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The Populist Moment Never Happened

Bronze Age Pervert

The Populist Moment Never Happened

The election this year in Argentina has elevated to international stardom Javier Milei. His theatrical performances and comic passion, energy on camera remind people of Trump, Bolsonaro and other anti-establishment manic-charismatic champions in recent years. These rose up mostly as a result of people’s justified desperation at the failure of modern governments to address problem of decline of life: cities dilapidated by crime, economic sclerosis, zombi mass migration. It’s not even completely right to call them “populists,” as when, because of a personal failure of nerve from individuals like Trump and Bolsonaro, many pundits jumped since 2020 and 2021 or so to proclaim “the populist moment is over, the globalist technocrats have won.” Such a frame misunderstands the fundamental modern problem, which is declining human capital, a fact of life that is being felt first of all in governance worldwide.

In some countries it was possible to label critics of stupid government “populists,” but this wasn’t true everywhere and even in Brazil, Bolsonaro wasn’t elected on the votes of the poor and the many, but on campaigning against left-wing Red demagogues who had run the Brazilian economy and life off a cliff, and on behalf of well-to-do farmers and small businessmen. The frame that a “populist moment” that never in fact existed and never was the thing that mattered is “over” is also based on individual accidents — in particular the character, experiences, and decisions of Bolsonaro and Trump themselves. But their personal hesitations don’t mean the problems that led to the rise of these men in the first place have disappeared. Nor are these problems four-dimensional Machiavellian “chess” on the part of an actually competent shadowy “elite” that is in fact “profiting” from the disorder; there is no cynical manipulator of events… things really are that stupid, and there’s no one competent at the wheel of events. Thus there will be Trumps, Bolsonaros, and Mileis going forward every year or so, and not all will have the same personal hangups. The next few decades are likely to be exciting.

Milei becoming a star, however, has led to some uncomfortable moments as many on “antiestablishment” and “dissident” spheres, both right and left, have paid any close attention to content of his words beyond the comedy. Quickly they notice he is “libertarian” and asking for reductions in government spending, government programs and size, and calling for the elimination of government departments. This goes against the Dissident Talking Points that have emerged since 2017, which dismiss Libertarianism as a “basic bitch” ideology, identify all free market rhetoric with the old guard of the GOP that Trump destroyed in the 2015-6 primaries, and are largely based on “economic populist” or “economic nationalist” positions vaguely identified with Steve Bannon or called “Bannonite.” Like all enduring Talking Points, these have some truth, maybe even 60% of truth behind them. Libertarianism, both in the form pushed by theoretical ideologues whether from Cato or Mises Institutes, or in the lite-political form pushed by the Jack Kemp wing of the GOP exemplified by men like Paul Ryan, was largely discredited not just by Trump but by manifest failures in the years leading up to 2016. The failures were of two kinds. A full discussion of these failures of rhetoric, practice, or in the case of genuine and honest Ron Paul-style libertarianism simple inability to contest in democratic political struggle — for whatever reasons — is very interesting but should be left for another time. I want to address for a moment the “Bannonite” and “economic populist” consensus that has emerged on the dissident spheres so-called of the right for the last few years, and which is now being pushed in its major zines and publications acting as the public voice of a supposed “resistance.” It is because of the widespread acceptance of this orthodoxy — really a set of unexamined talking points — that the right increasingly sounds like a version of Chomskyite Marxoid professor in cheap tuna-stained blazer, droning on about the IMF, the WEF, Neoliberalism, the supposed problem of “hypercapitalism” and Capital, “atomization,” “destruction of native and traditional communities”; while stomping with a kind of self-important frisson for “an engagement with socialism,” “class analysis,” “postracial multiracial working class democracy,” as if these things were the newest and most revolutionary ideas and as if there was a genuine prospect of being the vanguard of millions of urban proletarians against the bourgeois “Anglo Liberal” order.

It may be a bad idea to take Paul Ryan at his word that he represents “free markets,” libertarianism or free enterprise, and it may be just as much a bad idea to believe that Jonah Goldberg of Goucher College is correct about the definition of “socialist.” But again, this is a discussion for another time.

Such people have been in power in Argentina for decades, and haven’t delivered what you would think people are yearning for a government to deliver based on the expression of mass direct concern during the time of 2015 and 2016 and before pundits and Intellectuals began their campaign of obfuscation. Argentina has had “Bannonite” or “economic populistnationalist” government for decades, on steroids. They got 100% of what Bannon-types and “conservative socialist” and “dissident right” or whatever edgy name they will call themselves — they got it all these are now demanding, everything that’s being asked for, and much more. For decades, this has been the case in Argentina. Everything in the rhetoric but also the policies, often enforced at point of gun. Peron utterly crushed the Argentine landowning upper classes, and brought in a nationalist and populist economy, freed from English interference in particular, and often invoking family values and traditionalist communitarian language. If you want conservative socialism, here is your example in action, in full — and see then its fruits after some decades…

Consider for example that the doors of Argentina have been busted wide open to mass migration. This has been done despite the economic populist and nationalist language that Bannonites invoke in America and that Peronists have used even more aggressively in Argentina. I find it fascinating that all left-populist and economic populist platform nations or regions have this same result by the way. Ireland did, so does Basque Country in Spain — ETA being the spirit of that region and along with the Kurdish PKK one of the old and dependable factions of the international “nationalist left.”  But all are flooded with migrants. To look into the reasons why I will again leave for another time but I suspect that, although when out of power such parties insinuate that migrants are being let in for “cheap labor” as a conspiracy by Capital or devious capitalists who plan to build an orbital station like in Elysium movie; and so they promise — maybe genuinely — the lower middle and middle classes that they will stop this migration and improve the labor market, wages, and their economic condition. But then once in power, left-populist parties discover that the migrants were never being brought in by capitalists for Machiavellian reasons; that at most, the capitalists were being bought off, and not all the capitalists but only some industries, who were allowed to profit and who therefore complied… although it’s unclear their willingness to comply or not would have been at all relevant. That the migrants were in fact being brought in primarily as political clients and political tools for the left and by those who opposed “the rich” — a shifting definition that often comes to include much of the middle class as well. And so the logic of this is irresistible to “economic populist” parties once in power for some time, regardless of their initial rhetoric about the “pauperization of the proletariat finally coming true through the vehicle of mass migration.” If your position is “the poor and conservative many against the decadent and predatory Elite and rich,” why wouldn’t you come to see millions of foreign poor “decent family people” as your allies? Economic populists, even when they have open nationalist and ethnic rhetoric in their beginnings, will always abandon this in favor of importing new clients, and it is rational for them to do so. In many cases they don’t in fact have specifically racial, or national or ethnic-cultural language even by the way: many rightists are dumbly misled when a leftist starts to inveigh against “globalism,” the “IMF,” “international Anglo-Liberalism,” “the transnational elites,” and many such things, into thinking that such a person must surely want to preserve the demographic and cultural characteristics of a particular country or region. But that’s almost never the case: importing millions of Paraguayans, Peruvians, Bolivians in Argentina, or migrants in Basque Country or Ireland may actually come to be seen as “yes we are importing good family people who will stand with us in native solidarity against globalism, Capital, and Neoliberal atomization.” And that is in fact what happened.

In Argentina the rhetoric around who is the Enemy subtly but surely shifted from the old guard

Anglophile rich of Recoleta during Peron’s time to the “listless, decadent rich white kids of Buenos Aires who don’t want to do honest manual labor and just want to do intellectual work or be in movies and eat avocado toast; fuck them, I’m a proud Union man and Pachamamita from Bolivia is my ally against these Elites.” In fact it was the same in Peron’s day: only he didn’t have to import foreign nationals at the time. Like other South American “populists” he brought in nonwhite, “working class, salt of the earth people” from the provinces, bought their votes with hospitals, material goods, services, and got them to be his political clients against the Brahmin old guard landowning rich. It’s the story of FDR in another form and the story of the death and senescence of modern nations in general under various forms of mobocracy or “mass democracy.” It should be added also that it was under Peronist “conservative socialist” salt-of-the-earth working class economic populist regime that Argentina became one of the first nations to legalize gay marriage. But as with the matter of national identity, also religious and conservative “collectivist” morality, or moralism in politics, means one thing in the beginnings and rhetoric of such parties and movements, and something else entirely later. In the end it’s always the same leftism that’s been around for decades, and the same results; only the cosmetics of it changes.

The matter of how economic populism and leftism always betrays real nationalism is very interesting, and must be explored in detail; but its failure to deliver specifically its economic promises is the real and big reason for Milei’s rise at the moment in Argentina. Decades of “getting everything the American dissident sphere is now asking for” has left Argentina a nation competing with Venezuela when, given its natural endowments as well as its human capital, it should be competing with the United States. There’s no better example in the modern world of a case where specifically bad government and bad culture has so wrecked a country that otherwise does have both the natural resources and the biological human capital to be not only nice but truly great. Unlike East Europe or other parts of Europe, Argentina has no excuses: no Russian or other occupation, not even any wars; no natural disasters. Paradisiacal climate and isolation; temperate climate, free from disease. A cultured, highly literate intelligent population. All wrecked by bad political decisions, a terrible political culture, maybe bad elements of culture in general.

And all wrecked by “economic populism” that results in crushing taxation, regulations in the name of social justice that destroy all enterprise, and ultimately really the enslavement of the good, intelligent, and talented part of the population in the service of providing goods to the dumb, dusky stupid many so that these many may vote for petty politicians invoking selfrighteous “union” language. It’s that simple. The left is right that libertarianism in Argentina would be “de facto white supremacy.” In fact they’re right about it in the United States too, except that the “dissident right” brain trust has convinced itself that the white “working class,” who are already highly taxed at the local level, would profit not from an elimination of racial legal handicaps against them and their children, as well as a lowering of their taxes—that would be Neoliberalism! Libertarianism!—but through “conservative populist socialism,” that is, taking more taxes from them and then funneling it back in the forms of “credits” or “services” after being filtered and laundered through the hands of various government employees. Who are these employees? Well, not “altright” or altlite Bannonite or “dissident conservative socialist” brain trust people as none have gone into the government bureaucracy, but Shaniquas and Chantelles. Maybe banning porn would help! But it’s just so trite to invoke freedom. You don’t want to be thought of like Paul Ryan, do you?

The corner into which the anti-establishment factions of America and France especially have locked themselves — other parts of Europe too though — a corner from which, after a few years of trading simplified orthodoxies through a retarded telephone game, they’re unable to see plain reality at least in Argentina… and they are unable to see why someone like Milei is ascendant there not despite but because of his rhetoric and promise of freedom… this may be hard to overcome in the coming few years. It is loser rhetoric that obscures the reality of tightly controlled, highly regulated life in America and the West under absurd slogans such as “hypercapitalism” and “atomization” and that wrongly assumes European youth, or frankly any other kind of talented youth, needs government aid and protection rather than needing to have the boot taken off the neck. It is just easier to see it in another country and another world where maybe talking points haven’t so thoroughly covered up what’s in front of your eyes.

Here is briefly, experience in Argentina, a few things I remember vividly: a Croatian Argentineborn businesswoman, owner of a cafe with unusually good coffee and Balkan pastries, who, prompted by warm conversation one morning, burst out crying to me over the prospects of her grandchildren in Argentina. All intelligent, highly educated, working in white collar professions, and all absolutely squeezed dry by a government that took most of their income while berating them for their “atomized” individualist identity and desires, and reminded them of their duty to give to the (helpfully beige, for moral reasons) Community and Society. All had material resources and a way of life that would be considered at best lower middle class in Europe and America, maybe not even that; all impoverished by a government that insists white collar workers are high-paid bloodsuckers who feed on the lifeblood of the Salt of the Earth working man. Every intelligent person who seeks or wants a half-good job complains about the same things in Argentina; crushing taxation, suffocating lack of opportunity, and an arrogant, partlyracially-mobilized “Working Class” that gets paid better than they do and is allowed to act with unending arrogance… bus drivers make double or three times what most white collar workers make there. The squeezing-dry of all money takes place for the sake of a “multiracial working class,” that is, a colored underclass. It is mostly the same in America and increasingly so in Europe, absurd “hypercapitalism” rhetoric notwithstanding. The reality of modern life for any intelligent or ambitious person is to be squeezed dry in the name of the Cycle — I can’t name the Cycle fully in these pages, but, in short, to be squeezed dry so that an obese Chantelle may gracelessly expire in a hospital after heroic efforts by inevitably low-paid medical professionals, and after a lifetime of her fattening up on corn chip. This is the cycle of the modern economy. In Argentina this Cycle has been made inescapable and all-encompassing. The high taxes provide no public services to speak of, no really common social or political life, no clean streets. There are favelas and mini-tent cities of migrants even in good neighborhoods now. Again, somehow decades of righteous economic-populist and moralistic Working Man language against globalist Elites hasn’t stopped any of the ills that Dissidents in the West blame on something called “Neoliberalism,” but accelerated them.

Milei is the latest in a series of last-ditch and probably doomed attempts to stop this, the logic of democracy. It’s possible at times that, under the logic of mass democracy — take from those who have and work to give to those who don’t in exchange for votes, and if you run out of these latter, just import them from somewhere under humanitarian language — it’s possible to stop it for a while. Things under this logic periodically get so bad that various coalitions sporadically form and may elect someone like Milei, or, before him, Macri. But these men soon find that to achieve their aims they would need reforms so extreme that revolution and maybe even civil war would be inevitable. So they give up, and the process then continues until the next crisis. But it doesn’t end and can’t end, until it all ends.

It’s easy to see how a country like Argentina ends, and it is likely going bust as a country. Some territory with that name will exist in maybe fifty years, but I’m not even sure it will still be called that. You can see the final outcome of everything I’ve said already: no intelligent, ambitious young person wants to be enslaved in that type of a thing forever, which is why everywhere you go in Costa Rica or Spain, or other parts of Europe, you see young Argentines who have left.

The insane female-protection laws of the country are another part of this story — and another benefit of decades-long “working man’s antiglobalist economic populist democracy.” To “denounce” a man is the absolute right of any woman, and without any due process a man will have his rights stripped and life destroyed by whatever denunciation, no matter how frivolous or without evidence. (To complain about such things in Dissident Right circles in America has also lately become declasse: you don’t want to be one of those boring Manosphere guys do you? What’s really important is Economic Populism and ending the rule of Global Capitalist Elites…) Thus Argentina may also be the first country where a significant percentage of the men have had to flee because of literal political persecution by militant feminism. It is also, because of the “economic populist” idiocy, the country that has for the longest time learned most expertly to hide wealth, and so the very wealthy again have either fleed, are fleeing, or have learned through corrupt and other means to hide or offshore generational wealth. I can keep going but all these examples are the same thing: the end is the country becomes depopulated, or at least depopulated of a large percentage of its men, its capable European population, and its wealth, along with any other element eventually that gives it its being as the particular country that it is. So my guess is it will eventually, and within this century, stop existing. Someone like Milei could turn it around, but only with a complete abandonment of democracy and a militarization of the government. The United States will likely not allow that. It may allow it in El Salvador to stop gangs and violence, but probably not in Argentina to stop the local version of racial Marxism, which is its own program as well. But history has many surprises lately and some peoples are showing unexpected and hidden founts of energy and ingenuity; I hope I’m wrong, and that Milei or someone else stops this process in South America and gives an example to others… but it’s unlikely.

The likely future — and to a large extent already the present — of Argentina is interesting because the solution is and will be mass migration of its capable, its wealthy, and eventually soon in coming decades in general most of its beautiful, its talented, its non-dwarflike. But where will there be left to flee in the end?

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