Javier Milei, the new president of Argentina, paid a visit to Davos last week. The speech he gave to WEF elites was a thing of beauty.
Javier Milei was sworn in as the president of Argentina less than two months ago, and he is already making a big splash at home and abroad.
During his presidential campaign, the libertarian economist, former rock singer, and political outsider turned heads by wielding a literal chainsaw symbolizing his plans for Argentina’s bloated bureaucracy. A similarly themed video went viral showing Milei ripping labels from a whiteboard representing Argentina’s government departments as he shouted afuera (Spanish for “out!”).
Predictably, Milei was derided in the corporate press as the “Donald Trump of Argentina” and a “threat to democracy”—in part for his populism and lack of decorum, but mostly for the threat he posed to the political establishment.
On taking office, Milei made good on his word, consolidating 18 cabinet ministries into nine, firing 5,000 bureaucrats, and introducing a 350-page list of economic reforms. Already, the peso’s runaway inflation has been significantly reigned in.
But it is Milei’s speech in Davos last week that has really set tongues wagging.
The World Economic Forum’s annual summit in the Swiss alps has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. In the words of British commentator Douglas Murray, “It is a time when the world’s elites meet in a ski resort to tell everyone else on the planet that we should really rein it in.”
Instead of flying in by private jet—the transport of choice for Davos delegates—Milei rode commercial, snapping selfies with fellow passengers en route.
On stage, he took a torch to the WEF’s love affair with collectivism and centralized planning (popularized in Davos as “stakeholder capitalism”), warning that by junking free-market capitalism in favor of socialist policies, Western governments are in the process of dragging their nations into poverty.
Milei's 2024 Davos talk, directly translated to English by AI (by heygen), in his own accent. Better than the dubbed version imo. pic.twitter.com/8OAGELuqxl
“Today I’m here to tell you that the Western world is in danger,” he began.
“In recent decades, the main leaders of the Western world have abandoned the model of freedom for different versions of what we call collectivism,” Milei observed, naming the elephant in the room.
He went on to caution that “collectivist experiments are never the solution to the problems that afflict the citizens of the world. Rather, they are the root cause.”
Argentinians, he argued, are best placed to say so, given the country’s headlong relapse into poverty.
Milei then sketched out a brief timeline of Argentina’s economic fortunes. Having gained independence in the early 19th century, within decades, Argentina adopted free market principles to become “a leading world power.” But then, beginning a century ago, the nation “embraced collectivism,” squandered its wealth, and become “systematically impoverished.”
Milei compared these trends to a broader global pattern, wherein (barring the discovery of the Americas in 15th century) the wealth of nations remained essentially constant until around the year 1800, after which time global wealth shot upward like a “hockey stick graph.”
In the two centuries after the Industrial Revolution, he explained, the increase in global GDP was not just historic but also exponential, first taking 107 years to double, then 66 years, then just 33 years.
“[W]hen you look at per capita GDP since the year 1800 until today, what you will see is that after the Industrial Revolution, global per capita GDP multiplied by over 15 times, which meant a boom in growth that lifted 90 percent of the global population out of poverty,” he summarized.
The lesson? “Far from being the cause of our problems, free trade capitalism as an economic system is the only instrument we have to end hunger, poverty and extreme poverty across our planet. The empirical evidence is unquestionable.”
He also warned: “Socialism is always and everywhere an impoverishing phenomenon that has failed in all countries where it’s been tried out. It’s been a failure economically, socially, culturally and it also murdered over 100 million human beings.”
Perhaps the most rousing portion of Milei’s address—which is surely worth watching or reading in full—were his closing words of encouragement to entrepreneurs and business people:
Do not be intimidated 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 are heroes. You are 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 wellbeing.
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 and unconditional ally.
Signing off his speech, Milei ended with his now-trademark line, “Long live freedom, damn it!”
It was a powerful address that simultaneously delighted lovers of freedom everywhere and caused consternation to those Milei condemned—and for precisely the same reasons.
Namely, that Milei was not merely opining: He was telling the very real and tragic story of his nation—a nation historically blessed by free market capitalism and then destroyed by collectivism.
Moreover, these prophetic warnings came from a man who is demonstrating, in real time, the power of resurgent freedom.
Will America, or the rest of the Western world, listen? Or will we pay the bloody price of collectivism?
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