Posts by James A. Montanye
James A. Montanye is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
Bobby Kennedy, Joe Biden, and the Fallacy of Shaw’s Serpent


The progressive U.S. Senator and presidential aspirant Robert (“Bobby”) Kennedy campaigned successfully during the 1960s on the strength of a line pinched from the playwright George Bernard Shaw (Back to Methuselah, 1921): “You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’” These hypnotic words...
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Progressivism’s Life Cycles


Political and social experiments come and go like the seasons. Grand ideas for perfecting humanity flare, run their course, and then pass away, leaving behind only their smiles, wreckage, unpaid bills, and national catharses. Glorious summers of impossible, something-for-nothing progressive promises are followed by discontented winters of squandered opportunities for restoring eternal, classical-liberal values....
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No-Ho-Ho: The Economics of Holiday Gift Giving


With holiday gift shopping in season and the COVID-19 pandemic rampant, consider the relative merits of giving cash instead of presents. A study of gift giving found that recipients undervalue presents by as much as 30 percent of the purchase price. Givers, by contrast, implicitly value them more or less fully ex ante; otherwise...
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Free Will: Getting the Economics Right


The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein [Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921; Philosophical Investigations, 1953] famously argued for the analytical necessity of “getting the grammar right.” By his lights, the inadequacy of language for representing ethical, aesthetic, and metaphysical concepts unavoidably creates philosophical pseudo-problems; genuine problems were said to be scientific rather than philosophical. Philosophy’s task, therefore, is to...
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Where There’s a Will There’s a Won’t: A COVID-Related Tale of Bureaucracy


A tax-funded county library system, upon which I rely for research materials and Internet access, closed abruptly last March in response to developing COVID concerns. Its shutdown was announced a day after a managing branch librarian assured patrons that the system was scheduled to remain open. The system’s brain trust had decided instead that...
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Will the Push for Social Equality Undermine Social Harmony?


Politicians, political theorists, economists, and sundry social critics have offered critical comments regarding America’s present state of disharmony. A recent book by Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), Them: Why We Hate Each Other—and How To Heal, captures these critics’ apocalyptic tone. He writes: “Why are we so angry?”; “We are in crisis”; “Something is really...
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Altruism, Generosity, and Selfishness in the Age of Bernie


Senator, and presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders’ enticing blend of progressivism (which claims reason and science as justification) and socialism (which is skeptical of both) gives cause to inquire into the foundations of his redistributive political mindset.
American Democracy as a Fundamentalist Religion


As America remains girded against religious fundamentalism in Iran and elsewhere around the world, consider that American democracy itself constitutes a fundamentalist religion.
Faction: The Underlying Cause of Anger and Hatred in America


Efforts by America’s founders to control factions in perpetuity, via both direct and spontaneous means, appear to be failing.
The Blindness of Social Wealth


Contrary to popular thought, modern social media actually fill the increasing void created by prosperity.
  • Catalyst
  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org