40 Comments

And he's an abject idiot.

Expand full comment
author

Yea, he's... not all there, to put it kindly. I read some of his interviews, and he denies that life is hard for Argentinians. Like, just straight up says people aren't in poverty. He's also losing it, apparently, as he keeps talking about his dead dog as if it's alive.

Expand full comment
Jun 9·edited Jun 9Liked by Joe Mayall

Javier Milei believes God speaks to him and performs medium sessions every morning to speak to his dogs, who he calls his advisors—the "best political advisors in the world"—saying that they each have different skill sets (e.g one gives economic advice, another more general advice, etc).

They are each clones of his dead dog, Conan (named after the Robert E. Howard character famously played by Arnold Schwarznegger) that he paid exorbitant amounts of money to have cloned in an American lab after dying, and that he believes he met 2,000 years ago in a Roman arena in another lifetime.

This may sound like a joke, as I was convinced it had to be he was bullshitting and the media exaggerated it when I first heard it, but no, it is no joke.

I am not fond of making fun of people's appearance, but I also can't help but note he has a striking resemblance to Dracula's familiar in Werner Herzog's 1979 remake of the film Nosferatu—"Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht"—who eats flies and babbles like a maniac.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmmxGluheZw

https://www.lanacion.com.ar/politica/javier-milei-el-candidato-mistico-obsesionado-con-el-dolar-nid07082023/#/

"The relationship with the English mastiff was deep and complex. Milei defined him as her “son.” And she maintains that God has assigned them an even greater mission, according to a dozen sources consulted by LA NACION in recent months. Milei has come to maintain among his intimates that he and “Conan” met 2,000 years ago, in the Roman Colosseum. They were gladiator and lion, but they did not fight. Because “the One”, as the economist alludes to God, told them that they would join forces when the right time arrived. And that moment arrived. In Argentina in 2023.

In public he avoids delving into the mystical path. “Very strong things have happened to me that exceed any scientific explanation,” was the most he said when Luis Novaresio asked him why he believed in God if divine existence was unverifiable. But Milei is convinced that “the One” speaks to him, although he sometimes resorts to his sister's tarot reading skills to evaluate who he can trust, or to the veterinarian Celia Melamed to talk to his dogs, something he neither confirmed nor denied in a interview with the Spanish newspaper El País. “What I do inside my house is my problem,” he said."

Expand full comment
author

The dog thing is SO weird! Apparently, one of his dogs died recently, but he keeps insisting it's alive. It even came up in a press conference.

Expand full comment

Yikes😬 Ketamine? He seems too young for dementia. Or maybe brain damage from Covid🤔

Expand full comment
author

I think he’s always been tapped. He was a Rush Limbaugh-type radio host known as “El Loco.”

Expand full comment

Alrighty then🥴 Yeah I think you're right.

Expand full comment
author

Maybe his mom dropped him as a baby, lol

Expand full comment

🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂

Expand full comment
Jun 6Liked by Joe Mayall

Sad testament to the apparent inability of Argentina to get any kind of shit together. How anyone could vote for an arsehole like Milei is beyond me. Best the Argies can do now is follow Brazil. Along with the rest of the continent, they should follow Africa's example and purge themselves of foreign influence...Or at least American influence... Or at least wise up to the multipolar world and see that they can shop for stuff (for sure with strings, just not neofascist American strings) in Russian and Chinese stores too.

Expand full comment
author

One of Milei's plans is to replace the peso with the dollar. I can't think of a worse move for a South American country to give direct contorl of it's economy to the United States. That is all–time levels of stupid, IMO.

Expand full comment

Not to mention his unconditional support for Israel and statements that Argentina should join NATO.

Expand full comment
author

Yea, his Zionist support is actually a big issue losing him support amongst Argentinians, on top of his economic policies.

Expand full comment
Jun 11Liked by Joe Mayall

Great piece!

Expand full comment
author

Thank you!

Expand full comment
Jun 7Liked by Joe Mayall

Milei is a misogynist who will actively oversee the alarming increase of femicide in Argentina

Expand full comment
author

HIs anti-choice stance really shows that a lot of "libertarians" are actually staunch conservatives who just don't like the idea of government.

Expand full comment
Jun 8Liked by Joe Mayall

Oh I would call them fascists.

Expand full comment
author

lol, you'll get no argument from me

Expand full comment

I mean he couldn’t look more like a minor demon.

Expand full comment

Ok. Since you hold Milei responsible after 7 months is it fair to assume you would agree Biden is responsible for any inflation that has occurred under his administration from the 7 month point and beyond?

Expand full comment
author

Yes.

Expand full comment

https://www.reuters.com/markets/argentina-year-end-inflation-estimate-drops-146-cenbank-poll-2024-06-06/

“Argentina's inflation estimate for the end of this year came down to 146.4%, some 15 percentage points below the previous forecast, a central bank poll of analysts showed on Thursday, signaling an improving outlook for the embattled economy.

For May, forecasts from 23 consultancies and 13 financial institutions estimated monthly inflation down 2.3 percentage points to 5.2%, while June inflation was seen down 1.3 points from the prior forecast at 5.5%.”

Expand full comment
author

First, I would say forecasts about Argentina have been overly optimistic. For example, the IMF actually forecast GDP would grow by 3% this year, but have had to revise it to a shrinking economy under Milei. IMO, they've been overly optimistic about a capitalist coming in.

But even if the forecast is true, that would return Argentina to a pre-Milei inflation rate. Given the poverty would hold, I think it's fair to say that's not worth it.

Expand full comment

Hmm maybe it takes more than 6 months to recover from 100 years of corrupt leftism that ruined a once great economy, especially when the Peronists still have a firm grasp in Congress. Given the warm reception he’s received from Americas greatest capitalists - just last week he met with Zuckerberg, Sam Altman, and Tim Cook - I’m guessing there’s a lot of investment coming that way once the red tape is chainsawed and they can utilize their abundant lithium, copper, and natural gas resources. Which is all good for mitigating climate change btw

Expand full comment
author

How do you explain inflation and poverty getting worse under Milei? That'd be a good argument if things were getting better at a slow rate, but they've only gotten worse under him.

Expand full comment

As the graph shows, his policies have actually tamed the runaway inflation he inherited. You can't put the 50% inflation during the month he was inaugurated on him, it was the state of things that the Kirschner regime handed to him. The 8.8% in April is an accomplishment AND it's still too high - both things can be true - and it's not just free marketers that are saying this. As for the poverty, you are right, it's gotten worse, but he has been quite clear from day 1 that a recession was an inevitable part of his "fiscal shock therapy". He doesn't sugarcoat the fact that the transformation will be painful, and I think his honesty is why, despite poverty increases and inflation - because of government job cuts and government-funded projects stopping in their tracks - he's still polling higher than ever. And I think you are wrong to say he has faced little obstacle to implement reforms. His party has little representation in Congress and his omnibus bill is currently be debated in a Senate that mostly opposes him. Basically, he needs to retain the public's trust and patience to implement his radical deregulation/privatization, then he has to fix FX controls in order to lure the international investment that will stimulate industries like mining and tech. I'm not saying his experiment will definitely be successful, but I am saying it's way too early to declare it as a failure.

Expand full comment

Awesome - thank you for sharing these and I’ll certainly dig in. Great point re the phrasing of “shock therapy” and Russia. Milei has used this term but, of course, he prefers to use very dramatic rhetoric.

I’m a Hayekian libertarian but I do think in reality it works best as a set of tools as you said. Regardless, there are so many factors going on here that it’s impossible to tell how the Milei experiment will work out in the end. But as a kind of contrarian in the energy/climate policy world, if it does work out, it would likely mean a lot of lithium, copper, and data centers leading a resurgence, which would be a huge help to America’s ability to adopt EVs and decarbonize the grid. It’s very interesting watching this experiment play out and it’s vital we debate these things as it progresses. Even if I disagree with Joe, I think he makes a good argument and enjoyed reading it and will continue to follow.

Expand full comment
author

I appreciate your willingness to engage!

Expand full comment

What get's me is that nobody gets what government needs to do. Shrinking or growing government is sort of an irrelevancy at this stage, because politicians are the amateurs playing professionals at the game of bureaucratic preservation. Instead, there needs to be something along the lines of contract where the party of power agrees not to take their jobs (except from natural wastage and private sector migration), but the bureaucracy agrees to massive and radical reallocations of labour.

For example, we have mental health lines here in the UK. They supplement a stretched and overworked charitable sector. But they only operate nine to five, Monday to Friday- so the police and the ambulance sector are forced to deal with jumpers at exactly the times when they should be most busy catching criminals, preventing drunken fights and saving lives!

There is program called LEADS (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion). Most PDs who have tried it have found that it works, ultimately saving the taxpayer money through prison costs saved, but the Left doesn't like it because they see police officers as the problem rather than a part of the solution and the Right doesn't like it because they don't like to admit that reform can work (but only with some offenders and in some circumstances).

And yes, I do get accused of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic by my libertarian friends- quite frequently. I do concede a little. Funding NGOs is a specific and awful problem. There is specific problem with soft cost inflation in infrastructure spends which is probably a function of Peter Turchin's elite overproduction. But the West hasn't really even tried to reform incentives in government. It's the key to success in most endeavours.

On EVs I think the Toyota hydrogen systems have the best chance of achieving scale and SMRS are going to change the world, leading to an era of low energy costs driving human flourishing. Did you see the Starship launch? Apparently there were a few problems with the shell melting. Still, a major success...

Expand full comment
author

I can't speak to the UK situation, but we have something similar here in Denver for the mental health issues. There's an INCREDIBLY successful program called STAR that sends psychiatrists to help people. But, the cops are threatened by it, so they want it to run through them.

I, and other leftists, have been vocal in that this is self-defeating, as whatever benefits STAR provides are erased when the cops step in. If the UK program is similar, I can see why UK leftists are concerned.

Here's an article I wrote about STAR a few years back (https://jacobin.com/2022/06/star-program-nonpolice-public-safety-alternatives-denver-colorado)

Expand full comment

That's a great point, although many mental health workers will do just as well, given that psychiatrists are incredibly expensive. Psychiatric nurses are great at such issues (provided there isn't too much credentialism in the system, and there are incentives towards nurse practitioners), as are qualified counsellors with the right type of training).

What the Left gets wrong is that it isn't an and/or proposition. The best systems, like Scottish Public Health Policing, Portugal and the Northern European models fund both policing and reform/remediation approaches at equally high levels. There is also an argument about pairing police officers with mental health experts, as well as the need to differentiate mental health from mental illness. Many mentally ill people are non-violent, but there is a definable Pareto Distribution where a small percentage (under 20%, with a chronic 5%) of the mentally ill generate around 80% of all calls. Of course, the police officers need to be specifically trained to weight the use non-lethal force. It's also worth noting that there are specific conditions, like paranoid schizophrenia which need to managed more coercively, one way or another, or using an induced policing by consent approach.

At the city level, there is a huge amount of waste. Public sector employment is only a public insofar as the value of the service it provides the public- it is not a public good, per se- in fact employment in the public sector is a minor public bad, as it's inherently inflationary. Goods and services utilised by a society form an equilibria with income. Teachers, police officers, the courts, infrastructure workers, mental health professionals- all fit the category where the value produced by their labour greatly exceeds the cost of expenditure. Regulators, probation workers, bureaucrats, taxpayer funded NGOs- all fit into the category of ranging between somewhat and massively overstaffed.

One of the biggest problems is the general confusion between housing affordability and affordable homes. Housing affordability is desirable. It can be accomplished by a libertarian approach to planning (zoning), changes to law (objectors require direct standing to challenge an application), technological change (tiny homes, 3D printed homes) and more changes to law (allowing people to live in static and mobile homes wherever they like, with minimal property taxes). Affordable homes on the other hand (by which I mean taxpayer funded or subsidised) are an absolute waste.

The one thing government can do on this is trains, or other fixed fast transport alternatives to travel, but only over short-ranges (maximum 2 hours to hub). High speed is a massive waste of money- hybrid or hydrogen fuelled planes are far better investments for the future. Public buses and trams are only useful over very short distances- although the Swedes run a pretty good system, which I've not had a chance to have a thorough look at. The key advantage of trains and monorails is they expand the real estate range. It means the market can build houses where people want them cheaply, with low future climate impacts.

There is plenty of money in the public purse to fund good governance, but as I stated previously it requires taking a long hard look at where money is being wasted. Here's the calculus- if there is the choice between saving 200 lives or investing in approaches which wipe 20 million off annual budgetary expenditure- then the choice is simple- save the money, because it's easy to identify funded healthcare options which save more lives per year than the one off life-saving.

Expand full comment

Yea the NGOs ruin everything. We’d have thousands of SMRs churning out abundant zero emissions power in Africa by now if it wasn’t for Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and NRDC. That’s part of what radicalized me to libertarianism. They just keep pushing these premature mandates too and it just makes everything way harder. I need to learn more on hyrdrogen cars, but California has of course rolled out a disastrous program with scarce fueling stations. That state loves to ruin good things

Expand full comment

Haha. Too true. There is nothing wrong with public interventions, especially on a local scale. Make an ambitious lists of potential projects, then use econometrics to study their benefits. Invest in the ones with good cost recovery, residual economic goods (which can be quite powerful) and those which have the highest social value to the citizenry. But will they do that? Hell no! Politicians and activists are incredibly prone to attaching high psychic profits to their most cherished ill-advised programs and congenitally incapable of walking away from wasted sunk costs.

There is actually a great resource in the form of Bjorn Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus. They use economics to rank order spending proposals to achieve the most good. The problem is most of the cheaper better proposals simply aren't sexy enough. Unsurprisingly, Doha-style free trade initiatives top the chart- with $2,000 of good for every dollar spent.

Expand full comment

Good points. However, an understanding of exactly WHY the inflation spike is important. The need for a currency devaluation was an absolute necessity. Central bank interest rates were 50%, and Milei has brought the rate to 40%, which will presumably continue to lower as the central bank lowers it's balance sheet.

Here is a very good Substack essay on the subject. https://theovershoot.co/p/argentina-and-the-limits-of-fiscal . It stresses that effectively the central bank was running MMT whilst simultaneously doing the same to compensate for capital flight (even amongst small Argentine savers). Simply put, if the experiences of the last few years have taught us anything, it's that one cannot run government spending through public debt or MMT- ultimately this will devalue the labour of more vulnerable workers.

Here is a pretty good primer on the Argentine economy from a YouTuber for those who are on the Left and suspicious of the inherent right-leaning bias of economics as a field. He's pretty good- he treats capitalism more as one of a set of tools, rather than as an underlying theory for life, the universe and everything. In another video he draws comparisons between Norway and Venezuela, showing that it is possible to improve the living standards of citizens through social democratic means, provided the method used is wise investment in slow incremental improvement. But that's if people are interested. This link relates specifically to Argentina and is dated three years ago- so current politics and arguments about economic libertarianism doesn't really influence the content.

Basically, Argentina was Germany in the period when money was more valuable as kindling. Oh, and Patrick, I wouldn't the phrase 'shock therapy'- it's bad branding. It has too many negative connotations to the disaster it caused in Russia. Poland had a far better approach. They sold off their state assets/nationalised liabilities more gradually. This meant that the more general economy was better able to absorb the labour shocks ( as well as strengthening the enterprise side through steady labour supply/reallocation).

You might like the video as well. He makes a strong point about how the English Common Law tradition, with its strong property rights, makes countries wealthier over time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brW6-fbvmsQ&t=2s

Expand full comment
author

Thanks for sharing those resources! I'm always looking for more economic resources that address the biases of their field.

Are you saying the prior administration was running MMT? Or that the Argentinian central bank is still doing it?

If I remember correctly, Milei wanted to get rid of it entirely, which he has so far been prevented from doing.

Expand full comment

They were using central bank purchases of the debt incurred by public spending to finance their admin, so yes it was MMT- although central bank purchases at more moderate levels in periods of low tax revenue during recessions has always been accepted policy in all but the most successful libertarian examples (like Hong Kong). The problem is it's like cocaine- potentially fun on an occasional and infrequent basis provided you're willing to accept a little risk (but not now, given the frequency of fentanyl found in other drugs), but politicians and central banks have a massive tendency to overindulge.

Argentina is the boss level of all economic challenges. They've experienced intermittent periods at ideological extremes. The problem is that during the extreme periods (way, way, way to the Left of Bernie) they went through periods of mass expropriations (like eminent domain, but multiplied by a factor of 100K frequency- deliberate reallocations of business ownership, without fair market compensation).

What this means is that during the periods of capitalism, the bankers were lying. There was absolutely no way of most businesses offering any sort of reasonable ROI given the interest rates that were necessary to ensure against the risk of future property theft. Most businesses run a loss for the first two years. It's one of the reasons why a lack of starter homes in America is against America's long-term interest- as is the extortionate cost of higher education. You want more talented and industrious young people to be able to earn a small stake of capital by the time they are thirty to thirty-five- so that when they borrow to start a business their lending is partially secured, and they get a loan rate that means the bank isn't breaking down their neck from month six onwards.

People don't realise how incredibly fine-tuned successful economic models can be. In terms of what Milei is facing- think of the most difficult game you've ever played and add two levels to the maximum level of difficulty. Impossible Mission!

Expand full comment
author

I appreciate you taking the time to explain!

Expand full comment
author

I'll admit you can't put the entire jump of December '23 inflation on Milei, but I also don't think it can be placed on the prior administration. The October '23 increase was less than 10%, down from the 13% increase in September. Milei was sworn in on 12/10, and the December inflation increase was 50%, up from about 20% in November. If it was the Kirshcner hangover, then we would see a gradually rising inflation increase. But that's not what happened. It decreased over the summer, rose slightly in the early fall, fell in October, then skyrocketed on Milei's first month. Given the lack of a consistent inflation rate increase, I think it's more than fair to place significant portions of the blame on Milei.

Additionally, as you said, he's been honest that things would get worse before they're better. One of the interviews he described his policies as creating an "economic V" — inflation and poverty would get way worse before him before rising. I wouldn't have written this 3 months ago, but it's been seven months. In my opinion, a still increasing (by increasing at a lower rate) inflation rate is not worth the giant leap in poverty.

Expand full comment

Fair enough. Regardless, where those numbers are at in 6 months, and whether he makes progress on FX controls and job creation in private sector, will determine if he can get his candidates elected in 2025 or if there’s a resurgence of the left.

Expand full comment