A hundred years ago, Argentina was one of the wealthiest countries in the world on a per capita basis. Today, its economy is shrinking, inflation is at 150%, and 40% of its citizens live below the poverty line. Decades of corporate socialism, overweening labor unions, and massive government spending have wrecked a once-thriving economy.
But on Sunday, the nation took a huge step back from the economic abyss, electing author and economist Javier Milei in a landslide over the incumbent government’s economic minister, Sergio Massa.
“Enough of the impoverishing power of the caste,” Massa said during his victory speech. “Today, we once again embrace the model of liberty to once again become a world power.”
The “caste” Massa referred to includes a long line of leftist leaders who all claimed socialist Juan Peron as their ideological inspiration. Their corruption is incarnated in the vice president of the incumbent government, Cristina Kirchner, who was recently convicted of corruptly awarding billions of dollars in public works contracts to friends in exchange for bribes while she was president from 2007 to 2015. Instead of resigning in shame, Kirchner stayed on, even endorsing Massa in his campaign against Milei
“Today, the impoverishing model of the omnipresent state ends, which only benefits some while the majority of Argentines suffer,” Milei told supporters Sunday. “Today, the idea that the state resources are loot to be shared between politicians and their friends ends.”
In addition to his writings on economics, Milie is a media sensation known for his often vulgar criticism of Kirchner and her allies. A former goalkeeper for a local soccer team, Milei has also sung for a Rolling Stones cover band and was known for wielding a chainsaw on the campaign trail, a symbol of his promise to cut government spending.
In one widely circulated video, Milei rips the names of government ministries he promises to eliminate off a whiteboard, including such obvious targets as the “Ministry of Tourism and Sports,” “Ministry of Culture,” and “Ministry of Women, Gender, and Diversity.” Even the Education Ministry is on the chopping block, with Milei telling the camera all they do is “indoctrination.” In all, Milei has promised to reduce the number of ministries from 18 to eight.
Milei’s other big promise is to retire Argentina’s peso and make the U.S. dollar the country’s currency. This will be a painful move for Latin America’s third-biggest economy but has worked wonders for Panama, Ecuador, and El Salvador. With time, Argentina’s move to the dollar could end inflation and, one hopes, provide the stability Argentina needs for economic growth to revive.
Milei has also made it clear that he intends to be a strong ally of the United States. Whereas leftist leaders in Brazil, Columbia, and Mexico are turning away from Washington and toward Tehran and Beijing, Milei has called the Chinese Communist Party “an assassin” and has pledged to reduce the country’s influence in Argentina.
Like El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele, not everything Milei says or does is laudatory. He is often unnecessarily crude, and he has dabbled in unhelpful election conspiracies. But for all his faults, he is a far better alternative to a corrupt leftist regime that has been impoverishing Argentina for decades.
Latin America desperately needs law-and-order free market believers, and President Joe Biden should do everything he can to ensure Milei’s presidency is a success.