A Rothbardian Dissection of Javier Milei – Part I


Do you hate the State? Javier Milei, the current president of Argentina, seems to. “The State is a killing machine.” “The State is a criminal organization.” “Taxation is theft.” “Philosophically, I am an anarcho-capitalist.” These are quotes from Milei, a man who offered Argentina a “true liberal option”—classical liberalism. He claims to be a “liberal-libertarian” and an admirer of Murray Rothbard (1, 2, 3). He has said he is a minarchist in the short run, but willing to embrace anarcho-capitalism in the long run.

Rothbard asked why there should be any significant political disputes between anarcho-capitalists and minarchists in our statist world. “We could and would march hand-in-hand in this way if the minarchists were radicals, as they were from the birth of classical liberalism down to the 1940s. Give us back the antistatist radicals…” Milei himself appears to be an anti-statist radical.

A libertarian may not be so consistent as to be an anarchist (an anarcho-capitalist), but must at least be a minarchist and an anti-statist who radically confronts the statist status quo—both at the national and international levels, for a libertarian defends his ideals for the people of all nations.

Libertarianism and Austrian economics have become more widespread than ever since Milei won the presidency. He and his actions have come to represent libertarianism in the global political scene, which is why it is crucial to promote a correct understanding of libertarianism and an appropriate assessment of what’s happening in Argentina. I will also discuss what Rothbard would have thought of Milei. Theory is insufficient for this, it will be necessary to talk about Rothbard as a political activist and commentator as well. So, in the context of Rothbard’s writings in the ’90s and the comments of Lew Rockwell, I will compare Pat Buchanan with Milei before he became president. Buchanan was the last famous politician who received Rothbard’s clear support and esteem in the last years of his life.

Milei and Buchanan

When the Soviet Union collapsed, it seemed necessary to Rothbard to rethink the basis of American policy. Yet no rethinking among the shapers of American or even world opinion occurred. US foreign policy went on as if the Cold War had never ended. Buchanan, the paleos, and others urged that American intervention be guided by the national interest. But then, the alliance of liberals and neoconservatives pretended to agree and redefined the national interest itself.

Having led the movement against the Gulf War, Buchanan earned Rothbard’s respect. Rothbard expected him to lead a break from conventional conservatism and support a program against the welfare state and warmongering of the American government. Rothbard was enthusiastic about his speeches and his calls for the return of the troops. It was good of Buchanan that he opposed Rockefeller to rescue Mexico, but he should not have rejected Rothbard’s free-market thinking. Rothbard’s political realism, as Rockwell wrote, “led him to examine all programs and plans by a single acid test: will this person or policy move us closer to, or further from, the goal of freedom.” Rockwell also pointed out that many saw in Buchanan the political embodiment of “paleoism,” an intellectual movement allying paleoconservatives (known for their supposed non-interventionism and advocacy of localism) and paleolibertarians (a term used for several years to distance the libertarians who cared about stopping federal consolidation and American imperialism from the ones who did not). They were united by their opposition to the welfare state and the warmongering of the neoconservatives who dominated on the right.

Rothbard noted that the ruling class wants to lull the masses to sleep and wants a “measured, judicious, mushy tone,” not a Buchanan—“not only for the excitement and hard edge of his content, but also for his similar tone and style”—or a Milei. Buchanan often got angry, as did Milei (1, 2). And since Buchanan was not only a right-winger but hailed from a designated oppressor group (white, male, Irish Catholic), his anger, according to Rothbard, could never be seen as righteous rage.

The liberal and neoconservative American establishment and especially the Kirchnerist-Peronist faction of the Argentine establishment have been similarly willing to viciously attack Buchanan and Milei. Though Milei has not always been comfortable with the right-wing label—in fact, he rejected it for years (1, 2)—he got used to associating himself with the right since he entered politics.

In Rothbard’s view, Buchanan was a genuine rightist spokesman, who had managed to escape the neoconservative anathema which had come to lead the broader conservative movement. Still, with the Cold War over, the movement was mutating. National Review no longer monopolized power on the right. New rightists, the young and others, were springing up everywhere—Buchanan for one, the paleos for another. Rothbard rejoiced: “The original right, and all its heresies is back!” But the original right had never used the term “conservative.” Rothbard explained two main problems with it: (1) it connotes the preservation of the status quo; and (2) it “harks back to struggles in nineteenth-century Europe, and in America conditions and institutions have been so different that the term is seriously misleading.” Besides, not choosing the term served to separate libertarians from the official conservative movement that had been largely taken over by the enemies of libertarianism.

When Israel and its extensive “amen corner”—as Buchanan called it—were beating the drums for the destruction of Iraq, the toppling of Saddam Hussein, and more, Buchanan distinguished himself as the most prominent critic of the Iraq War, calling for a return to the non-interventionism of the Old Right. For Rothbard, it was no accident that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) “picked the occasion of Buchanan’s hard-hitting critiques of the war hawks to unleash its dossier, to issue and widely circulate a press release smearing Buchanan as anti-Semitic, which was then used as fodder for an extraordinarily extensive press campaign against Buchanan.” Since the end of World War II, the ADL adopted a key strategy: “to broaden its definition of anti-Semitism to include any robust criticisms of the State of Israel.” The ADL and the rest of the organized anti-anti-Semitism had formed “a mighty praetorian guard focusing on Israeli interests and Israeli security.” Saddam Hussein was not a threat to America, but he did pose a threat to Israel. The rest is history.

Defining anti-Semitism, Rothbard offered a personal definition for someone who hates all Jews, a political definition for someone “who advocates political, legal, economic, or social disabilities to be levied against Jews.” It was obvious to him that Buchanan could never possibly fall under this label. Rather than trivializing anti-Semitism, these definitions clarified the issue and showed it to be virtually non-existent in the United States. Hence, it was simply a vicious calumny to call Buchanan anti-Semitic, an attempt to smear a political leader who would not adhere to what Rothbard called “the victimology of the Israel First lobby.” Be that as it may, Rothbard saw in Buchanan a man who would not bow to the victimological blackmail of neocons and liberals.

Other than some back-and-forth with certain people who are now back on his team, Milei is not the kind of man who bows to critics and political opponents. He has not always been right, but he has stood his ground against defamation, criticism, and recurrent pressure from various sectors in Argentina. Milei, however, has responded to some people who have called him a Nazi by suing them for the “crime” of trivializing the Holocaust. In demanding compensation from people who have not violated his property rights, Milei seeks injustice. No libertarian should resort to the repressive apparatus of the State to punish others in such a case. Nevertheless, to call Milei a Nazi was absurd: he is a popularizer of libertarian ideas, who has demonstrated a notable appreciation toward the Jewish people and Judaism for many years.

Coming back to the ’90s, after denouncing Hillary Clinton in a speech, Buchanan noted that she had compared the institution of marriage to slavery. Believe it or not, Milei’s opinion is just as negative as Hillary Clinton’s. He has criticized this social institution for years (1, 2, 3), and has come to call it “an aberrant institution.” Meanwhile, Rothbard wrote that monogamy “may be demonstrable as absolutely the best form of marriage for developing the emotional characteristics of the human personality and also for child rearing.”

Buchanan denounced the “Clinton and Clinton agenda” of radical feminism, abortion on demand, “homosexual rights,” discrimination against religious schools, and sending women into combat. In 1991, Buchanan lashed out with one of the best responses to complaints about the predominance of male senators that Rothbard ever heard: “All right, why don’t some of you big fat [male] liberals resign and get women appointed?” Milei has long clashed with feminists. In a presidential debate, he responded to his contender on the wage gap hysteria in a way that Rothbard would have enjoyed: “If you were right and the damned exploitative capitalists to whom you allude only want to make money… you would have to go into a company, and they should all be women.”

In the 1992 election, Buchanan stated, “There is a religious war going on… It is a cultural war… And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton and Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side.” Rothbard replied, “Yes! Yes!” For him, the orgy of hatred toward Buchanan in which the media promptly indulged showed that his speech was correct. And it was Buchanan alone, of all the attendees at both conventions, who mentioned one of the defining events of 1992—the riots in Los Angeles. Buchanan talked about how the federal troops took back the streets, proclaiming, “We must take back our cities… our culture, and take back our country.” Rothbard again responded, “Yes, yes, yes!” Thus, we see why Buchanan “drove the liberals into frenzy.” It was not just the “war” but the taking back, “the trumpet call to become openly and gloriously reactionary.”

Similarly, Milei has preached about a cultural battle and once said that being a classical liberal means burning the current dungy Argentine constitution and going back to the constitution of 1853. Rothbard would have taken much pleasure in Milei’s cultural battle and reactionary side in general.

During his 1992 run for the presidency, Buchanan was denounced for betraying the Republican administration and Bush. The paleos enthusiastically supported Buchanan in the primary. After his defeat, Buchanan came out in favor of Bush’s reelection, and the paleos and Rothbard did the same. Rothbard did not support Bush in an absolute sense—no one had denounced Bush more for his wars and increases in federal power. He supported him as a better alternative to Bill Clinton. Rothbard knew that a change in strategy never meant a change in principle but only in method—his core views were always the same. He went through no real “periods,” said Rockwell, “but rather altered his strategies, emphases, and associations based on what the times and circumstances required.” His goal was always a principled promotion of liberty. Yet the same neocons and official conservatives who had denounced Buchanan stabbed Bush in the back and sided with Clinton. In response, Rothbard asked, “Which strategy was more honorable? Or more defensible in the long run?”

With the North American Free Trade Agreement on the table, the Clinton-Bush line argued that NAFTA promoted, and was indeed indispensable to, “the lovely concept of free trade, which had become an article of conservative Republican faith during the Reagan administration.” In his characteristically ironic style, Rothbard wrote that the “only opposition” to NAFTA “came from an alliance of confused or more likely evil protectionists… Even worse, were their allies the hate-filled protectionist xenophobes, racists, sexists, and heterosexists, such as Pat Buchanan.” But Buchanan baffled the pro-NAFTA forces by pointing out that purist free-traders—such as Rockwell, Rothbard himself, and the Mises Institute—opposed NAFTA because it was a phony free-trade measure that piled numerous new government restrictions on trade. Furthermore, it added international, intergovernmental restrictions, which were to be imposed by new agencies accountable to no voters of any nation. Although Buchanan was indeed a protectionist, his opposition to NAFTA put him again at odds with the bipartisan establishment.

Ironically, given his stated commitment to free market ideas, Milei supported the idea that Donald Trump, another protectionist, was actually a friend of free markets (1, 2). Beyond explaining the evils of a customs union like NAFTA, Milei left out the truth about Trump’s NAFTA 2.0. While “breaking” with NAFTA (as Trump, according to Milei, wanted to do) would have been wonderful for free trade, this could only happen if the customs union was truly eliminated. In reality, Trump was attempting to replace NAFTA with a new agreement of the same style. The USMCA went into effect in July 2020 and included, like the previous NAFTA, the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Trump’s position on China was protectionist too, but Milei defended it, even excusing the tariff hike.

According to Rockwell, by 1995, Rothbard had had enough and issued a warning that Buchanan’s protectionism “was mutating into an all-round faith in economic planning.” In the battle between power and the market, as most of Buchanan’s later writings showed, he was increasingly on the side of power. For Rockwell and Rothbard, it was time to move on.

Nevertheless, Rothbard never seemed to lose hope in Buchanan. In an article published in February 1995, talking about the 1996 election, he still believed that Buchanan wanted to take America back “for the old culture and the Old Republic,” and that he was one of the few candidates—if not the only—who was not controlled by the Rockefellers or the neocons and who would take a principled paleo and pro-American position. The important thing for the paleos was finding as soon as possible someone “who will lead and develop the cause and the movement of right-wing populism, to raise the standard of the Old, free, decentralized, and strictly limited Republic.” For Rothbard, Buchanan had the opportunity to lead the cause, and still had “the principles and the intelligence to do it.” Rothbard, however, wondered, “Does he have the will?”

Milei and Rothbard’s Right-Wing Populism

Rothbard’s paleolibertarian activism gave us a populist strategy for the right. Mutatis mutandis, we will summarize the eight points of Rothbard’s strategy and grant Milei’s presidential campaign the following four: (1) slash taxes, (3) abolish group privileges, (4) crush criminals, and (6) abolish the central bank of Argentina. What about the other four?

(2) Slash welfare. This is not achieved by maintaining welfare programs and proposing to shift the financing of healthcare and education toward demand financing (1, 2). Regarding education, Milei has advocated a system of vouchers (1, 2), but Rothbard opposed such systems because they have a tendency to creep into other markets, including housing and food. For Rothbard, vouchers were nothing more than “a slightly more efficient freer form of welfare state, and it would be especially pernicious in diverting libertarian energies to enshrining and sanctifying that State.”

(5) Get rid of the bums. A long-term plan to get people off welfare is not enough, because welfare incentivizes people to remain on it. Milei even called welfare recipients “victims of injustice,” but most people are not forced to be on welfare. In any case, apart from State agents, those who live entirely and voluntarily off the work of others are the furthest from being victims of the State.

(7) Argentina first. No one who supports Washington’s imperialist narrative (1, 2) (pro-NATO, pro-Ukraine, and pro-Israel) can be a true anti-globalist and non-interventionist, but Milei’s foreign policy for his eventual presidency was announced in such terms.

(8) Defend family values. Family values can only be defended by slashing welfare programs, so that the State does not assume responsibility for families, and by holding marriage to be a fundamental institution.

Milei advocated for the right to bear arms for years (1, 2, 3), but he softened his position before the elections and declared that the issue was not part of the campaign or even his platform. He did not put aside his plans to combat crime in the streets, but his official proposal for point (4) was not very strong or radical for a so-called libertarian.

Milei and Abortion

Rothbard was pro-choice. Milei is pro-life. While Milei has always received substantial support from the pro-life religious Right and proposed in his campaign to resolve the controversy at the national level through a referendum, Rothbard believed in a coalition between pro-choice libertarians and the pro-life religious Right. Since libertarianism is against taxpayer-funded healthcare anyway, and since “it is peculiarly monstrous” to force those who detest abortion to pay for it, he proposed a union of pro-choicers with pro-lifers “in upholding the freedom to choose of taxpayers, and of gynecologists, who are under increasing pressure by pro-abortionists to commit abortions, or else.”

Rothbard presented a “prudential consideration” for this approach. He explained that “a ban on something as murder is not going to be enforceable if only a minority considers it as murder.” For this reason and others, although considering the right to abortion legitimate, his (paleo)libertarian message to pro-lifers was to stop trying to pass a constitutional amendment and instead work to radically decentralize political and judicial decisions, do away with the despotism of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary, “and return political decisions to state and local levels.” Rothbard knew that asking for this meant renouncing the federal government protecting that right, but it was more important to get rid of federal judicial tyranny.

The Argentine analogy would be as follows: Let Córdoba and Formosa restrict or ban abortion, and let Buenos Aires and San Luis not do so. If, someday, there are localities within each province making such decisions, then the conflict will be largely defused. Those who want to have or perform abortions can travel to San Luis (or the municipality of Candelaria) or Buenos Aires (or the municipality of Lanús). The feminist grievance that poor women would not have money to travel is a redistributionist argument, and the agenda of organized pro-abortionists in favor of socialized medicine and collectivism would become even clearer.

Milei and Trump

That Trump was a protectionist was already common knowledge before Milei accused libertarians of being “functional” to the left for criticizing Trump’s trade war. But if that was not enough, when in September 2023 Tucker Carlson asked Milei what advice he would give Trump, Milei said,

He should continue his fight against socialism. Because he is one of the few who truly understood that we are fighting socialism, that we are fighting statists. He understood perfectly that the generation of wealth comes from the private sector… So I’d say, if I could humbly offer advice, all I could say would be to double down on his efforts in the same direction: defending the ideals of freedom and refusing to give an inch to the socialists.

Yet Trump was the president who shut down American society for a manageable flu and set off a destructive crisis that affected the lives of millions. He did little to free America from its socialist welfare programs, his plans to downsize the federal government were always weak despite his remarkable anti-socialist rhetoric, and his deregulations were modest at best. He did not pardon Assange or Snowden, and the usual suspects—the CDC, the FDA, the NSA, and so on—were all unharmed by his presidency. In short, Trump was absorbed by the deep state he denounced. While Trump did implement substantial corporate and personal income tax cuts, he then imposed billions in tariffs on Chinese imports. His trade war cost American consumers a lot, and when China began imposing their own tariffs in retaliation, he bailed out—with billions in taxpayer money—the American farmers who found it increasingly difficult to export. His tariffs not only constituted new taxes but also a policy of picking winners and losers in the economy.

The Trump administration did not start new wars, but came closer to fighting new ones than ending them. It bombed Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Iraq, conducted special operations in North Africa, and promoted naval strengthening in the Pacific. Trump even vetoed ending military aid for the Saudi war in Yemen. Military spending notably increased during his presidency, thus favoring the expansion of the military-industrial complex. Ultimately, Trump was just another warmonger in chief of imperialism, NATO, and Zionism.

In sum, Trump has as much blood on his hands and statism in his veins as most American presidents. How can an “anti-statist” show such devotion toward him? If not suspicious, Milei’s views are disconcerting. Instead of promoting actual libertarians for the presidency, he not only promotes Trump but also defends and praises him with libertarian and Austrian-economic arguments.

Milei, Zionism, and American Imperialism

Milei demonstrated his commitment to Zionism at least as early as June 2022 when he promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem if he won. In his visit to Israel as president, Netanyahu considered Milei “a great friend of the Jewish State” and was delighted with his decision about Jerusalem. Netanyahu said they both “champion” free markets, but he must have forgotten that a free market for land is almost non-existent in Israel and the Israeli government interferes with trade in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel has oppressed Palestinians in almost every way imaginable for decades, and the assault on Gaza that began in October 2023 has resulted in the massacre of tens of thousands of innocent people under the pretense of defending itself from a terrorist group.

Firstly, attacks on Israel are usually responses to Israeli foreign policy. The conflict did not start in 2023—there is a story behind. Nevertheless, apart from defending “Israel’s right to legitimate self-defense,” in March 2023, Milei said that Hamas’s attack requires “exemplary responses” and stated that everything Israel is doing is “within the rules of the game”—that “Israel is not committing any single excess despite the excesses committed by Hamas terrorists.”

How can we defend Milei when thousands of children—who, by definition, are not combatants—have been killed by the Israel Defense Forces? How would Rothbard have responded to Milei? He would, at the very least, respond as he did to the American Jewish leaders in 1982:

And so American Jewish leaders consider it their role to support the State of Israel come hell or high water. How many deaths would it take? How many murders? How much slaughter of the innocent? Are there any conceivable acts that would turn off the American Jewish leadership, that would cause these people to stop their eternal apologetics for the State of Israel? Any acts at all?

If the killing of the unborn is an aberration, as Milei says, then does he consider killing fully formed children excessive? Today, in the midst of Israel’s genocide against Gazans, consecutive war crimes, and airstrikes in the Middle East—all with the complicity of the U.S. government—Rothbard, who always defended the Palestinian resistance and their right to their land, would abhor Milei’s words and consider him an indefensible fraud. In the meantime, Milei has received praise, awards, and celebration from Jewish organizations, Israeli authorities, and others (1, 2, 3).

Not surprisingly, for Milei, understanding “the link between freedom and Israel is fundamental,” because it is a people that has achieved “the conjunction of the spiritual and the material.” And when asked in May 2024 about the protests at American universities in favor of Palestine, Milei responded that he finds “the anti-Semitic behavior” occurring at the universities “aberrant,” and stated that he stands on “the right side of history” (of the U.S., Israel, and the West), and that they will use “all resources” to defend themselves against terrorists.

In February 2022, Milei made clear his views on the war between Russia and Ukraine. Having denounced on TV the “totalitarian vocation of Putin,” he came out in favor of the “free world” and against those who are against freedom. He criticized the Argentine government for not taking the opportunity to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and for its “lack of understanding of how the world works,” and went on to say, “I don’t make deals with murderers, I said no with China, no with North Korea, no with Russia, no with anyone who doesn’t respect the free world.”

But since Putin’s reign of power, American-Zionist imperialism has murdered millions and displaced many more by waging war in the Middle East. Milei continued with “a moral question” about war: “When what is happening is wrong, you cannot adopt a neutral position because you are an accomplice, that is, if you see—this is an example, please—that Tato was hitting Florencia, you have to go out and defend Florencia because you know that’s wrong.”

Rothbard would have responded that the libertarian position is the opposite of interventionism—that is, non-interventionism. When State power grows and crosses national boundaries into other States, “this is the foreign counterpart of the domestic aggression against the internal population.” However, libertarianism is about minimizing State power as much as possible (down to zero), and non-interventionism is the expression in foreign affairs of the domestic objective of reducing this power. Rothbard saw these two parts as united, and would have seen problems in Milei’s positions.

Milei presumes that if you see Tato beating up Florencia, you should rush to defend her. But there might be mitigating circumstances: Florencia might have just beat up Tato’s kid, and Tato might be retaliating—that is, Florencia might have started the fight, which could only be known through a historical investigation of the Florencia–Tato relationship. Milei assumes that the Ukrainian and Russian States rightfully own the territory they purport to. If Russia invades Ukraine, then Ukrainian territory—the rightful property of the Ukrainian State—is taken by the Russian aggressor. But for libertarians, States do not have any rightful property. No government owns properly and justly the entire land area of the country—the land should be properly and justly owned by individuals. States have no just claim. If the Russian State crosses the border and fights the Ukrainian State, this by itself does not make the Russian State any more of an aggressor than the Ukrainian State. They are both aggressors over their subject populations. The idea that every government should defend Ukraine entails the global escalation of a local conflict and an enlargement of the original aggression.

As more governments enter the fight to defend Ukraine, more innocents will be killed, forced to pay taxes, and conscripted. Minimizing aggression in wars means for no State “to enter into any conflict at all—hopefully for no government to go to war with any other government—and if any government does go to war, for the third, fourth, and fifth party to stay the blazes out.” Moreover, since State boundaries are not justly owned and have always been the results of previous conquests, the “aggressor” State may have a more justifiable claim than the “victim” State.

The very same day of his TV appearance in which he talked about the Russia–Ukraine conflict, Milei posted a message on his Twitter account (now X). It referred to the “Concert of Democratic Nations of the World,” threatened by the military advance of “collectivist authoritarianism,” and continued,

Those of us who unhesitatingly defend a model of Open and Free Society must join forces in favor of an effective strategy to confront the enemies of Freedom… There is no margin for the Leaders of the Free World to stop in sterile and paralyzing debates.

In 2020, Milei expressed concern about having a “weak” American president in power in a world that is “a powder keg.” Then, he said, “I would almost say that Trump’s fall would be to endanger Western civilization.” But Milei’s allies are the ones spreading powder kegs around the world.

As far as international relations are concerned, in a presidential debate, Milei displayed the well-known democratic discourse of American imperialism, saying,

I have systematically pointed out my alignment with the United States, with Israel, and with the free world… As a State, I am not willing to establish relations with those who do not respect liberal democracy, who do not respect individual liberties… and… peace.

Indeed, this notion of a free world unequivocally derives from American imperialism’s Cold War propaganda. President Milei’s foreign policy is a clear statement to the world. In less than five months, Argentina has acquired twenty-four F-16 jets for its air force, announced a joint naval base with the U.S., and requested to join NATO as a global partner.

Ideas matter. The predominance of some ideas over others can have fatal consequences. Rothbard considered war and peace to be the most important issues. What is also significant beyond whether Milei’s administration sends troops, weapons, or money to help NATO, Ukraine, or Israel is that the world’s most famous “libertarian” does not favor the great libertarian cause of peace.

Three decades later, Rothbard’s words remain as relevant as ever:

But what animates the neocons first and foremost is foreign policy. The dominant and constant star of that foreign policy is the preservation and the aggrandizement, over all other considerations, of the State of Israel, the “little democracy in the Middle East.” Consequently, they favor massive foreign aid, especially to the State of Israel, and America as the dominant force in a New World Order that will combat “aggression” everywhere and impose “democracy” throughout the world, the clue to that “democracy” being not so much voting and free elections as stamping out “human rights violations” throughout the globe, particularly any expression, real or imagined, of anti-Semitism.

Milei and the War on Drugs

In 2022, Milei was asked, “What position do you have regarding the issue of drugs and drug trafficking?” He replied that vices are not crimes, then reminded the journalist that we do not live under anarcho-capitalism. There is a welfare state, and this is “the key,” according to Milei. He would legalize the entire drug market only if there were no welfare state dedicated to healthcare. Over the years (1, 2), he has tried to justify his continuing the war on drugs in these terms:

The question depends on whether one bears the costs of his decisions. If everybody pays the bill, you cannot be in favor of liberalization, because it transfers the costs to society, and generates a free-rider problem. Therefore, if there is a welfare state, and you are on drugs and someone else has to pay the bill, things change. Let it be each one’s problem, but if you are going to do it out of someone else’s pocket, then no.

First, no one is denied tax-funded healthcare due to irresponsible behavior, including those addicted to illegal drugs. Second, net consumers of taxes do not pay any bill. What Milei does not explain clearly is that the tax-funded healthcare system redistributes the overall cost to the economic detriment of those most responsible with their health and benefits those most irresponsible, since it socializes the costs of unhealthy behavior. Furthermore, Milei’s stance against illegal substances opens the door to criminalizing any substance that carries a social cost related to its consumption. Acknowledging that vices are not crimes is really the key, but it is also why his stance is even more contradictory. Of course, it is unjust to be forced to pay for someone else’s health. But what should follow is the abolition of the system in question, not punishing the trade of certain substances.

Milei and the Covid Crisis

During the covid crisis, Milei was skeptical about the vaccines (1, 2), but he finally gave in and was vaccinated for work-related reasons. He had opposed compulsory covid vaccination before, and he continued to do so after getting vaccinated. He also opposed covid certificates like those imposed in Europe, comparing them to the Nazi practice of marking the Jews. Milei was even harshly critical of the national authorities for vaccinating minors against covid. When the draconian measures in Argentina first began, Milei defended the lockdown, but in less than a month, he opposed it, calling it a “caveman quarantine.” He went on to become a good fighter against covid madness in general. So, does all this not prove he is a libertarian? Not necessarily. Perhaps billions of people around the world opposed covid madness, did not take any vaccine, and were against lockdowns and covid certificates—but no serious libertarian would ever think that all these people wanted to abolish the State or radically reduce it. Milei only proved himself to be a libertarian on this particular issue.

Milei and the Planned Program for Liberty

Before elections, Milei’s reform plan presented in 2022 was structured in three generations of reforms to be deployed in a specific sequence. In the first generation, he promised strong reduction in public spending and taxation, increased flexibility for future employment contracts, unilateral free trade, deregulation, and more. The central bank was to be liquidated. The second generation included pension and welfare reforms—to privatize pensions on the one hand, and to restructure welfare to incentivize employment on the other. The third generation included healthcare and education reforms.

Libertarians, however, still have much to learn from Rothbard, who talked about a dangerous temptation in the tendency of some libertarians to appear “realistic” by coming up with some sort of organized plan for destatization. The crucial point is not the number of years, but the idea of setting forth any sort of planned program of transition to the goal of liberty. The problem with such a plan, would say Rothbard, is implying that particular steps should not be taken until other steps are. This is the trap of “gradualism-in-theory.” The planners would fall into a position of seeming to oppose any faster pace toward liberty than the one planned. Indeed, why not an even slower pace?

But there is another grave flaw in the idea of a comprehensive plan toward liberty: The very all-embracing nature of the program, said Rothbard, “implies that the State is not really the common enemy of mankind, that it is possible and desirable to use the State for engineering a planned and measured pace toward liberty.” In contrast, the insight that the State is the major enemy of mankind leads to a very different strategic outlook: That libertarians “should push for and accept with alacrity any reduction of State power or activity on any front. Any such reduction at any time should be a welcome decrease of crime and aggression.” Libertarians should not use the State to embark on a measured course of destatization, but should hack away at all manifestations of statism whenever and wherever they can.[1]

[1] I want to thank Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Octavio Bermúdez, Thomas DiLorenzo, Stephan Kinsella, Daniel Morena Vitón, and Fernando Chiocca, for having helped me with the elaboration of this article.

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