The success of libertarian Javier Milei, who leads the polls for the second round of Argentina’s presidential elections, drew attention to a political current that is still uncompetitive in the world. In Brazil, despite the support of dozens of opposition parliamentarians for the victory of the right-wing candidate against the leftist Sergio Massa, supported by the Argentine government and Lula, the flag of libertarianism is still in its infancy. Its thousands of supporters, however, already dream of power here too. Next Sunday (19), Argentines will return to the polls to choose the next president, having for the first time a candidate of unusual political strength.
Brazilian supporters of the movement that advocates reducing the role of the State to a minimum level in the economy, politics and the lives of citizens are sheltered in the Novo party, in think tanks and in research institutions. Its most expressive representative is the lawyer and federal deputy Gilson Marques (Novo-SC), 41 years old, the only politician with an openly libertarian mandate in the country.
“Without a doubt, Novo – a party formed by an alliance of liberals, conservatives and libertarians – is the closest to what Javier Milei preaches. Within this spectrum, as he is the only representative of libertarianism in Congress, I have even more ideological affinity with him”, Marques explained to People’s Gazette.
Even so, the deputy rejects the title of “the Brazilian Milei”. “It would be very pretentious of me to take on this role. The fact that I have a great identification with Milei does not mean that I can become the phenomenon that he became. After all, there are many variables involved in this process, including the moment Argentina is going through and the fact that he is one of the few voices that faces the establishment over there. In any case, it would be great if any libertarian reached greater heights here too”, he stressed.
Even with his explicit support for Milei, the deputy also denies “admiring” the Argentine, “especially because a premise of libertarians is not to deify politicians”. “This is a sincere support for the victory of someone who has excellent theoretical knowledge regarding libertarianism and the evil that is socialism. He shares ideals very similar to ours and can get Argentina out of the hole it finds itself in, if it manages to implement them,” he said.
For Marques, Milei helps Brazilian society to understand the proposals of its ultraliberal current, still confused with extreme right and other definitions. “The majority don’t know what this (libertarianism) is and don’t even really understand the meanings of conservative and liberal. They confuse everything, unfortunately”, she underlined.
In general terms, libertarianism is a philosophical vision that understands that the State must be minimal, limited and is only justified to fulfill some elementary functions, such as protecting citizens against acts of force, theft, fraud and to ensure that contracts are fulfilled, among others. “Any broader role of the state violates people’s rights not to be forced to do things [que não desejam]”, wrote the philosopher Robert Nozick, one of the main thinkers of this current, in the work Anarchy, State and Utopiafrom 1973.
Stewardship of politicians is the main target of libertarian deputy
Elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 2018, with 27,443 votes and re-elected in 2022, with 87,894, the Brazilian libertarian deputy focuses his actions on combating political privileges. Just like Milei’s campaign speeches, Marques denounces a routine of corruption and favoritism surrounding public affairs. He understands that the State’s excess powers and its weight on taxpayers’ pockets favor all types of diversion of taxpayers’ money. “It is necessary to change the conception that the State is a solution to any problem. On the contrary, it creates a problem,” he said.
In the analysis of Leandro Gabiati, director of Dominium Consultoria, deputy Marcel Van Hattem (Novo-RS) stands out as the Brazilian politician most capable of representing the figure of a “Brazilian-style Milei”.
For the Argentine political scientist, Gilson Marques, identified by the yellow flag adorned with the silhouette of a snake, a symbol of libertarians, has an explicit role as an ultraliberal in the economy, almost anarcho-capitalist. On the other hand, Van Hattem emerges as a controversial speaker, aligning himself more explicitly with the stance of the neighboring country’s presidential candidate.
“But its activities are not limited to the economic field, extending to the conservative customs agenda. Furthermore, his engagement in the ostensible fight against what he perceives as corrupt elites stands out,” she told People’s Gazette. Van Hattem and Milei have already met at international events defending liberalism and during the Argentine presidential campaign.
Former candidate for the Presidency of the Republic for the New Luiz Felipe D’Avila told People’s Gazette regret that Brazilian politics is still dominated by polarization between Jair Bolsonaro (PL) and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), without having anything similar to Milei on the horizon. But he also considered that the Argentine is an atypical character, an “anti-system candidate who is gaining traction in a country on the verge of collapse, due to harmful Peronism and annual inflation above 140%”, he said.
For D’Avila, who is also a businessman and political scientist, despite the jocular way in which the Argentine libertarian defends his ideas, “they make perfect sense”. “Seen as a crazy person by most of the press, especially when he proposes dollarization and the end of the Central Bank, Milei even has a sensible government program”, he argued, citing the radical cut in the number of ministries, total economic opening and privatizations, “which would be good proposals for a candidate in Brazil”.
In parallel, Novo celebrates the fact that it is one of the few parties in the country to expand its membership since the last elections. As of October 2021, it has 30,903 members. A year later this number rose to 35,135.
Eduardo Ribeiro, president of the party, sees the growth as proof of voters’ interest in real alternatives in Brazilian politics. “We are more than a party. We are a team that is not afraid to face those in power and vehemently combat corruption. We owe nothing to anyone and Novo’s performance in opposition shows this,” he stated.
Libertarians differ on “Milei’s populism”
Diogo Costa, executive director of the Millenium Institute, which defends economic liberalism and individual freedoms, assessed that journalists and opinion makers are not entirely wrong in frequently labeling Milei a “populist”. “Indeed, her speech has populist elements, but in reality the Argentine citizen will have to choose between one populist or another,” he said. In this sense, the choice would be between the unsustainable promise of “bread and circuses” and the desire to fight “political elites”.
Magno Karl, executive director of Livres – a political movement that defends liberalism in Brazil – attributes Milei’s success to his lack of inhibition in expressing a different vision of the world. “He manages to confront the State in a country where the public service employs almost 40% of the population and curses politicians with whom he will necessarily need to work, if he is elected president,” he told People’s Gazette.
For Karl, Milei’s strict position as a libertarian must be confronted with the concrete reality of a mandate, especially an Executive position, if he is elected. But, although there is a risk of limitations due to institutionality, the Livres coordinator celebrates the possibility of the Argentine making history at the head of Casa Rosada. “Even if Milei wins and is a disaster, the boost he can give to the dissemination of his ideas is invaluable,” he highlighted.
In a recent interview with the newspaper The State of S. Paulo, Hélio Beltrão, founder of the Mises Brasil Institute and one of the main preachers of libertarian ideas in the country, admitted that Milei’s real chance of becoming the first anarcho-capitalist president in the world was “surprising and exciting”. He also considers the opposition candidate’s rise to be a result of the economic chaos in Argentina created by the Peronists, but also due to voters’ perception that he presents a realistic solution.
Beltrão condemned the insistence of part of the press to classify the libertarian as an ultra-rightist, a current of thought that defends national-developmentalism, with strong State interference in the economy.
He also sees no reason for Milei to be called the “Argentine Bolsonaro”, because, in addition to his friendship with the former president and his children, the A Liberdade Avança candidate has differences in style and thinking. “Populist? He is an academic, who created a persona, with that disheveled hair, doing hysterical scenes on television, to get his message across.”
Libertarians defend a radical vision of economic liberalism
Libertarians assert that private property is an inviolable right of human beings, based on values such as capitalism, individual freedoms and self-sufficiency. This line of thought originated in Vienna, Austria, in the 19th century, and was supported by notable philosophers and economists such as Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Hans Hermann Hoppe, and Murray Rothbard of the Austrian School of Economics. In contrast to liberalism, the distinguishing feature of libertarianism is the rejection of the State.
For libertarians, governments are maintained through violence, expressed mainly through laws and taxes applied without the consent of individuals. Some consider taxes to be equivalent to slave labor. They emphasize the importance of consent in human relationships and advocate cooperative resolution of conflicts in society.
Business advisor and speaker Ismar Becker told the reporter that there are still several currents within liberalism. “There are countless trends within liberalism. From Milei’s ultraliberalism to conservative Liberalism”, he commented.