Argentina Election Shocker

When I visited Argentina last November to give some speeches, I expressed a lot of pessimism and rhetorically asked whether the country could be rescued.

In a column earlier this month, I followed up with two reasons for why Argentina is a basket case: “The short-run answer is modern monetary theory. The long-run answer is Peronism, named after the populist (and statist) Juan Peron, who took power in 1946.”

What really drives my pessimism is a fear that the Argentinian people have been corrupted. It’s not easy to be hopeful, after all, if a majority of the people in a nation think that it’s okay to be moochers.

But perhaps I was wrong. Based on what happened yesterday, it seems that the voters of Argentina have woken up to the danger of “goldfish government.”

Here are excerpts from a report in the New York Times by Jack Nicas, Natalie Alcoba and .

far-right libertarian candidate won Argentina’s open presidential primary election on Sunday, a surprising showing for a politician who wants to adopt the U.S. dollar as Argentina’s official currency… Javier Milei, 52, a congressman, economist and former television pundit, secured 30 percent of the vote…, making him the front-runner for the presidency in the fall general election. Polls had suggested that Mr. Milei’s support was at about 20 percent, and political analysts had predicted that his radical policy proposals — including abolishing the country’s central bank — would prevent him from attracting many more voters. …Besides his ideas about the currency and the central bank, he has proposed drastically lowering taxes and cutting public spending, including by charging people to use the public health care system; closing or privatizing all state-owned enterprises; and eliminating the health, education and environment ministries. …The incumbent center-left party has held power in Argentina for 16 of the past 20 years and has been controlled largely by former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. “We’re not only going to end Kirchnerism, but we’re also going to end the useless, parasitic, criminal political caste that is sinking this country,” Mr. Milei told supporters. …He and his running mate…have suggested they would loosen gun laws…and even permit the sale of human organs, an example of commerce that Mr. Milei says the government has no business restricting.

Wow, what a great set of ideas!

Slashing taxes and spending is of vital importance, of course, but his plan for dollarization is also very important in a nation with a central bank that has been misused to finance bigger government.

And he wants to shut down various government departments and privatize state-owned enterprises, all of which is music to my ears.

He even supports gun rights and wants to help sick people by legalizing organ sales. I’m definitely getting a man crush on Milei!

For politically minded readers, here’s a closer look at the election results, courtesy of Reuters.

I’ll close by lowering my expectations. A first-place finish in a primary does not mean Milei will prevail in the election later this year (a libertarian-minded candidate in a previous election faded after some early momentum).

And even if Milei does win, there’s no guarantee that he’ll have enough supporters in the legislature to make necessary changes.

But at least he seems to sincerely believe in freedom, unlike some of the supposedly right-wing politicians that have held office in Argentina.

So fingers crossed that the people of Argentina do the right thing.

The bottom line is that statist politicians have done immense damage to Argentina, and that may be an understatement.

But if Milei wins and voters also elect libertarian-minded candidates to the legislature, those mistakes can be unwound and their country can once again become one of the richest nations in the world.

P.S. I joked in 2011 about Argentina being a “libertarian paradise.” Maybe, just maybe, that can become a reality.

Written by Daniel Mitchell, see original article by clicking here.