Posts by James A. Montanye
James A. Montanye is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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...
Read More »

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...
Read More »

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...
Read More »

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...
Read More »

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.

Chief Justice John Roberts Channels Oliver Wendell Holmes, Not Owen Roberts


Conservatives like to have their constitutional argument both ways—to argue on one hand that the Supreme Court is obliged to defend against legislative folly and administrative overreach, and on the other hand to argue that the Court is obliged to uphold the Constitution’s letter and spirit. They often ignore, however, that Article III actually...
Read More »

“Tax Expenditures”: Old Vinegar Rebottled


The late management guru Peter Drucker noted decades ago that the notion of tax “loopholes” implies that government is the primary claimant to the entirety of its citizens’ income. The government’s claim is rendered less than absolute in practice only by glitches (intended or otherwise) in the tax code. Enter now, stage left, the...
Read More »

  • Catalyst
  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org