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Editor's Pick

Is Javier Milei a Libertarian?

Jeffrey Miron

This article appeared on Substack on June 22, 2023

Javier Milei is the Argentinian politician who just won the open primary in Argentina’s presidential election. The first round of the general will be October 22nd, with a final round in November, if needed.

Milei describes himself as libertarian, and the media have embraced that label. Should libertarians rejoice? Calm assessment suggests both optimism and caution.

Most of Milei’s policy positions are indeed libertarian: lower expenditure and taxes, privatization of state‐​owned enterprises, legalization of both drugs and organ sales, and reduced restrictions on gun ownership. Certain other positions are not the only reasonable ones for libertarians (eliminating the central bank, dollarizing the currency), but they are not anti‐​libertarian either. Milei is staunchly anti‐​abortion, which sets him apart from many libertarians, but in the company of others.

A potential red flag, however, is Milei’s apparent admiration for Donald Trump (and Jair Bolsonaro). Trump did sign a major tax cut, and his administration slowed the adoption of new regulation. His skepticism about military intervention abroad is also in the ballpark of libertarian views.

On many issues, however, Trump is staunchly anti‐​libertarian: immigration, trade, drug prohibition, Medicare, Social Security, and others.

More broadly, Trump exhibits utter contempt for the rule of law and the Constitutional limits on presidential power.

Thus I remain cautious about how Milei will govern, if he wins election. With luck, his expressed admiration for Trump and Bolsonaro was strategic, not genuine.

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