Photo illustration by John Lyman

Javier Milei: Argentina’s Liberator or a Libertarian Paradox?

In April, I had the pleasure of returning home to my native Argentina to speak at AynRandCon in Buenos Aires about economic policy. At the conference, I had the chance to meet a special guest speaker: President Javier Milei.

Milei’s interview at the conference showcased his straightforwardness, intellectual prowess, and freedom-friendly economic ideas, which are a rarity among mainstream politicians.

In some respects, Javier Milei is indeed a breath of fresh air. In others, not so much.

While Milei’s economic platform is slowly but steadily moving Argentina towards more freedom, some of his other policies and ideas are steering the country towards more controls and collectivism — a philosophy Milei himself has committed to fight against. If he aims to liberate Argentina fully, it’s imperative that he addresses these issues.

Milei’s best policies are economic. He inherited a country suffering from the world’s highest inflation rate, a massively bloated government bureaucracy, corruption beyond belief, and countless other issues. Argentinians were hopeless and desperate, and nearly half of them were living in poverty when Milei was elected in November.

A key pillar of his agenda is eliminating price controls. Previous governments controlled not only the prices of consumer products but also dictated which products had to be displayed on shelves. This led to scarcity and other consequences of government intervention in the market, infringing on free trade.

Milei also abolished Argentina’s draconian rent controls, which had been affecting both landlords and renters. Contrary to expectations, once rent control ended, rent prices decreased relative to inflation, and the supply of rental properties increased.

An entire generation of Argentinians grew up under economic controls and didn’t understand how the free market operates. They rely on the government to set prices arbitrarily, unaware of the benefits that economic freedom provides. Milei aims to change this by liberating the economy and lifting the weight of Argentina’s mammoth state off producers and consumers.

But true freedom is more than economic freedom.

Despite being nominally against collectivism, this philosophy has infiltrated Milei’s government in serious ways, such as the favorable view of the military draft.

Last month, Luis Petri, Milei’s defense minister, said in an interview that while the draft isn’t on the agenda due to budget constraints, it’s a discussion worth having. Vice President Victoria Villarruel echoed this sentiment.

The argument against a military draft is rooted in freedom, not budgetary concerns. A draft represents one of the grossest violations of individual freedom and a significant instance of collectivism. Young people are forcibly taken from their families, jobs, and values, subjected to involuntary training, and potentially required to kill or die for causes they may not support, subjugating individuals to the nation.

A true defender of individual liberty would unequivocally oppose the draft and rebuke government members who consider it. Milei’s silence on this crucial matter is disappointing, given his anti-collectivist stance.

Another red flag emerged during his interview in Buenos Aires: Milei’s intolerance of criticism. His treatment of the press, which includes naming and admonishing journalists who disagree with him, raises concerns about press freedom. Moreover, his explicit request to avoid criticism from ideological allies is troubling.

During the interview, Milei explicitly asked people not to do “things that are functional to [his] enemies,” which includes criticism of his government within the broader libertarian, classical liberal movement. While it’s true that many people criticize Milei baselessly and with malice, his rebuttal can’t be merely “don’t criticize me.” He should be open to rational and informed criticism — whether by the press, critics, or allies. This criticism can be enormously constructive for him as he crafts policies to improve the lives of Argentinians, and it’s the kind of criticism that I and others want to extend to see his government succeed. Such criticism is not well received at the moment.

Many of Milei’s views and policies, such as his stance on foreign policy, honor his goal of bringing freedom to Argentina. However, some, like his anarcho-capitalist philosophy and views on reproductive rights, do not.

Milei has the potential to liberate a massively regulated and collectivistic country like Argentina. His economic reforms are bringing the country much closer to freedom, and he should continue to push through. But if he wants to become a true champion of freedom, he should reflect on and address the aspects that are handicapping him from that goal.