The Argentine Question

The subtext to the improbable election of Javier Milei revolves around a question that has haunted Argentina for generations. Why is this country such a mess? For as long as anyone can recall, Argentina has been synonymous with South American disfunction, to the point where the name of the country is often used as an epithet to criticize first world countries. There was even a Broadway play based on the life of a famous Argentine lunatic named Eva Perón.

The first place to start is the ruling elite. If you do an image search of “Argentine leaders” you get a collection of images that would answers the same question if you replaced Argentina with Italy or Spain. Like most South American countries, the ruling elite looks like the colonial elite that founded these countries. In some of these countries, they have been ruled by a small set of families since the 16th century when their ancestors arrived from Spain.

In other words, you do not see the Venezuela problem. In some of the more dysfunctional countries in the region, you have indigenous leaders rising up to claim some power, which always ends in disaster. They tend to be Marxists, but the illiterate sort that just understand the theft and violence parts. Venezuela is a rich country in terms of natural resources and location, but the smart fraction was chased off long ago by indigenous lunatics, so it is a basket case.

On the surface, Argentina does not have this problem. The most notorious ruler of the place was the Latin fascist Juan Perón. Anyone who has been around international organizations like the IMF or World Bank knows the sort. Perón was a populist and demagogue, but he was also highly educated and sophisticated. His politics were a populist suit her wore to garner support, but he was a man of the European elite that has run the country since forever.

The point is the ruling class of Argentina is not a lot different from the ruling elites you see in better functioning countries. Perón is typical of the ruling class in that his family tree has Spanish, French and English ancestry. Go through the long list of Argentine rulers and all of them trace their roots to the old country. You never see any references to Africans or Amerindian ancestry. The rulers always look like the sort of people who spend their career at places like the UN or now the EU.

In other words, Argentina is a country rich in natural resources, has a prime location on global trade routes and has an educated and sophisticated ruling class. On paper, it should be one of the more prosperous countries in the New World. Instead, it has been defined by government incompetence, corruption, and some of the most outlandishly terrible economic policies on the planet. Argentina has become synonymous with every failed economic policy to come out of the academy.

One clue as to why Argentina is a mess is the people. The average IQ of the population is 87 according to the most recent data. People will quibble about this score, but it is best to think of these numbers comparatively. Japan clocks in at 106, so that means the Japanese are more than a full standard deviation smarter than Argentines. Even if the measures themselves are not precise, which is surely the case, the margin of error will be similar for every country.

To give this gap some clarity, imagine a population full of people who could test into law school or business school. Assume they have not actually attended college or graduate school, but their test scores indicate they could do it. Now take a population of high school dropouts whose test scores indicate they are going to struggle getting their GED while in prison. That sounds a bit extreme, but the typical prisoner in the United States is going to have an IQ similar to the typical Argentine.

Now, take that collection of smart people and make them the talented two percent of the population and the collection of dumb guys is the population. For starters, the average IQ of the population will not change much. The average IQ of the population jumps about one point with this new smart fraction. Make it the talented ten percent and the average IQ jumps three points. In other words, in our experiment, that smart fraction is not going to change things very much.

The way to think of every human organization is to imagine a man carrying a sack full of ro9cks up an incline. The steeper the incline, the slower his pace. The more rocks in the sack, the slower the pace. The smaller the man, the slower the pace. The man is the smart fraction, while the sack in society. The incline will be the natural resources available to that society. The greater the resources, the softer the incline, while fewer resources gets a steeper incline.

Japan is a big man with a small sack, but facing a relatively steep incline due to Japan being an island nation. Even so, Japan is a rich and modern place due to the large smart fraction and the relatively small dumb fraction. On the other hand, Somalia is a tiny man dragging a boulder up a cliff wall. The smart fraction, such as it was, now lives in Minnesota leaving the rest to make what they can from very little. No amount of clever political theory is fixing Somalia.

This explains why Argentina remains an ungovernable mess. Of course, the good times in the country have often been under non-democratic rule. When you combine democracy with a low-IQ voting base, the result is populist demagogues who promise to use their power to overcome nature. The pattern in Argentina is authoritarianism, followed by democracy, followed by populism, which leads to collapse and the return of the authoritarian to restore order.

Javier Milei is toward the collapse portion of the cycle. This enigmatic weirdo, whose first act after winning election was to convert to Judaism and make a pilgrimage to the Hassidic community of New York, is in the populist tradition. He has decorated his populism with libertarian slogans, but what the voters heard was that he will take from the elites and give to the people. Given the IQ of the population, most could probably not be able to tell a libertarian from a rhinoceros.

Given his backers, there is a good chance that Milei will succeed in pushing through his changes, as they have been done before. He will put the economy on the dollar, and this will stabilize prices for a spell. Then the shortage of dollars will lead to borrowing from his backers in dollars. Those bonds will then be passed off onto American pension funds and other institutional investors. This will continue until the Argentine government can no longer make its interest payments.

What Argentina tells us is what every ball coach knows. It is not about the X’s and O’s, but the Jimmy’s and Joe’s. In the realm of sport, a great coach can only do so much with bad players. His great coaching and brilliant strategy will always run into the limits of his players. In the realm of human society, the political and economic systems will always be limited by the available human capital. it is why the Nordic countries made socialism work, while Argentina cannot make anything work.

There is another useful lesson here for people in the West. The people running Argentina have always known the math of their human capital. This is a truth that is spoken about openly in the homes and offices of the ruling class. Despite the limits it puts on their ambitions, this gap between them and the masses is what keeps them in the elite, ruling over those masses. It turns out that being a smart fish in dumb pond is a pretty good path to the good life.

This is one reason Western elites love low-IQ immigration. It is like an acid on the middle-class, diluting the layer just below them. Sure, mass migration means the subways are unusable and much of the cities are too dangerous for cafe life, but it beats having to compete with smart strivers from the middle ranks. Western elites look at Argentina and envy their rulers. No matter how stupid they are, they never have to worry about being displaced by people with genuine talent.

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Observations On The Drug War

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For generations now, libertarianism has been synonymous with the legalization of recreational drugs. It is probably a bit unfair, as libertarianism has a lot more to it than just legalizing weed, but there is no getting around the fact that they have been obsessed with the topic for a long time. Libertarians take the broadest possible view on what could be considered recreations drugs. Their belief is that people can figure out for themselves what drugs they should or should not take.

The libertarian case rests on a number of assumptions about the human condition and human organization. One is that people are rational and act in their best interests or what they believe to be their best interests. The other is that you are responsible only for you and you have no duty to your neighbors or community. Those unable to sort their best interests may kill themselves with drugs, but that’s their problem. You and the rest of society have no duty or right to stop them.

Again, there is more to libertarianism than the legalization of drugs, but it makes for a useful entry point to examine their claims about a wide range of things. Their arguments about drugs can be applied to many other areas of life. That is the stock response from libertarians when they are chided about their drug obsession. Although they are extremely careful to avoid being explicit, the same arguments about drugs could be applied to speech, assembly, personal defense and so on.

Unlike most of the claims from libertarians, we now have some real-world experiments in the drug realm to test their claims. Not only have we had drug prohibition, we now have a lot of experience with legalization. We even have the unofficial decriminalization of drugs in several cities now. If the cops are told to ignore open drug use in a city, that is de fact decriminalization. Generations of claims about the drug war can now be measured against the reality of drug legalization.

The easy stuff to look at are the claims about crime. In places that have legalized marijuana, overall crime rates have not changed much. Property crime rates have not changed significantly and violent crime has actually ticked up, but that has happened in areas that did not legalize weed. In the cities that have effectively decriminalized drug use, like Seattle and Portland, crime has gone up significantly, but there are other factors at work in these cities driving the rise in crime.

There are fewer people in the court system for possession charges now, but no reasonable person doubted that claim. If we stopped arresting people for murder, the courts would see a drop in murder cases. The argument for or against legalizing drugs was never about courts of prisons. It is about the overall quality of life. If a big robust criminal justice system is what we need in order to have a high quality of life, only crazy people will complain about that trade-off. Life is nothing but trade-offs.

When you look at what has been happening in the country in total since states began to experiment with drug legalization, a pattern emerges. We have seen a sharp rise in taxes at the state level, some owing to taxes on drug sales, but also a sharp decline in the rule of law. The Western states, where marijuana legalization first started, has seen a collapse in civil order. You have massive homeless camps in Los Angeles, anarchy in Seattle and Portland. Anarcho-tyranny is the rule out west now.

Another point worth mentioning is that the states rushing to legalize drugs have also been some of the worst offenders of Covid lockdowns. California is operating under a bizarre form of martial law. Criminals and bums can run wild in the streets, but normal businesses are being shuttered over Covid. Maine has wrecked their tourist industry over Covid, despite few cases. Massachusetts is operating under a curfew. Maybe these states did not legalize weed for libertarian reasons.


It is important to underscore that the collapse of civil order in drug legalizing states is not caused by drug fiends running the streets. The bums, drug fiends, petty criminals and bourgeois revolutionaries are symptoms of a larger decline in civil order. The image that is beginning to emerge is that drug legalization efforts correspond with a collapse in the willingness of state government to maintain order. The Covid hysteria is probably just another indicator of this collapse in civil order.

There is another angle to the drug legalization claims. For generations, the image of drug legalization promoted by libertarians was that potheads would be growing weed in their backyards and drugstores would be dispensing harder drugs just as they sell products for foot fungus and allergies. If you liked smoking pot, you could grow some plants in the backyard with your artisanal lettuce. If you had a heroin addiction, your doctor would provide a prescription for safe heroin.

On the latter point we have plenty of evidence that the libertarians were completely wrong about legalizing hard drugs. The opioid crisis in America was created by those benign drug companies. The claim for generations was that business would never try to kill its customer base. It turns out that was false. The Sackler family was perfectly willing to genocide the population for a quick buck. Just imagine if they did not have to work through the legal system in order to deliver drugs to people.

We won’t have to wait to learn what would have happened. The marijuana business is well on its way to becoming the marijuana industrial complex. Companies operating what amount to government monopolies in the growing of pot are now worth billions and growing rapidly. When the business plan for billion-dollar corporations with special access to government is built on getting your kids hooked on drugs, it is not hard to predict what will happen. Let a thousand Sacklers bloom.

As with the breakdown in order where drug legalization is popular, the abuses of global capital in the drug trade are a symptom. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner is a marijuana lobbyist now. Former Speaker Paul Ryan is an off-the-books lobbyist in Washington, as he gobbles up corporate donations in preparation for a 2024 presidential run. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is Managing Director at Moelis & Company, where he lobbies for business deals.

Taken in total, what we will see from the supply side of drug legalization is the same thing we see everywhere with global capital. Instead of government regulating business, it is business regulating government. The state is always the junior partner. It is a form of post-national colonialism, where global corporations extract resources from communities with the support of local politicians. The opioid crisis was just the first wave of what is about to come in the normalization of drug taking.

There are two takeaways from the first wave of drug legalization. One is the results are nothing like what libertarians predicted. The states that are legalizing drugs are not experiencing empty prisons and courtrooms. Crime has not plummeted as the trade has moved from the streets to the strip malls. There may be fewer people in jail for marijuana possession, but that was always a false metric. Those people are now in jail for other crimes now that they cannot plead down to possession.

The other takeaway is that drug legalization is not the point of the libertarian spear, but the leading edge of anarcho-tyranny. The states rushing to legalize drugs are experiencing the most civil unrest. These state governments are not legalizing drugs because they love liberty. They are doing it because they no longer have the will or the desire to maintain order. In fact, drug legalization appears to be a traveling partner of a growing wave of illiberal authoritarianism.

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Civic Anti-Racism

In modern America, there are two things that are on display simultaneously in the realm of public debate. One is the celebration of the fact that white people and the interests of white people are in sharp decline. The other is a growing fear of white people. It is a strange combination at first glance, as this should be a time for the coalition of the ascendant to celebrate their looming hegemony. Instead, they endlessly talk about themselves, but in the context of a prophesized white backlash.

The root of this is the strange obsession with racism that has become a religion of its own over the last two decades. The anointing of Obama as the completion of the Second Founding, the event that was supposed to wash the stains of slavery, segregation and racism from America, instead ushered in an era of race panic. The Left is in a near frenzy over racism, which they now see everywhere. It is an obsession to the point where even the so-called Right is infected by it.

The recent outbreak of hysteria over white supremacists allegedly plotting a violent revolution is a good starting point. This post at Reason Magazine, after the El Paso shooting, is a good example. The libertarians used to take a pass on the race issue, preferring instead to obsess over weed and sexual deviance. They avoided it because preaching about free association regarding race would get them in trouble. Today, they are right there with Left hooting about white supremacy.

Now, libertarianism was always just a Progressive heresy, but it attracted a lot of conservatives. Operations like Reason had to pretend to be on the Right. That’s no longer the case, as actual conservatives have abandoned libertarianism for dissident politics. Perhaps they now feel free to let their guard down. The Koch Brothers have abandoned the GOP and are now backing left-wing candidates, so maybe this is part of their scheme. Still, the turn to berserk anti-racism is notable.

The so-called conservatives are not being left out of the panic. Right-wing goblin Ben Shapiro has been all over the white supremacy scare. He is working his tiny little fingers raw explaining why his grift has nothing in common with those really bad people to his Right. As is always the case with this guy, he takes the latest Progressive bogeyman and assigns it to his competition on the Right, so his motives always suspect. Even so, it feeds into the general hysteria over race.

Confidence men like Shapiro may not be the best examples, but it is clear that unhinged anti-racism is becoming a conservative principle. A rising star among conservatives is a guy calling himself Joshua Tait, a doctoral candidate at North Carolina, who is fashioning himself as a historian of conservatism. He turns up all over posting articles about various aspects of conservative intellectual history. Of course, he is an enthusiastic anti-racist and obsessed with those bad people to his Right.

That’s the remarkable thing about his writing. It is infected with a weird obsession about race that used to be cringe inducing when done on the Left. This piece reads like a panic attack over Amy Wax noticing the realities of immigration at the National Conservatism conference. This piece reads like a sobbing apology for the fact that people on the Right used to hold sensible opinions about race. The fact they have been proved correct over the last few generations goes unnoticed.

Now, to most readers, Joshua Tait is an unknown, but he is being groomed to be the next generation of so-called conservative intellectuals. Like we see with the more pedestrian stuff from Ben Shapiro, the so-called smart conservatives will be every bit as hysterical about race. The religion of anti-racism will be a core conservative value. Put another way, a rhetorical trick to rally the tribes of the Democrat coalition is quickly being turned into the organizing ethos of the new political class.

An interesting aspect of this new civic religion of anti-racism is it is mostly built on the assumption that whites, at any minute, will go bonkers and start attacking black bodies, while erecting old statues. The anti-racism of Joshua Tait is not rooted in something practical like greed, as in the case of Ben Shapiro. It’s not the product of cowardice, as you see with the Reason Magazine crowd. It’s a genuine sense that whites are a ticking time bomb that have to be monitored.

In this sense, the new anti-racism is like the old communist obsession with opponents of the revolution. With commies, the opponents of the revolution did not have to exist, but they must be made to exist. That is, if they could not find real counter-revolutionaries, they invented them. Something similar is going on with the anti-racists. They can’t find actual white supremacists, at least not in quantity, so they hunt for signs of it, like an evil spirit lurking on the fringes. The price of anti-racism is eternal vigilance.

It is tempting to think that this all about rallying the tribes of the Left, but it is probably the symptom of a different problem. What’s happening is white people are disengaging from the ruling Left. The old game of Team Blue fighting Team Red, where whites cheered for Team Red, is falling part. The cheering section of Team Red is shrinking. The over-the-top anti-racism is an effort to draw those disaffected fans of Team Red back into the game in order to maintain the old dynamic.

The problem, of course, is that Team Red has been designed to keep as little space between themselves and Team Blue as possible. They are children that can never be out of sight of their mother. As Team Blue races shrieking into the darkness of multicultural fanaticism, Team Red is racing after them. The old political arrangements, animated by hyper-anti-racism is a civic religion of the ruling class that is based on a hatred of sixty percent of the people over whom they rule.

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Lessons From the Market: Libertarians

I will often describe my politics as libertarian, but that’s just to avoid having to talk about it with people who can’t think beyond the Left-Right paradigm. For the most part, I hate libertarians. The good ones are mostly nuts. The bad one, which are most of them, suffer from the same defect as Progressives. They just refuse to accept the human condition and instead imagine a world in which humans act in ways no one has ever witnessed.

Libertarians, like liberals, tend to confine their thinking to the hot house where conditions are optimal. Unlike liberals who get to experiment on real people, libertarians have to confine themselves to thought experiments. That probably explains the obsession with legalizing weed. If you spend all of your time imagining a utopian society, drugs are a good way to break up the monotony, or at least get you pas the reality of the present.

Any political philosophy that does not start with the understanding that some portion of society is irrational, no matter how you define rational, is not getting very far. Well, it’s not going to work if you try to implement it. That’s why utopian schemes always end in a blood bath. It sounds good on paper, but the people never cooperate, so the solution is to get better people, which means getting rid of the bad people.

This is obvious when you go to the grocery store. My habit is to go on Sunday morning to pick up my provisions for the week. At 8:00 AM on Sunday the crowd is tiny and it is a quick in and out for me. Today I was a little late, showing up at 9:00 AM. We were expecting a snow storm. It is Christmastime. The parking lot was 80% full and the store was packed with people. Specifically it was packed with mothers toting children.

There were old people staggering around for no earthly reason. Then there were the families, who decide a trip to the store is a good time to share their family experience with the world. What should have been a 30 minute trip to the store took over an hour. It would have been longer, but I did not need anything from the deli so I avoided that line. I also got a little lucky when I hit the register lanes. A fresh one opened as I arrived.

Now, what does this have to to do with libertarianism? Libertarians start from the premise that, left to their own devices, people will self-organize. Yet, left to their own devices, people cannot figure out it is a bad idea to bring your kids to the grocery store. They cannot figure out that a little snow is not the end of civilization, requiring them to load up with groceries. They cannot navigate the self-checkout in an orderly fashion.

There’s no way in hell these people last a week in a world without rules and custodians to make sure they follow the rules. If they found themselves in such a world, their singular focus would be on finding people willing to setup a custodial state and make sure they are safe and protected. They may not be a majority, but they are a large enough minority to make libertarianism impossible. It is at odds with nature and the human condition.

Libertarian Stupidity

When you look around the public square, you can’t help but notice that the number of interesting and insightful people seems strikingly low. It’s like television where expanding from three channels to three hundred resulted in 297 channels of crap, in addition to the previous three channels. The democratization of the media has not opened the field to new and interesting people and ideas. Instead, it has allowed in an army of mediocrities who repeat all the same stuff everyone else says. It is a sea dull-witted conformists.

A post like this in the American Spectator is a good example. There is a worthy discussion, maybe even a debate, to had over the role of populism in a modern western society. It’s a debate we will have to have, one way or the other. Populism is not an unalloyed good. It can run amok, like we saw with Hugo Chavez, where it turned into a cult of personality that has lived on after his death. Granted, it is Venezuela and western style liberal democracy is a poor fit, but populism seems like a poor fit too.

Closer to home, the Bolsheviks are probably the quintessential populists. There movement was the literal overturning of the old hierarchical order. You can’t get any more populist than that. The Nazis were certainly appealing to populist sentiment. Granted, they were battling the Bolsheviks for popular support, but that just goes to the heart of the criticism of populism in general. When the goal is simply to win enough of the crowd to gain power, populism can easily become mob rule and then authoritarianism.

The point here is that we are about o have a long debate about populism and it would be a good idea if serious people, or at least people with serious pretensions, were capable of discussing the issue like adults. It would also help that the people writing for public consumption knew something about the subjects. For example, there is a lot of overlap between political libertarianism and populism. In both cases, there is a rejection of rule by expert and the rejection of expertise as a requirement for rule.

Even if you think the similarities between populist politics and libertarianism are incidental, the rejection of populism in that post is just crude posing. It is something that has become a common feature of so-called conservatism. It’s a cultivated sneer from people with nothing to show for themselves. What conservatism has borrowed from libertarianism is the dilettantism. They parade around as if they know everything, but they sport of record of failure that would make a Cleveland sports fan blush.

In a way though, studying modern libertarianism a good way to understand why Buckley-style conservatism was a huge flop. Their goal was to engage the Left within the constraints of the political system, designed by the Left. Before long, they turned playing by the rules into a badge of honor, despite getting whipped by the Left, who never abides by the rules. Libertarians similarity shoot themselves in the foot, but always finding someway to remain a marginal player. They take pride in being ignored.