The favorite candidate in the Argentine presidential elections, Javier Milei, has been labeled by part of the press as an “extreme-right” candidate. However, he often defines himself differently: as a minarchist. The use of this term, uncommon in politics, has raised questions. The main one being: what is a minarchist? Milei, with his peculiar hairstyle and outspoken vocabulary, surprised in the presidential primaries and emerged as the most voted candidate. The rules of the Argentine presidential election are as confusing as the Argentine football championship, but the summary is this: before the final election, presidential candidates must go through a kind of pre-election. In this stage, the same coalition can have more than one candidate. Coalitions that surpass 1.5% of the votes send their most voted candidate to the final phase (which, in turn, has a first and second round system). In the pre-elections (the “primaries”) on August 13th, Milei came in first place among 27 candidates, with 30% of the votes. “Surprise,” headlined the Clarín newspaper in its edition the following day. “More than an election, it was an earthquake,” read the front page of La Nación. Four other candidates surpassed the necessary threshold to reach the general elections. Accustomed to the pendulum movements between authoritarian left and populist right, some experts hurried to put the little-known Milei in the same category as Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro. But Milei is a minarchist – as he often defines himself whenever he is labeled as “conservative” or something of the sort.
What is a minarchist?
A minarchist is someone who advocates for a minimal state. By minimal, it means that the government should only be responsible for providing police officers and judges to remove from society anyone who poses a threat to the life or property of another individual. Apart from that, each individual takes care of their own life. There is no Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, or Ministry of Social Development. Minarchism is often defined as a subtype of libertarianism, a philosophical current that prioritizes individual freedom over the state. In an interview given two years ago, Milei (who holds a master’s degree in economics and is a university professor) explained what he believes are the three types of libertarians: classical libertarians, minarchists, and anarcho-capitalists. The first group includes figures who can simply be described as liberals, such as Milton Friedman and Adam Smith (and Paulo Guedes). This group advocates for a state that respects private property and is based on economic freedom, but in some circumstances, it may offer more than just police officers and judges. At the other extreme is anarcho-capitalism, represented by figures like Murray Rothbard. For this group, the ideal scenario is one in which there is no state power and all human relationships are governed by voluntary exchanges of goods and services. As long as there is consent between two adult individuals, anything goes. According to Rothbard, parents (or anyone else) have no legal responsibility towards other people except not to aggress or steal from them. “Parents should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate their children since such obligations would involve positive acts imposed on parents, curtailing their rights,” he wrote. Rothbard even went as far as saying that the sale of children by parents should not be prohibited. Minarchism falls between the first and second groups. The central idea is that the state should only prevent people from violating the life and property of others. This means maintaining the police and a functioning justice system. Everything else (building roads, taking care of education, providing healthcare services) would be left to the market. Influential authors in this current include Ayn Rand and Robert Nozick, who were influential in the American public debate in the second half of the 20th century. “The minimal state is the most extensive state that can be justified. Any other state that is more extensive violates individual rights,” Nozick wrote in his book “Anarchy, State, and Utopia.” Public assistance with taxpayer money? No way. “The state cannot use its coercive machinery to force certain citizens to help others,” says Nozick. As for Rand, it is enough to say that she is the author of a book entitled “The Virtue of Selfishness” and that she advocated for a system of voluntary government funding instead of taxes.
Minarchist Stance on Abortion
As with many minarchists, Milei is a proponent of the right to bear arms. He has also expressed support for the legalization of drugs, with the caveat that users fully bear the financial consequences of their actions. “If there is a welfare state, and you do drugs and I have to foot the bill, things change,” he stated in 2021. A Catholic with a deep interest in Judaism, the libertarian candidate is also against abortion and has made critical statements about gender ideology. He promises to abolish the Ministry of Education, the Central Bank, and reduce the government to eight ministries (a number that Nozik and Rand would certainly consider excessive). Given the profound changes in the government structure it demands, minarchism has rarely come close to being put into practice. And it is unlikely that Milei will be able to implement the minimal state advocated for by minarchists if elected. In Argentina, a country plagued by decades of economic populism that have destroyed the economy, the massive support for Milei seems more like a symptom of popular dissatisfaction than a conscious adherence to the ideas of Robert Nozik and Ayn Rand. The first round of the Argentine presidential elections is scheduled for October 22nd.