Build the Fatherland. Kill a student.
Pro-Perón graffiti on buildings in Buenos Aires, circa 1952
‘I’m not superstitious.’
The answer showed such charming insouciance and in-your-face bravado that it might have come from the mouth of America’s president-elect.
Instead, it was the reply given by former Argentine President Juan Domingo Perón — another in the ‘Great Man’ tradition of national leaders — after the 59-year-old was asked about his relationship with a 14-year-old.
The girl in question — obviously underage — had been invited to the Casa Rosada, Argentina’s equivalent of the White House, to take care of dogs.
The dogs Perón had inherited from his dead wife, Eva. The girl, Nelly Rivas, he got on his own.
The affair went on for several years, until Perón was finally overthrown by a military-Catholic coup d’état. He fled up the Río de la Plata on a Paraguayan gunboat, leaving Nelly behind.
Backstops and bailouts
Today, we’re looking at Perón as a model for a Trump presidency. But before we return to politics, we will mention that this is a big day for us.
For a full 10 years — from 1998 to 2008 — scarcely a day went by that we didn’t mock, belittle, or criticise former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.
‘Bubbles,’ we called him. Or ‘the most famous public servant since Pontius Pilate’.
It was not just that Greenspan was wrecking the economy with backstops, bailouts, and EZ money. Our disappointment went deeper than that: Alan Greenspan should have known better.
He was married to a member of the Collective, a libertarian group in New York. Ayn Rand herself said, when Greenspan went to join President Ford’s Council of Economic Advisers, that she now had her ‘man in Washington’.
And back in 1966, Greenspan had written a famous essay, Gold and Economic Freedom, in which it was clear he understood the need for money with integrity.
Unlike Bernanke and Yellen, who have never shown any interest in how real economies work, Greenspan has a curious mind and enough intellectual independence to see through the cherished delusions of modern economics.
But when push came to shove, he shoved his free-market principles into a convenient drawer and did what he had to do to retain his power, influence, and status in the inner circles of the Deep State.
In a few minutes, we’ll ask the key question: Was it really worth it?
For now, let’s return to our role model for Donald Trump: Juan Perón, the man who gave Argentina ‘Peronismo’.
‘Trumpismo’ is what we expect for the next four, maybe eight, years here in the US. It is a style of government that is not necessarily bad or good. But it is different. It is personality-driven and idiosyncratic.
It’s what happens when a strong leader, with no traditional party loyalties or ideological convictions, takes charge.
If he is smart — and lucky — he becomes the hero of the nation’s story. Later, he becomes its enemy.
Juan Perón was an army officer who had the good fortune — in the 1930s — to be sent to Europe to study two apparently successful new political models — one in Mussolini’s Italy, the other in Hitler’s Germany.
He was impressed. Fascism, he explained in letters he sent home, managed to bring the working classes and the nation together, unified behind a strong head of state.
Three times Perón won Argentina’s presidential election. He did so by appealing to the urban masses, providing meager benefits to his ‘low-information’ supporters…and rich plums to his well-informed insider associates.
He was neither conservative nor liberal, but instead held a middle ground by force of personality, lavish infrastructure and military spending, and adroit political maneuvering.
It was said to be a ‘third way’ between communism and capitalism. Perón took many of the worst features of both systems — crony deals and zombie handouts — and combined them into a dysfunctional, wealth-destroying, civil-liberty-undermining government.
After the Second World War, Perón gave 10,000 passports to Nazis on the run.
Some were called on for advice on how to run a modern secret police. Others brought new technology and set up factories.
But Perón still relied on the mobs when there was dirty work to do. They attacked leftist students and socialists when it suited him. They ransacked churches, too — including the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral — after Perón was excommunicated.
And when ‘terrorist’ bombs went off in Buenos Aires (no one ever found out who did it or why), Perón turned the mobs loose against the old, conservative, land-owning elite at the Jockey Club (which they burned down) the following day.
But the more he threw his weight around, the more enemies Perón made. Finally, there were too many of them. The church and the army struck back in 1955 in a bloody golpe de estado.
Perón fled to Venezuela and then Spain, where he continued to try to keep his hand in Argentine politics without offending his host, Spain’s military dictator Francisco Franco.
In 1973, Perón returned home and was elected for a third term, with his third wife, Isabel, as his running mate.
But he died a year later. And then ‘keeping his hand in’ got to be a joke.
After he was buried in the Chacarita cemetery in Buenos Aires, grave robbers dug up the body, cut off his hands, and offered them for ransom.
The crime was never solved.
For Markets and Money, Australia