Some friends from different countries have asked me about this phenomenon that for many, from a distance, is incomprehensible: how is it possible that a majority voted for such a character, who claims to talk to his dead dog, who feels he is sent by the “forces of heaven”, and who insults rudely through the media anyone who thinks differently?

What led a large part of the population to elect as governor someone who showed himself in the middle of the election campaign with a chainsaw, promising a brutal adjustment in the economy, knowing that this would mean an enormous deterioration in living conditions? And a month after his inauguration as president, when prices are doubling and wages remain at the low levels they already were, the question that arises is how long can such a government last, if this is only the beginning of a battery of even worse measures?

I do not think I have a comprehensive answer to these questions, as the former would require a deep sociological and psychological analysis of human behaviour, which is difficult to address in a single article. And answering the last question would involve considering the drift of such a multiplicity of variables that it could fall into the realm of guesswork. Nevertheless, I will try to offer some opinions and conclusions, with a greater proportion of intuition than rigour.

For a long time now, the Argentine economy has been suffering the consequences of an increasingly rapid and extreme pendulum swing between popular policies (some call them progressive, others populist) and neoliberal or conservative policies. However, the mainstream media and the lies circulating in the social networks have convinced a large part of the population that the last 80 years have been a disaster because of Peronist populism, which is a kind of cancer that needs to be removed. In this context, the emergence of something supposedly new, such as ultra-liberalism, which comes from the hand of an outsider like Javier Milei, coincides with this expectation of a structural change of course, diametrically opposed to that of the “populist monster” that has supposedly controlled the country for 80 years. Of course, it would be enough to read a little history on the part of the new generations, or to be intellectually honest on the part of the older generations, to disprove such a fallacy, since that “abhorrent Peronist populism” only governed for 28 of the last 80 years, while conservatism and neoliberalism were applied for 35 years (counting the military governments and some democratic governments of different political persuasions that applied neoliberal recipes); In the remaining years there were governments of the centre (some taking advantage of the proscription of Peronism, which lasted 18 years). But in these times of little reading and a lot of TikTok, knowledge of history seems to be an excessive pretension, and if we add to that the fact that many of those who know it prefer to deny it or skew it, whether for vested interests or simply out of irrational hatred of populism, the emergence of a kamikaze electorate begins to be partly explained. For it is undoubtedly a suicidal vote that delivers us back into the hands of a conservative right wing, which every time it has governed has left us with a huge foreign debt, high unemployment rates, growing poverty and the destruction of industry. In short, a large part of the result of the ballotage can be explained by high doses of ignorance and hatred, two lethal ingredients of a self-destructive blindness.

However, neither can we ignore the decline of progressivism in recent years, which has largely motivated many people to seek alternatives, in the face of the exhaustion of increasingly ineffective, disorderly and palliative policies.

Because in this pendular movement of economic policies in Argentina, each time popular governments have taken office, although they have made efforts to improve the situation of the majority, they have not managed to change the structures of a system that functions as an inclined plane that leads to the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few, to the formation of oligopolies and monopolies that have more and more power to twist the arm of political power. Attempts to improve the situation of the people have been reduced to possibilism, to patches, to palliatives, implemented through an infinity of regulations, artificial repression of prices of goods, services and currency. Faced with the impossibility of achieving a better structural distribution of income in favour of wages and pensions, they have opted to subsidise more and more consumption: transport, food, fuel and services, falling into the trap of a growing fiscal deficit and indomitable inflation. Of course, these policies have also been conditioned by the terrible legacy of foreign debt left by the governments of the conservative and neoliberal right; of course, economic power has always put obstacles in the way of popular governments, both through its own means and through its influence in the judiciary; but that is not enough of an excuse to justify the lack of ideas and daring on the part of some progressive governments, whose script has been running out.

As popular governments have ceased to provide satisfactory answers, not only has the credibility of politicians deteriorated, but also a series of values, proposals, speeches, arguments and symbols associated with them have been discredited; now everything that is said sounds like empty words, and the reaction has swung the pendulum towards the slogans of the ultra-right, or towards absolute scepticism, and there are even those who have expressed the desire for everything to explode. Some have voted for Milei as a way of taking revenge on politicians they loathe or who let them down, in an irrational act similar to that of the jilted suicide who believes that with his drastic determination he is inflicting harm on the person he hates.

Being somewhat reductionist, we could say that Milei’s own electorate (30%) is largely made up of young people and impoverished sectors who, disenchanted and without much information, believed that his neoliberal discourse was new, true and hopeful.

Meanwhile, the other 25% that won in the ballotage came from rabid anti-peronism, willing to support the worst of their executioners in order to “expel populism”.

Precisely because of this composition of the vote, it is likely that the first to withdraw support from Milei will be those of his own constituency, as it is the most volatile, while anti-Peronism will continue to support him just to prevent the return of the “hateful populism”. In this political context, and while Congress debates whether or not to approve a series of measures that would end up destroying industry, employment, wages and sovereignty, discontent among the population is growing and the possibility of a social explosion in a short time is not ruled out. But, unlike what happened in 2001, when after the disastrous Alianza government there was a social outburst and then a certain consensus was reached that the Justicialist party should take over, today there is no democratic consensus that, in the event of the collapse of the current government, precisely the political sector that governed until just a month ago should return to power. The most likely outcome of an early social crisis with popular outbursts would be a strong rejection of all politics and the leadership as a whole, with great difficulty in channeling it behind leaderships that are not currently in sight in a fragmented society plagued by resentment. One might also wonder what other factors of power would do in the face of growing chaos, since even sectors that traditionally support the policies of the neoliberal right, such as the judiciary, the military and big business, have reservations about the president’s mental health and the viability of his drastic measures.

But let us review some of these measures, to better understand what is happening and what may happen in the short term. Milei has set out to reduce the fiscal deficit and inflation through a shock policy that can be likened to the metaphor of “the peace of the graveyards”, as he devalued the currency by more than 100% and liberalised all prices. The sharp increases in food, fuel, medicine, transport and rents have meant that in just a few weeks the purchasing power of salaries and pensions has been pulverised. Milei’s gamble is based on the assumption that, if people cannot afford the money, the recession will be so strong that at some point prices will stop rising, while the liquefaction of public sector salaries and the removal of subsidies for transport and services will allow the fiscal deficit to be reduced. Faced with this shock, generated in just one month, many of Milei’s voters are already regretting it, while others are still hoping that, after this bad pill, things will get back on track and the light will appear at the end of the tunnel, with the arrival of investment, as the government itself promises. But it is all very irrational since Milei himself has said that the fruits of his policies will be seen in 35 years…, he claims that everything bad that is happening is the fault of the governments of the last 100 years, and in his messianic and foundational delirium he claims that Argentina more than a century ago was the first world power, and in just over three decades he will lead us back to that lost paradise…. The conclusion is that the population should prepare itself to suffer the next 35 years thanking its ruler for leading it down the right path, the end of which only the younger generations will see. It is hard to believe that with such an irrational discourse that does not stand up to the slightest historical analysis, he has become president, and that many still believe him and support him, although in a short time, when the increase in utility rates, school fees and layoffs add to the current disaster, those who are dissatisfied will increase, and worse still, the outbursts will no longer be only because of dissatisfaction, but specifically because of the desperation of being hungry, of being left without housing, without medical care, without health care, and with the desperation of being able to live in a world of poverty, homeless, without health care, without education, and without work. And in spite of all this, the longed-for (and IMF-mandated) fiscal balance will surely not be achieved either, as the recession will cause fiscal revenues to fall sharply, and in a short time we will have more adjustments, another devaluation, and more inflation. And we are describing only some of the terrible measures taken by the government, which are already being felt in everyday life, because both in its decree and in the Omnibus Law that it sent to congress, there are plenty of missiles against the population and national sovereignty: privatisation of everything public, restriction of the right to strike, loss of labour rights and weakening of trade unions; handing over natural resources and land to foreign companies, criminalisation of social protest, privatisation of the pension system and discretionary power to liquefy current pensions; authorisation to go into unlimited debt, and hundreds of other destructive articles.

As we are accustomed to, the spokesmen of neoliberalism assure us that after the sacrifice we will be a reliable country, and then the investments that will create new quality jobs will come. Experience in Argentina shows us that these investments never arrive, and we doubt that this time it will happen, but with the aggravating factor that patience will run out faster because the situation of the population, after the inheritance left by Macri, the pandemic, the war, the drought and the inoperativeness of former president Fernández, is too deteriorated to withstand Milei’s bestial shock. We will have to follow events week after week closely to see how this process drifts, and in the meantime to oppose these unhinged measures outright, to mobilise, and above all to propose alternatives that go far beyond the outdated recipes of progressivism, whose failure is all too fresh in the collective memory. I am not going to expand now on what these proposals would be, which, moreover, have been set out in various books and essays over the years, and which refer to a model of humanist economics, but we could possibly summarise them in a future article, adapting them to the current situation. Similarly, beyond the concrete proposals in the economic area, we will have to work on raising awareness of new values that will allow us to jump over the mental and emotional crack that has unhinged our society and has had much to do with the arrival in power of a character like Milei, a sad buffoon to entertain a bewildered society, a pathetic puppet of the most concentrated economic powers on the planet, and a boot-licking panderer who serves the geopolitical interests of the USA-Israel-England axis.