In Stephen King's 1979 novel The Dead Zone an unlikely figure rises to political prominence.

Greg Stillson is treated as a joke at first, charging around at rallies wearing a hard hat, promising to fire pollution into outer space and throwing hot dogs to the crowd because "when you put Greg Stillson in the House of Representatives, you gonna say HOT DOG! SOMEONE GIVES A RIP AT LAST!".

The novel's protagonist, Johnny Smith, is perturbed by the businessman-turned-politician but is told by another character: "He’s a clown, so what? Maybe people need a little comic relief from time to time... people want a giggle or two. Even more, they want to thumb their noses at a political establishment that doesn’t seem able to solve anything. Stillson’s harmless.”

As one might expect from the Master of Horror, the man in the hard hat is anything but harmless but what to make of a similar figure, very much real, in Argentina.

Javier Milei took to wielding a chainsaw at rallies - to show how he intends to shred the bloated state - has a haircut like a mix between Elvis Presley and Wolverine and was nicknamed 'El Loco' (the madman) as a younger man, when he also sang in a Rolling Stones cover band named Everest.

In November he took victory in Argentina's presidential election, and much like Johnny Smith, no-one's laughing now.

Saving Argentina

The Herald: Presidential candidate Javier Milei, right, celebrates with his sister Karina Milei (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

Mr Milei traces his personal origin story back to the football fields of his youth at the Colegio Cardenal Copello in Buenos Aires.

Though he dreamed of being a goalkeeper there was, the selection criteria were "accommodation and cronyism" rather than talent and the young man instead joined the youth side of his grandfather's team, Chacarita.

Though he played at every youth level from 13 up he never made a first team appearance, though Mr Milei did spend an extended spell in hospital after breaking his jaw in a first team friendly match and was once on the opposite side to Diego Simeone in a youth fixture.

While he never made it as a goalkeeper he did achieve another childhood dream - attaining a degree in economics.

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Mr Milei claims to have decided aged 12 to become an economist, but his damascene conversion came during the tumultuous year of 1989, during the dog days of the presidency of Raul Alfonsin while on a shopping trip with his mother.

Food shortages combined with rampant hyper-inflation sparked riots in Rosario which quickly spread to the rest of the country.

Mr Milei told El Cronista that, standing in the supermarket, he said: "Girls passing by with some kind of guns. They were label guns.

"I thought it was terrible that even as prices rose in front of their eyes, people were throwing themselves on the produce. Prices were rising and so was demand!

"I realised that either I'm an asshole or the books are all wrong, so I stopped playing football and dedicated myself to studying.

"I became fanatical, almost pathologically so, about economics."

From that point on Mr Milei was an anarcho-capitalist libertarian.

The long and winding Rand

The Herald: Newly elected President of Argentina Javier Milei of La Libertad Avanza

Anarcho-capitalism is an economic theory in which all state regulation - and indeed the state itself - is abolished, with property rights enforced by private agencies. Quite how two parties would decide, for example, which of their private court agencies had supremacy under the law is never quite explained.

The theory follows from the philosophical theory of objectivism put forth by Ayn Rand. If Marxism holds that communal ownership of the means of production and shared fulfilment of society's needs is the highest form of society then Rand's is its opposite.

She declared that man's own happiness should be the moral purpose of his life, and that self-interest is a virtue.

While she may not have had much in common with Karl Marx politically, she shared his penchant for a weighty and difficult tome. Her fiction novel, Atlas Shrugged, about a dystopian future in which business leaders abandon their companies runs to 1,168 pages and, according to one contemporary review is filled with "remorseless hectoring and prolixity".

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Its philosophy has nonetheless been seized upon by large sections of the American right - Ron Paul and son Rand chief among them - and, by Mr Milei.

Having worked in economics after leaving university, he first began to make political waves in 2010 for the aggressive, occasionally foul-mouthed, manner in which he would debate opponents.

Mr Milei has described the University of Buenos Aires as "a Marxist indoctrination centre", dubbed a female journalist a "donkey" and often pontificated on air about the joys of tantric sex.

With inflation frequently running close to or above 50% the soil was ripe for his populist charms, and Mr Milei was elected to congress in 2021 for his Libertad Avanza (Freedom Advances) party.

Two years later he was elected leader of the country.

Slash and burn

The Herald: The people of Argentina voting for Javier Milei as their new president is a sign that we need to

Faced with rampant inflation and endemic corruption, Argentina has bucked the trend of Latin American countries looking to the left for deliverance.

Mr Milei has declared he'll abolish the country's central bank, turn the economy to the US dollar, slash social spending, privatise state companies such as oil giant YPF and scrap all rent regulation. There is also a proposal to make it legal to sell human organs.

In his victory speech the president-elect declared: "There will be no gradualism, there is no room for lukewarmness, there is no room for half measures.

"If we do not move forward quickly with the structural changes that Argentina needs, we are heading straight for the worst crisis in our history.”

His reforms would mark the biggest economic shift to the right since Augusto Pinochet deposed Salvador Allende as president of Chile - with a little help from the late Henry Kissinger.

While Pinochet's reforms did produce high economic growth, inequality went through the roof and political opponents went out of helicopters under a military dictatorship.

Mr Milei is hardly inheriting a stable testing ground for his radical ideas either.

Argentina has a year-on-year inflation rate of 143% and a debt of $44bn with the IMF, a body which has intervened in its economy 22 times since 1958, and the president-elect's victory could lead to hyper-inflation before he even takes office if markets bet against the peso.

Some of his more outlandish ideas also look unlikely to be passed, as while his personal mandate is strong his party is weak.

Libertad Avanza has just 38 of the 257 seats in congress and seven of the 72 senators, while any attempt to diminish or even abolish trade unions is likely to see mass protests across the country.

Former UK Prime Minister and future Pointless answer Liz Truss can attest to how quickly a premiership can go down the tubes if the markets are spooked, and Mr Milei is already making more cautious noises about his dollarisation plan.

At the conclusion of The Dead Zone, Stillson's political career is annihilated in an instant when, attempting to avoid a shooter, he cowers behind a child as a makeshift human shield.

Argentina's goalkeeper-turned-president will need a stronger defence in front of him if he's to achieve his grand ambitions.