Javi’s Ministry of Human Capital

Los perros (el perro duplicado cuatro veces) de Javi

“A love of nature keeps no factories busy.” 

Aldous Huxley, A Brave New World

December 16th 2023
And so it began, somewhat clumsily, with a lousy speech. 

Javier Milei (Javi) the former private sector economist, sex coach and singer in a rock band that did covers, began his new job as President of Argentina on December 10th. 2023. His inaugural speech was full of meaningless percentages and numbers. Milei seemed nervous, a little out of his depth. While his nerves are not unusual, President Javi lacks excuses as regards the speech making. He now has a decent job. He can afford to hire a speech-writer. As president it comes with the territory. Former President Mauricio Macri, his Machiavellian partner in power, surely offered him a loan of one of his speechwriters, but sadly, one suspects, Javi’s inaugural speech seems to have been written, primarily, by Javi himself. He’s a hands-on kinda’ guy.

Numbers are what Milei knows. Private corporate budgets are his worldview, his work experience. Profit and loss, buy and sell, basic microeconomics. Javi’s inaugural speech sounded suspiciously like an inexperienced CFO speaking to his corporate board, not a president speaking to ‘his’ people. Of course the term ‘people’ is not something in Milei’s lexicon. Milei speaks in the riddles and language of a strange economic sect called ultraliberalism. He uses terms like human resources, property, shareholders, owners of capital in the private sector, but more than anything, he speaks of markets. After Sunday’s speech one was left questioning whether Javi’s new Argentina is still a democracy? Or is this something new?

If Javi expressed a human side that Sunday it might be his canine fetish. In the short drive between the National Congress where he gave his first speech, to the presidential palace, where he gave his second, Javi got out of the car once to hug, not a voter, or a fan, but a random dog. A silversmith engraved an image of his dead dog Conan onto his presidential staff (along with the four cloned pups he lives with all named after economists from the Austrian sect) for Sunday’s event.

Milei has been a president a week now. He’s president of a State that he doesn’t not seem to believe in, a State, that he claims, fell into decadence 100 years back, a century of decadence that, somewhat predictably, ended Sunday! Why Javi picked ‘100’ remains unclear. Was Argentina’s last great president Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear? Perhaps Javi is referring to the coup d’état that ousted Hipolyto Yrigoyen leading to the dictatorship of Uriburu. Who knows? Details are not his strong point. What does come across quite clearly is that Javi doesn’t seem to like Argentina. Javi has been known to paraphrase Trump’s phrase “Shithole nations” but, unlike Trump, Javi also includes his home in the list. He’s already bought his retirement flat in Florida. The US, according to Javi (along with Israel for some random reason) are natural allies of Javi’s Argentina. Brazil and Chile, nor any of Argentina’s neighbours didn’t get a mention. Javi was snubbed by Brazilian president Lula da Silva (who refused an invite). Javi had insulted him on his campaign and he invited Bolsonaro of all people who is somewhat responsible for jailing Lula da Silva.

For Javi, the world’s first libertarian president, the Argentine State is all about money, money that moves in national and international markets, money with owners, the owners of shares in firms. Javi thinks the Argentine State must place itself explicitly at the service of private stakeholders in Argentina. Whether these shareholders are Argentine citizens matters not at all.

This week Javi’s worldview has begun to be concretely reflected in his plans to eliminate two thirds of Argentina’s State Ministries. On his second day in office (Monday the 11th.) Javi signed into effect his first presidential decree to get this process underway. Milei has plans, he’s in a hurry. Maybe he’s read the Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine which was written in Buenos Aires during Argentina’s last economic shock in 2001?

To get where he wants to go Javi plans to plod the trail of tears of his predecessor Carlos Saúl Menem. Menem was somewhat of a personal idol to Javi which is kind of surprising as he is almost universally hated in Argentina. Milei likes Domingo Cavallo who was economist to Menem and to Martínez de Hoz. It is even considered bad luck to mention Carlos Saúl’s surname.

Javi is having none of this. He even went so far as to copy Carlos Saúl’s sideburns as part of his act while on the campaign trail helping to give him the nickname la peluca (wig man). Like Carlos Saúl, Javi also plans to privatize Argentine state resources. He wants to sell off the boring stuff like hospitals, national parks, water supplies, electricity grids, roads. Dump it all, at any price, into the magical private sector and all will be well. Shrink the state pronto before the people realize what a mistake this is (yet again).

Milei has even spoken of privatizing rivers and wild whales. Anything not directly useful to international capital such as human rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights, environmental fluff like clean air or drinking water; all these must be removed, de-prioritised or reduced to a minimum under his watch. It’s close close close with Javi. It’s already begun.

Monday 11th’s “necessary and urgent” presidential decree (number 1 of many) created “The Ministry of Human Capital”. I shit you not! Sounds Orwellian, or like something Aldous Huxley might have come up with, but ministry has a new boss and is now (theoretically anyway) a new ‘reality’, they’re working on the Website anyway. As this name seemed novel this correspondent looked it up, and, it seems, none of the other 195 countries on the planet seem to have such an institution. The closest thing I could find (comments below please if you find something similar) is the Saudi Arabian Ministry for “Human Resources and Social Development”. Even Saudi Arabia, a government that still lops off the hands of children for theft and that encourages its police force to whip women in the street for not wearing a veil. Even these fine democrats considered it proper to include the word ‘social’ in the name of their workforce department. Not La Libertad Avanza!

Just last week Argentina had a plethora of ministries: A Ministry of Education, of Social Development and a Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security. Not any more. The Ministry of Human Capital integrated all of the above ministries, in a reduced form of course. Javi’s brave new ultraliberal Argentina had also foreseen incorporating the Ministry of Health into Human Resources. Why not? Surely a healthy worker is a productive worker? For some reason Javi kept health as a ministry. Maybe he’s worried about a chainsaw accident?

In ultra-liberalism there are workers and owners of property. Under Javi work must be for the private sector, for the owners of capital, to generate profit. From this alt-democratic viewpoint Argentine citizens are, quite literally, human capital. Working for the state or for the common good is certainly not encouraged. Why care about the environment? Who cares about parks? Why care about your neighbours? Why drive an ambulance or a fire brigade? Bad idea! Inefficient. Forget it!

Javi plans to sell Argentina’s crown jewels again as did his idol Menem in the 1990’s. These state owned resources, the water company etc… exist now because previous generations of Argentinians worked and paid taxes to make them happen. Why privatize them if this didn’t work the last time. Why tell the Argentine people that privatization works if the model nations for your economic plans (like Ireland that Javi keeps going on about) don’t do that. Surely the mess left after Menem, in 2001, shows that privatization was a disaster? How is one to create a private market in sewage for example? The privatization of the electricity system in Argentina resulted in zero choice for customers.

When Menem did this he did it because the IMF told him to do so, pure neoliberal doctrine and maybe also more than a little corruption, the payouts to politicians were in the many millions of dollars? Javi argues that anything else smells like “Socialism” that hated word that Javi likes to spit out as he scrunches up his nasty little face in TV interviews in paranoid anguish (which is, apparently anyway, somewhat real). State resources, formerly dedicated to people, must now be eliminated. National anything is inefficient even roads or parks or sewage pipes. No more department of the environment, no more institutions to protect human rights. All such niceties are superfluous extras to Javi, a man that ends all of his speeches literally screaming three times “Long live liberty, FFS!” ( ¡Viva la libertad, Carajo! ) like some demonic three year old with a temper.

Liberty, liberty, liberty?

Where’s the liberty in this? The liberty to work for others while everything is owned by capital? At first glance Javi’s liberty seems to be a contradiction in terms but dig deeper and it all makes sense. Javi’s not referring to human freedom, sorry the liberty of human capital, he’s referring to the liberty of capital, Carajo!

Javi also plans some god-fearing zeal in eliminating taxes! Yes he wants less of those same taxes that paid 80% of the costs of his election campaign, that pay his salary, that fix the sewage pipes and build the road and rail networks and educated the children of the poor in Argentina. Milei believes taxation is thieving from the pockets of the rich, from the great and the good, in Spanish from the “gente de bien” or rather the ‘gente de bienes’, the propertied classes, the real owners of Argentina, the real casta. 

In Milei’s Brave New Argentina, companies need resources and the state is there to give companies what they need: electricity, raw materials and, of course those people, sorry, “human resources” thingies. Labour must be sold at market rates; none of that minimum wage nonsense! Poverty is intrinsic in capitalism. Social services (plans as they are called here in Argentina) are anti-capitalist, according to Milei. While some of these plans might keep children from starving or put a roof over their heads, for Javi they still must be eliminated because they take away the incentive of the really poor to work for very low wages.

Javi sees this as the new rôle in this minimalist Argentine State via “The Ministry of Human Capital” as the preparation of the population for these private tasks, via education (paid, private and vocational education) so that our skills will meet the needs of capital. At least, one suspects, until artificial intelligence makes human capital redundant. What will he do then with all that excess population?

Argentina’s brave new labour market will be ready to maximize profits. Don’t look foranything more. Javi’s unique anarchocapitalist model of libertarianism does not allow for luxuries such as religion, art or even time off. Forget climate mitigation or saving biodiversity or even national parks. Get real! Milei put it very simply in his speech from the president’s palace: “There’s no money!”

“¡No hay plata!”

This is the second transformation of the Argentine state in recent times. There was a before Menem, an after Menem and there will be an after Milei. Before Menem some aspects of the Argentine state were tasked with meeting the needs of it’s people, as citizens with choices in their lives, with social security, labour rights, and state ownership of natural monopolies and other services (water, health, energy -electricity (especially hydroelectricity) oil & gas-, communications -telephone national TV & Radio- and the National Airline). Then came Menem and he privatized all of this in an orgy of corruption.

Over the last few decades the Argentine people have gone back and forth on neoliberalism (the water company and the national airline and parts of YPF, the national oil company, were taken back under state control during the Kichner governments. Over time, with neoliberalism, Argentinians became used to being consumers, customers, actors in someone else’s economy. They bought the things they needed from the private sector which, of course, gradually became increasingly owned by international capital. There were alternatives from the co-ops but the co-operative sector didn’t vote for Javi.

Milei has begun to take this to a new level under ultraliberalism. Argentinians will not be citizens, nor consumers, but will now be, quite literally, human resources (at the service of the private sector). The Argentine people are a product, to be produced by The Ministry for Human Resources, for the consumption of capital! All relations in Javi’s dystopic Argentina will be mediated by firms in markets. All who live there will be cogs in a vast sea of moving money (not their money of course), the market’s money, moved by their owners. Human lives will become human resources, privatized human relations.

May God save their souls!
Oh wait! Does Human Capital have a soul?
Or cloned dogs for that matter?

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