Late last year, Argentina made the headlines with the election of Javier Milei as its next president. Since coming to power, Milei has taken big steps toward reining in the power of Argentina’s hugely intrusive government by proposing to repeal numerous regulations.
Argentina’s relationship with authoritarian government, in right- and left-wing variants, runs deep. The latest bout of socialism comes courtesy of Peronism, which formally regained power in 2003 and governed for 16 of the last 20 years. Peronism left a once prosperous country in absolute misery, suffering a 160 percent annual rate of inflation (estimated to exceed 200 percent once the December data become available) which in turn led millions into poverty. Statism – the idea that individuals are subordinate to the supreme state – has long ruled the day.
It is a welcome and potentially historical development that a candidate was elected who is ostensibly in favor of the free market and whose priority is to dramatically restrict the function of government. Milei detests socialism and has sworn to shrink the powers of the state in order to take Argentina back to the prosperity it enjoyed until the early 1900s.
Milei seems to understand that eliminating government’s control over the economy is a must for human flourishing and prosperity – that government must get out of the way of individuals who want to produce and live freely (for instance, he’s eliminated the price controls that plagued the Argentinian economy for years). But as a self-described “anarcho-capitalist,” he holds a mistaken view of government: as recently as September, he’s stated that government is inherently evil and that true freedom can only be achieved through anarchism.
Milei regards government as a necessarily oppressive institution that is “the enemy of wealth” and profoundly immoral – worse than a criminal organization. He’s stated that “between the mafia and the State, I prefer the mafia. The mafia has morals, the mafia doesn’t lie, the mafia competes.” He holds that the State is so bad that it must eventually disappear.
Milei also believes that it’s impossible to eliminate the State in the near future. But in the run-up to his presidential campaign, he said he was determined to take the steps necessary to bring Argentina closer to his anarchist ideal. If he manages to do that, Argentina will not prosper.
While Milei rightly opposes authoritarian government, the absence of government is no better. Government is necessary for protecting individual freedom.
In fact, government is not an unnecessary evil, but a necessary good. A civilized society should ban force from social relations, and to enforce this ban there needs to be an institution that holds a monopoly on force. Government is needed to guarantee freedom from physical force by protecting individual rights. To do this it must only use force in retaliation against those who initiate it.
A government that exists to protect individual rights has a well-defined, restricted role: to protect individuals from theft, murder, and fraud with the police force; from foreign invasions and terrorism with the military; and in the courts to settle civil disputes such as alleged breach of contract. This role of government is essential to protect the freedom that makes prosperity possible – it’s the foundation of freedom.
We cannot achieve freedom by shrinking government indiscriminately. We do it by empowering government to play its proper role. We would not want a “small military” to protect us from the armed attacked of a foreign nation. Other proper institutions need to be empowered as well.'We cannot achieve freedom by shrinking government indiscriminately. We do it by empowering government to play its proper role.' Click To Tweet
Building strong government institutions is necessary to protect the rights of Argentinians. Argentina desperately needs a better police force and court system to better implement the rule of law. Criminals run rampant, making safety a top concern leading up to the presidential election. Those criminals who are apprehended are routinely freed by judges. Judicial procedures take a long time, often rendering obsolete verdicts. Judges and other justice system workers often see their independence compromised, especially in cases involving challenges to the political power of corrupt officials.
While most of Milei’s proposed reforms have been about tearing down improper government controls, the new president is also making moves to actively protect the rights of Argentinians by specifying proper governmental actions. For instance, Milei’s government has empowered the police force to prevent and break up the massive pickets and public street blockades that for decades have been restricting Argentinians right to move and causing untold damage.
Overall, while the new reforms are good signs, the question of Milei’s anarcho-capitalism remains. Freedom isn’t compatible with anarchy. Freedom requires good government, limited to protecting the rights of individuals. Government should leave people free – by guaranteeing their rights. Milei, who’s shown signs of intellectual growth, will hopefully continue to help build the necessary governmental institutions to do just that and to be persuaded of the need to rebuild the good, not just tear down the bad.
This article was originally published by the Southern California News Group.
Image credit: Tomas Cuesta/Getty Images News via Getty Images.