). But that alliance with the (ultra) right, ultimately a product of libertarian political impotence, always has anti-statist goals, which in the United States is justified because there is a tradition of “state rights” (states’ rights) and all kinds of anti-Washington and anti-central government local autonomy, including militias. That’s why, Rothbard was always radically anti-FFAA and anti-war, even during the Cold War. He maintains that conservatives are optimistic in the short term (they think they can win wars against the Soviet Union militarily), but pessimistic in the long term (they fear the victory of communism as a system); while libertarians should be pessimistic in the short term (some wars may be lost against communism), but optimistic in the long term: as already shown by the Austrian School of Economics, centralized planning is not possible, which will end the Soviet Union, though. at that time it appeared as an invincible power. In a provocative position in front of conservatives, Rothbard goes as far as to affirm that the Soviet Union is “more peaceful than the government of the United States” and that the real enemy is not in Moscow, but in Washington. But over time, I found that libertarianism did not connect with the majority, and a small group of anti-authority intellectual unrest. That’s your proposal paleo. And his call not to confuse the authority of the state (bad) with the authority of society – churches, families, companies – (necessary as a counterweight to the first).
In 1993 he wrote, for example, the article “The religious right: towards a coalition”, in which he said that libertarians pro-choice (pro-choice) can be allied with pro-life religious with a common program focused on local autonomy (that each State or community decides whether or not to accept abortion, remove the Supreme Court and other cases of federal States from the middle) , and to reject public health (even if they are accepted, abortions should not be paid for by taxpayers). And this logic of alliances can be repeated in other reactionary sectors: the goal is always to strengthen local groups against the federal State. Federal laws will never be accepted, even if they favor the goals of libertarians.
Transplanted to Argentina, Milei’s paleolibertarianism, without that tradition of right-wing autonomy, would not make much sense. The result is his alliance with Victoria Villarruel and the sectors of the process that really want to give more resources / influence to the Armed Forces, something that is anti-Rothbardian. This alliance between anarcho-capitalists and right-wing nationalists is undoubtedly unstable. We’ll see, if they win, how it settles.
Milei’s libertarianism is post-democratic, he believes that democracy is a service system for politicians. That is why he talks about freedom but not democracy. And when they asked him about it, he started talking about “Arrow’s impossibility theorem.” His position has a corresponding neoreactionary discourse.
Neoreactionaries consider democracy a disastrous product of modernity, a “suboptimal” and unstable regime oriented towards consumption rather than production and innovation, which always leads to greater taxation and distribution (politicians must win elections). Democracy is orgiastic consumerism, financial incontinence and reality show political. It does not create progress, it consumes it. That is why it results in a society of parasites. For the neoreactionary Michael Anissimov, “irrational voters and complacent politicians create a cycle of error that feeds on itself.” The only remedy, they say, is an oligarchy of neo-elitism, where the role of government is not necessarily to represent the will of an unreasonable people, but to govern them properly.
Democracy is very permeable to populations that are hostile to let it happen and imbued with a gregarious “anti-capitalist mentality.” And even socialism. Therefore, if it is really difficult to believe that the State can be abolished, Mencius Moldbug, who is now listening closely to the most radical Trumpism, argues that it can at least be cured by democracy. For this, the key is to treat States as companies. In the neoreactionary utopia, countries will be broken up and transformed into competing companies run by competent CEOs; some kind of variant or combination of monarchy, aristocracy and “neocameralism”, where the State is a public limited company divided into shares and ruled by a CEO who maximizes profits. A form of corporate feudalism. Then, personal freedom is separated from political freedom.
Many of these things resonate in the Mileist story, even if it is philosophically unsophisticated. But the candidate of La Libertad Avanza (LLA) is far from being able to do a similar project. Even dollarization, a low-intensity utopia, has become a headache. He had to abandon much of his anarcho-capitalist maximalism in intellectual/moral reform of the country in favor of a realpolitik neomenemist (not forgetting that Menem had Peronism to make Menemism …). But it is still surprising that his anarcho-capitalism has frightened the economic elite and businessmen in general.
Nor does Milei have a party, like Trump, or a socio-territorial coalition (conservative evangelicals, agro-industrialists, military and militias… the bible, the cow and the bullet) like Bolsonaro. He will announce, if he wins, a mixture of Menemistas/cavallistas from CEMA, former employees of Grupo América, former officials from different governments, and people from different right-wing foundations. There is no shortage of last-minute “libertarians.” But the reactions of Guillermo Francos, possible Minister of the Interior, when they spoke to him about “anarcho-capitalism” – a mixture of cynicism and disinterest… the opportunism of those who will occupy the State if LLA wins in the election. After taking power in Russia, the Bolshevik Party closed the doors to new members to prevent a flood of opportunists; but Milei doesn’t have that luxury because she doesn’t have a party.
It is strange that Milei has created two opposing fears: some fear that he is some kind of Nayib Bukele – a outsider ultra-popular that restricts the limits of democracy – and some are a Pedro Castillo – a outsider clueless man who never managed to put together a government. The third is that it moves through different gray scales. Perhaps the real danger lies not in its “fascism” but in the institutional chaos of a State that already has enough problems to undergo the uncertain experiment of a new chainsaw coalition.