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Argentina’s President Urges Global Leaders in Davos to Embrace Free Market – WSJ

Argentine President Javier Milei cautioned against what he sees as the growing risk of socialism and state intervention in Western nations. Photo: fabrice coffrini/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
‘The West is in danger,’ Says Javier Milei. Argentine President Javier Milei cautioned against what he sees as the growing risk of socialism and state intervention in Western nations. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

Ryan Dubé, WSJ

DAVOS, Switzerland
EnergiesNet.com 01 18 2024

Argentine President Javier Milei, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, assailed what he sees as the growing risk of socialism and state intervention in Western nations while defending the free market as the only model for prosperity.

“The West is in danger,” the fiery libertarian economist said during a speech to global leaders just more than a month after he took office promising broad market reforms. “It’s in danger because those who defend the values of the West have been co-opted by a vision of the world that inevitably leads to socialism, and as a consequence poverty.”

Milei, a political outsider who roiled Argentina’s politics with his electoral victory in November, has set about radically reducing the state’s role in his country’s economy, where rampant money printing to cover generous public spending drove inflation to more than 200% last year.

In his first month in office, Milei has proposed about 1,000 reforms to reduce regulation and privatize state-owned companies, while also devaluing the peso currency against the dollar and lifting price controls he inherited from his leftist predecessors.

Milei has maintained strong support since taking office on Dec. 10 as Argentines so far embrace austerity measures to tackle inflation. Milei and his top advisers traveled to Switzerland on a commercial flight, which the president said saved the country thousands of dollars.

In Davos, Milei said that Western leaders need to only look at the history of Argentina to understand the risks of undermining free enterprise and increasing state intervention. A century ago, Argentina was one of the world’s wealthiest nations because of its agricultural sector. Today, more than 40% of the population lives in poverty despite having massive lithium and natural gas reserves, and fertile land to grow soybeans, wheat and corn.

“We are here to warn you about what can happen to Western nations that became rich on a model of freedom if they continue down this path of servitude,” he said.

“When we embraced collectivism during the last 100 years, we saw how our citizens began to become systematically poorer,” Milei said.

“The conclusion is obvious,” Milei added. “Far from being the cause of our problems, free-business capitalism as an economic system is the only tool that we have to end hunger, poverty.”

Milei said that leftists attack capitalism on moral grounds, pushing ideas like social justice that have become increasingly popular in Western institutions, from universities to international organizations.

“The problem is that social justice is not just, and it also doesn’t contribute to general well-being,” he said.

“They are eroding the fundamentals of freedom,” he said, “opening the doors to socialism and potentially condemning us to poverty, misery and stagnation.”

Milei praised entrepreneurs and business owners, saying they were the drivers of global prosperity.

“The capitalist, the successful business owner, is a social benefactor that far from appropriating wealth contributes to general well-being,” Milei said.

“You are heroes,” Milei said of successful business owners, adding that they had an ally in Argentina. “Don’t let anyone tell you that your ambition is immoral. If you make money, it’s because you offer a better product, at a better price, contributing to social well-being.”

Milei said he is working on creating a free-market model in Argentina, one of the world’s most closed economies where businesses have long been suffocated by state regulations and high taxes.

“Thanks to free-business capitalism the world has never been better,” he said. “The world is freer, richer, more peaceful, more prosperous than in any other moment in our history.”

Write to Ryan Dubé at ryan.dube@wsj.com

wsj.com 01 17 2024

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