Sometimes these categories blurred a bit. For instance, I'm sure Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame is smarter than I am, and has the credentials to prove it. On the other hand, on the rare occasions I read the Freakonomics blog I find the exact sort of simpleminded market reductionism I used to hear from the cheeto-stained fingers of dorky computer geek libertarians. So. Also, this classification doesn't seem very useful to other people, who may rank above or below me in the smartness scale.
So I have a new dichotomization: there are the libertarians who actually seem interested in liberty, and those who seem more interested in something else. I'm not sure what that something else is, but it seems to lead them directly from libertarianism to being a Bush cheerleader, despite the manifest unlibertarianism of the current regime, or to something altogether more surprising, namely a fondness for unabashed authoritarianism in its theoretical form.
In blogland, the first category is represented by people like Jim Henley of Unqualifed Offerings and Radley Balko. These gentlemen are concerned with fighting for freedom in the current political reality, which means generally in opposition to the Bush regime. They might well be card-carrying ACLU members despite that organization's leftist tint.
On the other hand, we have people like the odious Glenn Reynolds, most prominent political blogger around, a self-described libertarian and in actuality a cheerleader for whatever moronic, dangerous, or illegal act the Bushies are up to. We also have Mencius Moldbug, who has thoughtso far beyond the usual libertarian platitudes that he's arrived at some mix of monarchism, colonialism, and the sort of quasi-capitalist authoritarianism practiced in Singapore and China, two nations which win his approval. We've also got a free-marketeer economics prof (not sure if he's actually a libertarian, but close enough) who blandly advocates for torture as a cost-effective means of punishment. The dean of loud-mouthed stupid libertarians has been an equally loud-mouthed supporter of the criminal and criminally stupid invasion of Iraq. Apparently libertarianism is perfectly compatible with imperialism:
Witness the fact that I, a radical libertarian anarchist for more than twenty years, find myself arguing for a position not all that easy to distinguish from reactionary military expansionism.Uh-huh. Raymond blusters over his contradictions, whereas Moldbug at least seizes the bull by the horns and honestly embraces authoritarianism.
I am, or used to be, interested in the psychology of libertarianism. It seemed to be a deeply geeky ideology, fueled by a desire to replace the complex and scary real world with a simple distributed algorithm. From that perspective, a slide from libertarianism to authoritarianism makes sense, because a strong authority is another way of making the complex conflicts of the real world go away.
[Update: oddly enough, this posting has been linked to by one of its victims, resulting in an influx of readers far past the usual single digits. If I knew that would happen, I probably would have written it more carefully. In particular, a lot of people I label "libertarians" wouldn't call themselves that. But they are market-oriented thinkers, which puts them in roughly the same basket as far as I'm concerned.]