HOT: Steve Forbes. NOT: Paul Joseph Watson.
Or rather, polite, nerdy, Boomer, free-market magazine editor Forbes sounds fully onboard with the greatest development in politics this century, the election of an anarcho-capitalist libertarian, Javier Milei, to the presidency of Argentina—whereas the aggressively snotty-sounding, juvenile, populist YouTuber Watson can only muster a list of those things he declares “based” about Milei and those he declares “cringe,” like an eye-rolling teenage girl during an unusually boring Taylor Swift number, uninterested in fully explaining why his own snap judgments careen between pro-freedom and anti-freedom positions (whatever pleases the right) while Milei remains consistently individualist and capitalist.
Being a populist means never having to say you have clear principles, I suppose. They’re “based” in soft and shifting mud, it seems.
It’s been a strange week for libertarianism-proper, though. That philosophy has rightly been credited for catapulting Milei to his historic win even as his leftist critics decry him as “far right”—despite all those aforementioned “cringe” positions he has that some on the right decry, such as legalizing drugs, legalizing prostitution, letting people immigrate freely, and sparring with the Catholic Church in his spare time while considering conversion to Judaism.
But in the same week, I’ve also heard a pop-culture-critic YouTuber called Mr H blame American libertarianism (of all things) for the flaws of the poorly-received superhero movie The Marvels (about which I wrote last week), since libertarianism supposedly encourages lesbianism and other “girl power” flexible-lifestyle tropes. You win some, you lose some. Only the Supreme Intelligence can guess what sorts of laws Mr H thinks would fix that film or our culture.
More seriously, after Milei’s win (imperfect politician though he may be), now would be a great time for all political pundits and factions claiming to have libertarian sympathies—including moderate “mainstream” libertarians themselves—to stop messing around and start holding themselves and the world to a consistent anarcho-capitalist standard (free immigration and all). Are Americans going to let an Argentine politician out-liberty them? For shame! I’d better start hearing 100 times more praise for Milei than I do for fricking Orban, for starters.
I shouldn’t be an ingrate, though. Overall, Watson was pleased with Milei’s triumph, and other populists including Tucker Carlson quickly weighed in to celebrate as well. To every person who asked me over the past several decades why there aren’t any libertarian-run countries if libertarianism is such a great philosophy, I can now point to Argentina and should be gracious in victory (pending actual legal changes down there).
It’d be nice, though, if more people chose this moment to start judging politics-in-general not by whether a given news cycle’s events were “based,” “woke,” prone to piss off the left, prone to piss off the right, good for the incumbent, bad for the other party, etc.—and instead simply by whether more and more people can do as they please with their own bodies and property without having to answer to any authority of any party.
Let’s encourage that kind of liberty across the board instead of rationalizing partial defenses of one or another politician or faction that offers some liberties but takes others away, talks about setting people free while picking some favored arm of the government (whether the military, the cops, the border patrols, or the welfare state) to defend to the hilt, even viciously.
For now, we’re endlessly told, we must settle for weird partial victories for liberty.
The populist former president of our own country has been told by a court that his “insurrection”-like behavior doesn’t bar him from running for office again, which I suppose is a roundabout victory for rebellious and rowdy behavior. However, the court suggesting Trump is off the hook only because it’s unclear if anti-insurrection laws apply to the office of the presidency itself seems to reaffirm a hierarchy of political rights, some of us born to rule and some to obey. It should be possible to protect the rollicking unpredictability of democracy and the electoral process without proclaiming politicians special people who are above the law.
Nonetheless, if the populists are able (for the most part) to savor an anarcho-capitalist’s victory in Argentina, libertarians should be able to savor the fear that the U.S.’s own notorious, home-grown populist leader strikes into the hearts of the political establishment here.
I only wish our native populists were as predictable and philosophically consistent as the fellow with the electric guitar and the superhero costumes now taking the reins of power down in Latin America. He may be the real stable genius, while populism elsewhere remains a dangerously amorphous philosophical blob: cutting budgets one day, spending more on Social Security the next, deregulating for a moment, then writing blank checks for the construction industry later in the week, accompanying every random move, each lurch caused by the leader’s ego, with yelps of victory.
It’s saner to yelp with alarm every time the government does anything, whether it’s something you (and your culture-faction) like or not. By contrast, the response each time President Milei says government is a criminal enterprise that shouldn’t exist, as he often does, should be soothing calm.