New Argentine President Sees “Morality” at Work in Capitalism

My thanks to the Wall Street Journal for publishing the below excerpts of a recent speech at Davos where Argentine President Javier Milei makes his case for the good to be ascribed to capitalism:

The Western world is in danger and it is in danger because those who are supposed to have to defend the values of the West are co-opted by a vision of the world that inexorably leads to socialism and thereby to poverty.  Unfortunately, in recent decades, motivated by some well-meaning individuals willing to help others and others motivated by the wish to belong to a privileged caste, the main leaders of the Western world have abandoned the model of freedom for different versions of what we call collectivism.  We are here to tell you that collectivist experiments are never the solution to the problems that afflict the citizens of the world.  Rather, they are the root cause.  Do believe me, no one better placed than us, Argentines, to testify to these two points.

When we adopted the model of freedom back in 1860, in 35 years, we became a leading world power.  And when we embraced collectivism over the course of the last 100 years, we saw how our citizens started to become systematically impoverished and we dropped to spot No. 140 globally. . . .

Since there is no doubt that free-enterprise capitalism is superior in productive terms, the left-wing doxa [public opinion] has attacked capitalism alleging matters of morality. . . . They say that capitalism is evil because it’s individualistic and that collectivism is good because it’s altruistic—of course with the money of others—so they therefore advocate for social justice.

But this concept, which in the developed world became fashionable in recent times, in my country has been a constant in political discourse for over 80 years.  The problem is that social justice is not just and it doesn’t contribute either to the general well-being.  Quite on the contrary, it’s an intrinsically unfair idea because it’s violent.  It’s unjust because the state is financed through tax and taxes are collected coercively—or can any one of us say that they voluntarily pay taxes?  Which means that the state is financed through coercion and that the higher the tax burden, the higher the coercion and the lower the freedom. . . .

Unfortunately, these harmful ideas have taken a stronghold in our society.  Neo-Marxists have managed to co-opt the common sense of the Western world and this they have achieved by appropriating the media, culture, universities—and also international organizations.  The latter case is the most serious one probably because these are institutions that have enormous influence on political and economic decisions of the countries that make up the multilateral organizations.

Fortunately, there are more and more of us who are daring to make our voices heard because we see that if we don’t truly and decisively fight against these ideas, the only possible fate is for us to have increasing levels of state regulation, socialism, poverty and less freedom and therefore will be having worse standards of living.  The West has unfortunately already started to go along this path.  I know to many it may sound ridiculous to suggest that the West has turned to socialism, but it’s only ridiculous if you only limit yourself to the traditional economic definition of socialism, which says that it’s an economic system where the state owns the means of production.

This definition, in my view, should be updated in the light of current circumstances.  Today, states don’t need to directly control the means of production to control every aspect of the lives of individuals.  With tools such as printing money, debt, subsidies, controlling the interest rate, price controls and regulations to correct the so-called market failures, they can control the lives and fates of millions of individuals.  This is how we come to the point where, by using different names or guises, a good deal of the generally accepted political offers in most Western countries are collectivist variants, whether they proclaim to be openly communist, fascist, Nazis, socialists, social Democrats, socialists, Democrat Christians or Christian Democrats, neo-Keynesians, progressive, populists, nationalists or globalists.

At bottom, there are no major differences.  They all say that the state should steer all aspects of the lives of individuals.  They all defend a model contrary to that one which led humanity to the most spectacular progress in its history.  We have come here today to invite the rest of the countries in the Western world to get back on the path of prosperity, economic freedom, limited government and unlimited respect for private property—essential elements for economic growth. And the impoverishment produced by collectivism is no fantasy, nor is it an inescapable fate.

But it’s a reality that we Argentines know very well.  We have lived through this, we have been through this because as I said earlier, ever since we decided to abandon the model of freedom that had made us rich, we have been caught up in a downward spiral as part of which we are poorer and poorer, day by day.  So, this is something we have lived through and we are here to warn you about what can happen if the countries in the Western world that became rich through the model of freedom stay on this path of servitude.  The case of Argentina is an empirical demonstration that no matter how rich you may be or how much you may have in terms of natural resources or how skilled your population may be or educated or how many bars of gold you may have in the central bank, if measures are adopted that hinder the free functioning of markets, free competition, free price systems, if you hinder trade, if you attack private property, the only possible fate is poverty.

Therefore, in conclusion, I would like to leave a message for all businesspeople here and for those who are not here in person, but are following from around the world.  Do not be intimidated, either by the political caste or by parasites who live off the state.  Do not surrender to a political class that only wants to stay in power and retain its privileges.  You are social benefactors.  You’re heroes.  You’re the creators of the most extraordinary period of prosperity we’ve ever seen.  Let no one tell you that your ambition is immoral.  If you make money, it’s because you offer a better product at a better price, thereby contributing to general well-being. Do not surrender to the advance of the state.  The state is not the solution.  The state is the problem itself.  You are the true protagonists of this story and rest assured that as from today, Argentina is your staunch unconditional ally.  Thank you very much and long live freedom, damn it.