Libertarianism in Latin America,” by Manuel Rodriguez

Long, 11 pages.

This post was written by guest author Manuel Rodriguez. It was perfectly grammatical but it still needed a huge rewrite because it was directly translated into English from Spanish and many of the sentences just seemed odd or off. I also had to delete certain references that only a leftwing South American would no. I had no idea what or who these guys were talking about, so I took it out.

Nico Guthmann: Maintaining that libertarians are a recent phenomenon would be like talking about sausages. Change the name of those mysterious and friendly sausages to sausageronis and start selling them as a totally new product, taking advantage of the fact that no one has the slightest idea what they are made of. Well, something very similar happens with libertarians because they take advantage of our lack of memory to sell us old ideas but with a new packaging.

The libertarian current has existed in American state politics since the second half of the twentieth century. But in the Trump years, the denomination gained strength to differentiate itself from the “progressive” party, the “Democrats” because Democrats there are popularly called liberals for their progressive position on “civil rights.”

But today, libertarian has become a label that brings together classical liberals, neoliberals, anarchocapitalists, minarchists, etc. All united in essence by Adam Smith, who in 1700 invented the idea of the invisible hand of the market. In other words, the state should not intervene because the state regulates itself. The market is a boss.

Libertarian economic doctrine is basically liberalism by another name. They are based on two great economic schools: The Austrian, where Frederick Von Hayek, a 20th century economist, stands out, and the University of Chicago, from where Milton Friedman, an economist who in recent years, taught his ideas.

Friedman’s theories, which today are repeated on all television channels by the most diverse people at the capillary level, are nothing new. They were already applied in the eighties in the United States by Ronald Reagan and in England by Margaret Thatcher.

In the name of freedom, they unleashed a cult of free markets and individualism. In these countries, a certain economic growth was generated at the cost of greater inequality and an increase in poverty and unemployment indicators, while they fueled wars and dictators who assured them international markets.

Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1976, and the year is no coincidence. What libertarians don’t talk about much is that their ideas have already been applied by governments in the region, and it makes sense that they don’t talk much about it because it’s not very marketable to go around claiming dictatorships.

When Augusto Pinochet ordered the assassination of President Salvador Allende to establish a de facto government in Chile, he appointed a group of young people trained at the University of Chicago as his economic team.

All disciples of Milton Friedman, the economists were received like rockstars. So in March 1975, Friedman himself traveled to Chile and met with Pinochet, to give his view on how he should implement the free market economy.

Friedman was full of praise for Pinochet’s liberal program, but he did not seem to care much about the freedom in more real terms of the Chileans who suffered from the dictatorship. And beyond this obvious contradiction, both Friedman and his liberal followers used the Chilean economic model as their greatest success story until recently, when it exploded into the air in the social outbreak that began in October 2019 and gave rise to the famous phrase from the wife of President Sebastian Piñera:

Cecilia Morel: We are absolutely overwhelmed. It is like a foreign or alien invasion, I don’t know how to say it, but we are going to have to reduce our privileges and share with others.

Nico Guthmann: Chilean policies generated sustained GDP growth for years at the cost of growing inequality that was hidden under a Made in USA rug. According to ECLAC, by 2019, Chile was the most unequal country in the region, with

And in Argentina there was a minister of economy who also applied the closest thing to libertarian liberalism. A minister who was very, very loved by the general population.

Woman: Avalo! You son of a bitch!

Nico Guthmann: Sorry for doing this, but we are in a very strange moment where we have to explain how ruinous Mememism in Argentina was because some Peronists feel that they have to go out and defend everything Peronist, and the libertarians took advantage of the confusion.

It is striking that old ideas already tried and failed return with such force and coordination. Who is behind this comeback?

While I was looking for information about the financing of libertarian groups, something caught my attention. Many of the videos of talks and interviews with the main figures of the Milei, Espartlajet, Etc. movement were sponsored by a small group of foundations.

What is striking is the enormous amount of money that they manages foundations that are practically unknown to the general public, but that function as virtual media outlets with numerous boards of directors, specialist  columns in the media for a ghostly public, a presence in large media and private universities, along with talks in five-star hotels with all the pomp.

And on top of that they get very expensive speakers like Mario Vargas Llosa interviewed by Marcelo Longovardi along with exclusive speeches by the Uruguayan president Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou.

Although the foundations intersect and sometimes share spaces and names with other foundations in Latin America, the one with the most presence in Argentina seems to be the ATLAS Foundation, which has offices in a building in Puerto Madero, and the Libertad Foundation, which bought a massive building on the black coast of Rosario.

If one enters the web sites of these foundations, one sees that while there are many Argentine companies that appear as “partners,” the majority are financial entities and banks or agribusiness, which are evidently very committed to the libertarian cause. But it caught my attention that the Libertad Foundation, among all the donor companies, gets top billing on each of their pages,  above even Vicentin and the ATLAS Network Foundation.

And this is key. So key that as a result of articles blowing the whistle on this sponsorship that appeared in the Argentine media, the pages with these sponsors have been removed. Today if you go their pages, references to the Atlas Network does not appear at all since they’ve been deleted. The Atlas Network went from star billing on their page to complete disappearance. Luckily, we already got screenshots of the page though.

And on the other hand, the Atla Argentina foundation, which has a name suspiciously similar to Atlas Network, gets very prominent billing on the new pages in spite of the fact that it is virtually unknown the only award it has ever received is from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which is part of the Atlas Network foundation.

Also when you go to the Atlas Network site, you learn that it is a United States foundation with a global presence and among its local subsidiaries, it lists the Libertad Foundation and the Atlas Foundation, among others.

Is this just a case of a terrible lack of originality in choosing names? Or is it that this American foundation, the Atlas Network, is behind the main Argentine libertarian foundations? It’s the latter.

Atlas Network is basically what Americans call a think tank. That is groups that are responsible for imposing ideas on society via their lobby. It was founded in 1981 by the Englishman Sir Antony Fisher during the Thatcher era with the aim of spreading the ideology of the free market throughout the world. In Fisher’s own words, the central objective was to influence economics worldwide but to keep his presence hidden. This explains why the Libertad Foundation deleted him from their page and he wasn’t bothered.

So behind the libertarians, there are Argentine foundations with a lot of money coming from companies, mainly from this huge American foundation. And the explanation for why Atlas has so such an influence in Argentina is because the historical brain behind the international foundation is  an Argentine.

He doesn’t like the spotlight much and does much better influencing from the shadows.

Hey, Nico, stop, stop, sorry. So, are you telling me that here there is a very powerful American foundation, possibly one of the largest, that finances libertarians all over the planet, and that behind that giant structure there is an Argentine?

His name is Alejandro Chafuen and he moved from Argentina to Washington DC where he amassed a large network of contacts and was appointed president of the Atlas Network by its own founder, Fisher. He served as the leader of Atlas from 1961 to 2018, and during that period he was in charge of spreading libertarian ideas throughout the continent.

To give some examples of how extreme Chafuen is, he refers to the last Argentine military dictatorship necessary to keep communists from taking power. That’s all. He has always defended Donald Trump, considering him a champion in the “fight against the state.” Hence he considers Trump to be either a libertarian or an ally of libertarians.

In 2019, he published an article in Forbes magazine, praising the overt fascist Bolsonaro and saying he was the best leader in the region. So Chafuen, like most if not all libertarians, supports all rightwing extremism, even rightwing authoritarian and openly fascist regimes. This is where libertarians drops its anti-state cloak and exposes itself for what it really is.

Where does Chafuen get the money to finance Argentine libertarians? According to investigations by Greenpeace and The Intercept, the Atlas network has always been financed since its inception by the most famous conservative or reactionary lobbyists in the United States, the Koch brothers, one of whom died in 2019.

Of all billionaires, the Kochs have put more money into US  political lobbying than anyone else, so they are the most politically active billionaires in the US. They are credited with the movement that helped the Republican Party go viral.

Greenpeace says the Atlas Network works in part as the Koch brothers’ political front to spread climate change denialist ideas in Latin America. The family made their fortune in oil and dirty energy, so they logically defend the values of conservatism which oppose fighting global warming as it is a threat to their interests.

They not only  deny climate change, they also oddly enough oppose feminism as Marxist, but their main bugaboo is the “regulatory state: with its regulations and taxes, the facto enemy of most if not all capitalists who are not reined in by the state as in China.

Notice that the Kochs have the exact same political project as Milei and the rest of the Latin American libertarians? Where do you think these Latin American libertarians are getting their money?

The Koch group openly influences American politics mostly at the state level, but they also secretly influence the world as a whole. They like to keep their influence hidden. So instead of operating with their best-known lobbying organization, The Heritage Foundation, the Kochs operate through the Atlas Network. Nevertheless, on the site of the Argentine Atlas foundation, one can see the name of the Heritage Foundation and Alejandro Chafuen is now with Heritage.

In case you got lost, I’ll give you a wrap-up so far. The Koch brothers give their ideas to Chafuen, and Chafuen parrots them to the Atlas Network Foundation. The Atlas Network provides the money to finance all the libertarian foundations in Latin America, for instance, in Argentina, Atlas funds both the Libertad and Atlas Foundations. US conservatives support the libertarian Milei.

The true agenda of these rightwing think tanks is to set the stage for a cultural war that will hopefully spread throughout the world. The culture war is to be fueled by extreme right-wing movements the world over with a very similar agenda, mainly a claim to defend “freedom,” which generally only means economic freedom, along with a project to return the country to its former greatness. The latter palingetic project is always fascist everywhere and at all times.

In a very skillful way, they took advantage of peoples’  discontent with the state of their nations and the dearth of solutions proposed by the existing parties. In this way, they positioned themselves as anti-system as Milei did. In fact, they are not anti-system at all, as they are simply conservatives, reactionaries, and fascists financed and supported by corporations intent on presenting a unified far rightwing message tailed to whatever part of the world they wish to see it unfold in.

The methods are the same the world over: verbal incontinence, atrocity-laden language, insulting and ultimately disqualifying or neutering their opponents, and the creation of a political environment of extreme permanent polarization. These were the precise methods used by the fascist Donald Trump, which were then replicated by the fascists Bolsonaro in Brazil, Mateo Salvini in Italy, Victor Orban in Hungary, Milei in Argentina, and the fascist VOX political party in Spain.

An odd and especially concerning aspect of these groups is that much of their growth at least in Latin America has occurred among young people. In the Southern Hemisphere, these are young White men frustrated for completely sensible reasons who see meritocracy and “freedom” as a way to defend their few remaining privileges in a world that seems to be shunting them aside in favor of women and non-Whites.

This is combined with the illusion of a return to better times in the past that in will never be resurrected.

I would like to impore to you, my Latin American libertarian friends, that the circa 1980 Argentine agro-export model that you defend and wish to return to will not only impoverish you but it will also take away the few freedoms that you think you have.

The main point we were trying to make with this show was first, to point out that libertarianism are nothing new, and second that its strong recent growth is no mere coincidence or chance happening but is instead part of a carefully managed long-term project with global implications.

There are very powerful people who are working to install various rightwing anti-state groups, including climate change deniers and opponents of the health measures installed to combat the COVID pandemic in different countries, all done under the rubric of freedom. And wherever these groups appear, they are marketed in the same way, as something new and unique, disruptive yet  modern, anti-system, and separate and in opposition to what they see as the bankrupt “old politics.”

But there is nothing new under the hood here. There’s not much new under the sun and the same applies to these groups in which old ideas are packaged with a shiny new design to trick people into thinking they are buying into some new project. —————————————————————- I personally found this material to be quite fascinating.

We on the Left are well aware of the typical Left explanation of fascism, elucidated especially by Trotsky but more recently by some excellent left political scientists, mostly in the US, where fascism is seen as a palingetic far rightwing revolution against the Left that occurs in a time of crisis due to a serious threat from the Left where the ruling class feels that their hold on power and the means of production is at risk.

Hence fascism is a last ditch effort by the ruling class to enforce its privileges at the point of a gun when all else has failed.

This is based on watching the historical patterns of fascism and who has supported. However, what we have so far lacked is a close perspective that shows the process of design, development, and financing of fascism, including relegating the process to third parties.

Researching stuff like this is quite fascinating in a way that can be quite hard to explain, sort of like a eureka feeling or an epiphany you get when you realize someone has a specific Cluster B disorder that explains their behavior, and you can finally come to grips with the mental mechanisms and desires of these malign creatures.

The process of discovering how people organize themselves for developing and directing fascist movements gives the impression of discovering at last after much research how an opaque organized crime gang actually functions.

If I were a Russian prankster, I would try to contact one of the surviving Koch brother and have a personal conversation with him. I would tell him I’m the Ukrainian Culture Minister (or something like that) and that I am here to discuss ideas regarding national leadership and formation of political leaders since in Ukraine, we are still trying to fully grasp and adapt to the virtues and mechanisms of Western styles of economic working and governance.

I would ask him how to give us tips about how best to create very popular politicians who are skilled at steering the country’s direction and economic management. Since Koch knows this sort of thing better than anyone, I would tell him that we need assistance with understanding this political and economic form of art. After all Zelensky was quite successful for a while, but he has become a liability in the last months, and we have to find a way to replace him with someone more convenient.

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