Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Milei's neoliberal dogs

The recently elected President of Argentina, Javier Milei, who was trained as an economist, has several dogs that are cloned from a previous dog that died not long ago. Some of these new dogs have the names of economists favorable to a minimum role for government in the economy. One of the dogs, for example, is called Milton, after Milton Friedman.

Javier Milei has many of the attributes of right-wing populism. I read in The Guardian: “More than Milei’s ideas, what worries me is his state of mind and emotional stability, said Juan Luis González, the author of an unauthorized biography which takes Milei’s nickname as its title: El Loco (The Madman). The book portrays Milei as an unhinged loner who was bullied and beaten as a child and gets political advice from four cloned mastiff dogs named after libertarian thinkers.”

Milei defines himself as anarcho-capitalist. He was recently in Spain for an international meeting with other far right politicians, including the leaders of VOX, a Spanish nativist movement that denies the importance of climate change, and other parties that believe that the experiment of the European Union has gone too far. Milei not only has close links with the European far right, but also with Trump and Bolsonaro.

Milei illustrates that neoliberal ideas seem to be complementary of populist methods and far right objectives. In logic, it wouldn't need to be like that. The three dimensions could be separated. However, when one explores the similarities between, say Reagan and Trump, or Thatcher and Johnson, although the neoliberal leaders on the 1980's did not qualify as populists, many of their anti-government (except in law and order) policies where very similar, for example promoting a race to the bottom to lower taxes. Perhaps the modern right-wing populists are more protectionist, but that is not always the case. Now they are more populist, but they are equally neoliberal.

Where does the complementarity between neo-liberalism and populism come from? One hypothesis is that the evolution of technology and institutions forces the right to manage themselves today in a hyper-democratic society, where citizens interact in the social media and finally they vote in unavoidable elections (although eroding democratic institutions is feasible in this context). The right has always had a very instrumental view of democracy (capitalism comes with democracy or without it, see Franco or Pinochet): if they cannot destroy it formally, they will use all the technologies available to make it work for its objectives. I interpret national populism as one of these technologies.

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