Captain Ancap is watching you!

The election victory of self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist Javier Milei is being celebrated by right-wing libertarians around the world. This neoliberal extremism is successful because other ways of tackling the worsening crisis have failed – not just in Argentina.

jungle world, 14.12.2023 (slightly updated here)

Finally a revolutionary that the German bourgeoisie can get on board with! In the in-house online channel, the editor-in-chief of the Newspaper Welt, Ulf Poschardt, raved about the „radical“ ideas of self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist Javier Milei. The libertarian new president of Argentina wants to reduce the state „to a minimum“, introduce the US dollar as Argentina’s currency and abolish a number of ministries and the central bank – Millei is a „blessing“ for freedom-loving people. Those Argentinians who are not dependent on „money from the state“ are now „very happy“, Poschardt’s acquaintances have told him from Argentina.

Poschardt is not the only one who is impressed. Elon Musk also enthusiastically sharef the speeches of the new president of Argentina on his short message service X, where Musk has recently repeatedly demonstrated his susceptibility to right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism. Milei, who is known for his riotous appearances, then asked Musk, who is no less eager for public attention, for a meeting.

Just a few years ago, Javier Milei was still clowning around Argentina in superhero disguise as „el General Ancap“; now, as president, he will run the affairs of the state, which he wants to radically shrink. His ideas were particularly well received by the youth of the economically devastated emerging country. However, he has supporters all over the world. Shortly after his election victory, Milei shared congratulations sent to him by economist Philipp Bagus from the University of Madrid on social networks. The German economist sympathizes with right-wing libertarian and anarcho-capitalist movements and is networked in neoliberal institutions such as the Ludwig von Mises Institute Germany, the Friedrich August von Hayek Society and the Mont Pèlerin Society.

These rightwing schools of economic thought are today inspiring a brutalizing neoliberalism that is drifting to ideological extremes in the face of the failure of neoliberal crisis management in the context of the global financial bubble economy. The German Hayek Society in particular can be described as a breeding ground for the pro-business wing of the far-right Party AfD (Alternative für Deutschland). Beatrix von Storch is a long-standing member, while AfD party chairwoman Alice Weidel resigned in 2021 after some liberal members left the association in protest at the dominance of AfD-affiliated positions; in Weidel’s words, „to end a completely misguided debate“.

As a libertarianl extremist, Bagus invokes total market freedom against the crisis-induced increase in „left-wing or right-wing“ statism; he also shares right wing conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 pandemic – he analyzes the reactions to this in a research paper as „mass hysteria“ – climate change – the measures against Covid are a „training camp for the climate regime“, he said in an interview with the Swiss weekly Weltwoche – and invectives against the euro, the EU and centrally organized „state monarchies“. He propagates the purchase of silver and gold for wealth accumulation, as did the AfD in its founding phase.

The Argentinian president’s dogs provide further clues to his ideological background. He had them cloned and named them after neoliberal economists, such as Milton (Friedman) or Robert (Nozick). The dog Murray bears the first name of the US economist Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), who coined the term anarcho-capitalism. In the post-war period, Rothbard made a significant contribution to shaping the ideology of libertarians, who openly express and endorse the social Darwinism implicit in neoliberal ideology. As an even more extreme disciple of Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), one of the most important figures of the so-called Austrian School, Rothbard acused his teacher of not going far enough in his conception of a minimal state limited to the police and military; Rothbard saw taxes levied by the state as a property offense and propagated an unrestricted right to property.

As a young man, Rothbard supported Strom Thurmond, who as governor of South Carolina defended so-called segregation, later worked for a long time with Ron Paul, the right-wing Republican congressman with a well-known dislike of Israel, and was financed by the right-libertarian Koch brothers. In 1992, in an essay entitled „Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement“, Rothbard praised former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and hysterical left-wing hunter Joseph McCarthy as examples of successful right-wing populists. At the time, Rothbard was one of the ideologues of so-called paleoconservatism, a movement that combined ultra-conservative, nationalist and economic libertarian positions. The paleoconservative Pat Buchanan, who tried unsuccessfully to become the Republican presidential candidate in 1992 and 1996, is often described as Donald Trump’s political forerunner.

The petty-bourgeois reactionary polemic of the anarcho-capitalists against big business and the large corporations that, in alliance with the state („big government“), undermine the sacred laws of the market, often goes hand in hand with overt or covert racism. In addition to the New Deal, which laid the foundations of the US welfare state, narcho-capitalists also vehemently oppose all government measures for the economic advancement of marginalized population groups. In doing so, they tend to explain the causes of the economic „performance“ of population groups in racist stereotypes. Rothbard, who railed against the statist „rule of the underclass“, often turned his hatred of the state into fantasies of violence against marginalized sections of the population. According to the inventor of „anarcho-capitalism“, police officers should be „unleashed“ to take action against the homeless and practise instant punishment against criminals.

The right-libertarian extremism of the center wants to take Margret Thatcher’s polemic, according to which there is no society, only individuals, literally and put it into practice. Right-libertarians are responding to the climate crisis, social division and the collapse of democracy with demands for even more market competition. Anarcho-capitalism, similar to the evangelical movement that is particularly popular in Brazil, is therefore a US export. After the 2008 financial and economic crisis, right-wing libertarian ideas dominated the Tea Party, which paved the way for Donald Trump with its populist conspiracy theories. The latter promptly congratulated Milei on his election victory. There are also good contacts with the notorious right-wing ex-president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who was invited to Buenos Aires for the inauguration, as was the Hungarian right-winger Viktor Orban.

However, the foundation for Milei’s success was laid by the failed statist-Keynesian crisis policy in Argentina. Like many emerging economies after 2020, Argentina found itself even deeper in a debt trap after the pandemic-induced crisis surge and the interest rate hikes by central banks in the centers of the world system: capital flight, rising borrowing costs and falling revenues led to a severe economic crisis (Jungle World 3/2022). The Argentinian state attempted to alleviate this through an expansive monetary policy. However, money printing led to a dramatic rise in the inflation rate to around 140 percent per year.

This has particularly affected impoverished Argentinians and those who have no access to government posts or money in a state apparatus increasingly characterized by nepotism and patronage politics. Milei’s absurd-sounding announcements that he would dissolve the central bank in order to introduce the US dollar as Argentinas currency were therefore met with approval, particularly among young Argentinians. Back in the 1980s, the economic liberals were able to praise measures for greater price stability, such as severe cuts in government spending, as a social benefit – and after all, the US dollar is already Argentina’s unofficial means of payment.

The political turnaround in Argentina thus looks like a more extreme form of the neoliberal counter-revolution of the 1980s. In the USA and other Western countries, neoliberalism was only able to replace Keynesianism at that time because keynesian politics had failed during the stagflation period of the 1970s. However, unlike the USA at the time, over-indebted, peripheral Argentina does not have the option of delaying the crisis through a deficit economy and the formation of bubbles on the financial markets. There is now a threat of a reversal of the mode of crisis development, with potentially devastating consequences for wage earners: from Keynesian inflation to deflation. As a first measure in the shock therapy that is now imminent, the national currency, the peso, has been devalued by more than 50 percent, which is tantamount to a massive expropriation of all wage earners who do not own land, production facilities or material assets linke Gold, etc.

The looming social catastrophe in Argentina thus reflects the fundamental problem of today’s bourgeois politics, which can only choose between different paths to the manifest crisis in view of the growing mountains of debt and the pressure to devalue that the systemic overproduction crisis has generated in the neoliberal age. The rise of an irrational libertarian extremism, fueled by triple-digit inflation, shows that money printing and economic stimulus programs are not the panacea that many believe them to be. If they fail, the liberal center threatens to tip over into the extremism that has always been inherent to it.

Link to German article:

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