The Two Mileis


Newly inaugurated Argentine President Milei is gaining significant attention on the international stage. A newcomer to the intricate world of Argentine politics, he ascended to the presidency in just a few years, triumphing over the kirchnerista (peronist) candidate Sergio Massa.

For many supporters, Milei symbolizes a libertarian revolution. However, for others, his behavior is problematic, representing a distorted version of true libertarian principles and serving as a textbook example of a “right-wing/conservative” populist. An instance of this is his decision to deliver his inaugural presidential address with his back turned to Congress, addressing the public directly – an image that could easily been borrowed from a populist playbook.

One contentious issue revolves around his approach to implementing a great number of reforms. An example of this is the use of a decreto de necesidad y urgencia (DNU – urgency and necessity decree). The DNU is intended to be used only when (a) there is a matter of necessity and urgency, and (b) Congress is unable to deliberate on the matter promptly, excluding certain areas such as taxation and criminal law. With several judges having issued a “hold” on the DNU, this initiative is now taking the slow and uncertain road of a contested judiciary process.

Both DNU requirements are subject to debate, and not only because Congress is open for business. For example, it remains unclear why allowing soccer clubs to change their fiscal and legal denomination is an appropriate subject for a DNU. Even if all soccer clubs in Argentina were to go bankrupt, it is unclear why this should warrant any state involvement (some may argue this might be beneficial for the country). Many Milei supporters seem to be conflating the content of the DNU with the DNU as an institutional tool. The fact that the content of the DNU is considered good does not automatically justify its enactment through this tool – as some mileistas argue.

A flawed justification for a noble cause can later become an efficient justification for a detrimental one. There is a saying about how those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

Another example is his demand that Congress grant him special powers for most of his presidential tenure through his “omnibus law”, essentially making him a de facto legislator.

A crucial unresolved issue is how Milei’s reforms will withstand a change of government, assuming Argentina will elect a Peronist or a populist again. As of now, his reforms may be what Argentina needs, but a lack of credibility makes them largely ineffective.

This institutional overstep of the division of political power, concentrating power in the hands of the president, has occurred before – not the most justifiable reason to repeat such an institutional transgression. But this is particularly problematic for a candidate who has built his support on an alleged commitment to libertarian principles.

I don’t want to delve into extensive commentary and other of Milei’s controversial statements and behavior here. I just wanted to share two recent papers by Manuel Hinds on this matter. I urge my fellow Argentines (and any Milei enthusiast) to pay attention to his comments. I also hope that the mileistas learn to distinguish partisan criticisms from constructive criticisms sooner than later. I imagine they do not want to mimic the behavior of the kirchnerista La Cámpora. As a teaser, I share one insightful passage by Manuel (emphasis added):


The people Milei is marginalizing by impersonating an elected Congress (the Peronists and other members of the opposition) have rights. They would have them even if they were a minority, which has not been proven because the people have elected both Congress and the Presidency, and the fact that they have elected Milei to be president does not mean that they have elected him to replace Congress.


This essay was originally published at Nicolas’s blog here:

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