Flat White

A Latin-American libertarian speaks

9 May 2019

4:31 PM

9 May 2019

4:31 PM

Her speech is direct and precise. Gloria Alvarez says what she thinks, and does not seem to be afraid of being ‘politically incorrect’ when talking about the most diverse issues, no matter how controversial they may be. At the age of 34, the Guatemalan political scientist and writer is considered to be one of the most influential voices in Latin American politics, and for the pleasure or displeasure of both fans and opponents, she does not intend to appear moderate when it comes to defending her convictions.

Her libertarian and anti-populist discourse brought her to international fame in 2014 thanks to the power of social media. Today, Alvarez has published two books and lectured in dozens of countries, deconstructing ideologies and presenting to thousands of people the principles she considers fundamental to build a freer and more prosperous future for Latin America. I had the chance to speak to her at the Fórum da Liberdade, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil last month.

To date, you have published two books: El Engaño Populista (The Populist Deception, in English), co-written with Axel Kaiser and published in 2016; and Cómo Hablar con un Progre (How to Talk to a Progressive), in 2017. You are currently working on the publication of a new book entitled Cómo Hablar con un Conservador (How to Talk to a Conservative). Tell me a little about your new work.

I felt the strong need to defend libertarianism as it is already defended in the Anglo-Saxon world, where the difference between libertarianism and conservatism is very clear, but not in Latin America. In Latin America there are many conservative ‘wolves’ disguised as libertarian ‘sheep’, and I believe that one of the great mistakes of the libertarians in the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first was always to make politics with the conservative mercantilist right, because the right wing uses our slogans, they talk about lowering taxes, opening the market, but when it comes to governing they always continue imposing more state mercantilism. In other words, this famous “crony capitalism,” which was the one that ruled in the nineteen-nineties in Latin America, and which led people to exhaustion, pushing them into the hands of socialist dictators. So I believe it is quite necessary to differentiate between conservatism and libertarianism, and that is why I make this book.

Then, how to talk to a conservative?

It’s a different challenge than to talk with a progressive, because with progressives I laughed at their incongruities; the ‘communists with iPhones’, for example (laughs). But with the conservative one is debating about things they actually take as dogmatic shrines. So I started by analysing history, I analysed several works by authors like Edmund Burke, the father of conservatism, and I talk in my book about how the enemies of liberals were the conservatives long before socialism. When the industrial revolutions began, which left religion behind, the conservatives wanted to continue to maintain old dogmas such as monarchy and slavery, ideas that were totally opposed to those of the classical liberals of the time, who supported progress and individual freedom. In my book, I say that conserving is right, yes, but that we must conserve what makes us better as a society. And what makes us better? Freedom.

I talk about preserving sexual freedom, not just the one they [the conservatives] think is right. I also talk about preserving the family, but including all kinds of families that have always existed, because families have not only been ‘father, mother and children’, families have also been ‘single mother and children’, ‘grandparents caring for grandchildren’, ‘uncles caring for nephews’, etc. In other words, the family is a very diverse unit. I also speak of preserving the free market, but even those “uncomfortable” markets, such as the prostitution and drug markets.

I try to say with this book that if we conserve something, let us preserve freedom, not the dogmas that certain sectors of society consider correct, because in fact, the cultural battle will not be won by the conservatives, young people will not be more religious, nor more classist, nor more racist, nor more sexist, then, between this conservative rancid discourse or cultural Marxism, young people will stay with cultural Marxism, and if the libertarians are not separated from the conservatives, socialism will continue to be ‘welcome’ by many.

You consider yourself a libertarian.

Totally.

Why?

Because it is the philosophy that defends individual freedom and economic freedom as a whole.

I suppose that you must encounter a lot of opposition to the ideas that you advocate, both on one side of the political spectrum and on the other. Are you not afraid to defend what you think in a region so violent and so dominated by what you criticise?

I’ve already lost that fear. When someone is at least a little known, their best bodyguards are the social media, the more one talks about where they are and what they are doing and the more people know you, the harder it is to be killed. This is something I learned from Cuban dissidents. If I were only known in my country, Guatemala, I would probably be afraid. And to deal also with so much attack on social media I rely very much on my family and friends. By the way, I’m also aware that both blind fans and haters of the internet are not the reflection of who I am, I cannot let myself be guided by praise or insults, one always has to be in search of the thoughtful people.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Yes, but feminist under the terms of classical liberalism.

What is your opinion of the current global feminist movement?

Feminism today is part of another flag that Marxism has assumed, and this is a problem, because it no longer seeks the equality of people before the law, it seeks the resentment of women against men, as even Marxism seeks the fight between classes.

Many self-proclaimed feminist women argue that the movement struggles to end a supposedly oppressive patriarchal system. Do you believe that there is a patriarchy?

I believe that over the centuries there has been a culture focused on men having priority in society, that is obvious, because a few decades ago women couldn’t vote, could not have private property, could not even work, and that was largely the responsibility of the dogmatic role of certain religions.

I believe that the best way to tackle these issues is as the Spanish classical liberal writer Maria Blanco does. She expresses in her works that, for example, the feminism of the first wave is fully compatible with liberalism, because she sought for women to have property, the right to vote and equality before the law, that a woman can have the self-determination to be so much a prostitute as a nun if she always wants to be a nun who does not violate the individual rights of others, and that the feminism of the third wave is too influenced by Marxism, so it would not lead us to anything.

I believe that libertarians should talk about these things, conservatives refuse to do so, they say that talking about feminism is equal to supporting cultural Marxism, but no, I believe that if young people have access to books by authors like Maria Blanco before a Marxist pamphlet, they would not end up supporting radical ideologies.

You are officially a candidate in Guatemala’s presidential elections, which will begin in June of this year. Tell me a little about your candidacy.

My candidacy is the most ‘ecological’ that has existed in my country, and perhaps in Latin America. It consists only of a video with my proposals, five of which are non-negotiable, because they are economic issues, such as a fixed tax rate, decentralization of the national budget for the independent States to own their income, the elimination of 14 ministries to left only four, the elimination of 15 secretariats, and the dedication of the 50 per cent of the general budget of the nation to security and justice. And another ten proposals from which citizens can choose five, such as the dismantling of adoption, legalization of white and void voting, marijuana, cocaine, prostitution, abortion, homosexual marriage, homoparental adoption, the voluntary sale of organs, and euthanasia. Then these proposals together would make my government plan. This is something that neither the left nor the right in Guatemala has ever proposed.

Under Guatemalan law, this candidacy for the presidency could be invalidated because Guatemala’s constitution requires candidates to be at least 40 years old and have a political party in order to run. What is your opinion on this?

That’s right. The constitution of my country, which is my age because it was created in 1985 says so, and I am neither 40 nor affiliated to any political party in my country.

Is your candidacy then a message to the Guatemalan status quo?

Yes, it is a message to question why we follow meaningless laws that have no scientific or logical basis. Why 40 years? Why not 80, or 75, or 65, or 34? Why not allow an independent nomination? That’s the question I want to bring to the public debate in my country.

With the elections in recent years, the Latin American politic has begun to turn 180 degrees. In several countries where governments more aligned with the left have enjoyed power for decades, progressive movements have now lost popular support and, as a result, right-wing governments have been elected across the continent, as was the case in Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica, for example. What do you think is the reason for this phenomenon?

It is a phenomenon that perhaps we could analyse as a social exhaustion produced by these progressive governments for decades. It is something very similar to what has happened in the region since the second half of the last century, it is a new cycle where people get tired of the governments of recent years because of corruption, or state mercantilism, or public policies that went wrong. This happens over and over again in Latin America, where we sadly cannot get out of a cycle between socialist governments and conservative right-wing mercantilist governments.

Do you think that now, with more right-wing governments in the region, the so-called project of the ‘Socialism of the Twenty-First Century’ could end up disappearing completely from politics in the coming years?

No. Hardly. In the upcoming years it is very likely that there will continue to be movements and governments willing to try socialism in the region, for now the focus of the new Latin American left is now on Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López-Obrador.

You talk in your books about defending individual rights. What is your opinion on the possession and carrying of firearms by civilians?

I believe that firearms are an important part of the right to defend life and private property, because when the government takes away the weapons of the citizens, ordinary people are not in a position to defend themselves against a possible dictatorship. If the issue of weapons is so worrying for many, people should realise that it is government that have the worst weapons, thousands of weapons of mass destruction paid for with citizens’ taxes. If people do not have the right to have weapons, they would certainly not be able to defend their fundamental rights, such as life, freedom and property.

Today, drug trafficking is one of the most serious problems in Latin America. But over the past few decades, both progressive and right-wing governments have found it extremely difficult to find effective ways to stop drug trafficking and all the consequences it leaves for communities. What public policies do you think could be more effective in addressing this problem?

Liberalize the drug market. The war on drugs has not been effective in recent decades. The reality is that the consumption of these products will not disappear with state violence. As long as it remains forbidden for ordinary citizens to create a regulated market for these substances, criminals will continue to take advantage of the high prices produced by high demand, the corruption of state power and violence to continue generating money through trafficking.

For many years you have been one of the most critical voices of populism in the region. For you, what is populism?

To offer things that have no historical or economic logic.

How can we identify populist politicians?

When you see political and social victimism, the use of democracy to end it, the differentiation between ‘the people’ and ‘the elites’, the predominance of emotional arguments over rational ones on economic and cultural issues; these are some of the characteristics that we can find in many populist politicians on both the left and right.

Which do you think is the vaccine against populism?

Each person should take care of his or her own life and stop believing that a government can have the solution to all his or her problems, and thus each person should take responsibility for his or her own individual actions in the same way.

Jorge C Carrasco is a Cuban journalist and writer whose work has appeared in The Western Journal, Washington Examiner, Quillette, The Foundation for Economic Education and CapX.

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