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Javier Milei—economist, and, as of December 10, 2021, National Deputy of Argentina—is considering a bid for the Argentine Presidential election this year. Milei’s platform centers around reducing the size, cost, and function of the State and liberalizing the economy. He also criticizes what he calls “the political caste”.
However, by founding the party La Libertad Avanza, participating in an electoral cycle, and being subsequently elected as a National Deputy, the libertarian economist has become a professional politician. And if “caste” signifies a special social class, it is worth asking if Milei operates outside said caste or whether he has joined its ranks by agreeing to join the political system and play by its rules.
Like most politicians, Milei’s challenge is to maintain coherence between what he says and what he actually does. At the present moment, neither Javier Milei nor his party cohort Victoria Villarruel has introduced a single bill to reduce spending in the governing body they belong to (the Chamber of Deputies, which is part of the National Congress). Neither have they put forward ideas for political and administrative reform in this branch of government.
Compiling data concerning legislative personnel is a very simple task and its results reveal the complicity of the entire political body, which now includes Milei and Villarruel.
On April 10, 2023, the Chamber of Deputies Office of Transparency and Access to Public Information responded to CADAL’s request to access public information (made on February 22, 2023). Unlike the National Senate, the Chamber of Deputies doesn’t detail employee assignment locations on its website. Neither Milei nor Villarruel has made this information available on the site.
According to information provided by the General Administrative Registry of the House of Deputies of the Nation through the Office of Transparency, the national deputies Javier Milei and Victoria Villarruel each have four employees.
The legislature of the City of Buenos Aires has published the names of the 23 employees of the five Buenos Aires libertarian deputies (Ramiro Marra, Rebeca Fleitas, Lucía Montenegro, Leonardo Saifert, and Oscar Zago).
Therefore, between Milei’s four employees, Villarruel’s four, and the 23 employed by the Buenos Aires legislators, La Libertad Avanza has in total 31 public employees, as defined by political criteria.
The criticism that can be leveled at Milei and his party is this: no legislator adhering to libertarian ideology ought to have employees paid with public funds. As legislative candidates in 2021, they should have either taken this stance or acknowledged that they would employ a minimal number of legislative employees, less than the number that they were officially allowed to employ. They should have also elaborated the criteria for employee selection.
In practice, the libertarians’ legislative participation is no different from that of any other political party. Therefore, Milei’s rhetoric against the “political caste” and his criticism of the party Cambiemos for its “Juntos por el cargo” initiative is pure demagogy.
If he assumes the Nation’s presidency in 2023, Milei will face many limitations on implementing his proposed economic, institutional, and social reforms, especially because his party will hold a legislative minority and his inflexibility doesn’t facilitate political negotiations.
For Milei, accomplishing his political promises is not feasible unless he weakens democratic institutions. The probable negative effect of Milei’s government on civil and political liberties is compounded by the fact that libertarians do not recognize economic, social, and cultural rights. Therefore, their ideology conflicts with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Acknowledging comprehensive and interdependent human rights entails respecting civil and political liberties as the base for a democratic system, and enforcing economic, social, and cultural rights through good governance.
The most open and prosperous societies in the world are those most respectful of human rights, those which boast high levels of governmental austerity and transparency. This is completely contrary to Carlos Menem’s government, which is so admired by Javier Milei and so criticized by contemporary liberal intellectuals.
It would be tragic if, on the 40th anniversary of Argentina’s reinstitution of democracy and the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the failed antidemocratic aspirations of the “vamos por todo” front were succeeded by the intolerant and exclusionary vision of market dogmatism.