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I tried reaching out to someone who disagrees with me politically.

Posted by on March 18, 2011

I wrote about the situation at the Cranky Yellow in a blog post at work:


Then I noticed a supporter of Cranky Yellow on facebook saying mean things about the Show-Me Institute, so I sent a facebook message. The following ensued.


Josh Smith March 18 at 8:30am


My name is Josh Smith and I’m a research assistant at the Show-Me Institute. I wrote the blog post on showmedaily about cranky yellow and I followed some of where that post went after that. I noticed Cranky Dave posted it to his personal FB wall, and that you commented some. I know that in any policy discussion there will be different viewpoints, and I recognize that as a sign of a healthy democracy. I was bothered when I saw that you said “Also; their so-called “research” is tremendously biased. I’ve called them up before to complain about their improper use of statistical analysis and data comparison.”


I know that many think of our research as biased because it contains policy proscriptions that are contentious, that’s fine. We often ask people who disagree with us to point to similarly academically rigorous research with contrary findings. If you have anything specific that you would like us to look at, I would be very interested in an email from you ( or I was really troubled when I read that you have called to complain about our “improper use of statistical analysis”. When did this happen? I never heard about a phone call or a significant problem with any particular paper. We’re a pretty small shop and committed to quality and integrity and if there is a problem with any of our research pieces, I would hope that the author would be interested in correcting it as soon as possible, and I know that as an organization we would want to publish a correction if we have made any factual errors. I hope that you will respond with any thoughts or criticisms that you may have about our research or our organization. Thank you!



[name removed to protect the innocent]March 18 at 4:13pm

The anti-Earnings Tax studies in which you people stated that cities without an Earnings Tax were doing better economically were outright erroneous. Using those figures as evidence that the Earnings Tax holds cities back is unabashedly biased and unethical. No objective researcher would draw a conclusion from such data. It was a weak argument, an argument that is insultingly weak considering what’s at stake for our city.


There is no evidence to suggest that cities with Earnings Taxes are being held back while those without are doing better because they don’t have them. There are cities that are doing better than our city and they happen to not have Earnings Taxes; there are cities that are doing far worse and they also happen to not have Earnings Taxes.


Research can be wrong. Researchers can make mistakes. However; you are not real researchers. You are a lobbyist group, a think-tank. You people are paid shills for wealthy, ideological interests.


You should be absolutely ashamed, Josh. You are harming my city; your own city, and you’re getting paid to do it. I find that disgusting. I find your institution’s lack of intellectual honesty disgusting.


Being wrong is one thing; being wrong on purpose is another, being wrong on purpose and making a living off of it is abominable.



Josh Smith March 18 at 5:28pm

I am not sure which study related to the earnings tax you are referring to, but I assume you mean our first policy study by Dr. Joseph Haslag ( Your inference is very different from his conclusion, however. Dr. Haslag found that an earnings tax was correlated with higher income in outlying areas, suggesting that the earnings tax in St. Louis discourages people and businesses from locating in the city proper and pushes them to nearby places, like St. Louis County and St. Charles County. You used the word erroneous. Is there a particular fact that is mistaken or piece of data that is incorrect? Please let me know if you can point to something specific, because we will definitely correct whatever is wrong.


You are correct: There are many factors that lead some cities to succeed and others to stagnate or decline. I don’t think anyone at the Show-Me Institute has ever maintained that eliminating the earnings tax is a “silver bullet” solution that will suddenly turn everything around. We do contend, however, that keeping the earnings tax is a marginal cost that encourages people and businesses to locate outside the city limits. This correlation holds across multiple cities, controlling for other characteristics.


Referring to the staff and scholars at the Show-Me Institute as “not real researchers” isn’t even an ad-hominem, it’s just mean. Let’s both avoid name-calling, please. We are not a lobbyist group. We are an educational and research organization. We’re a 501(c)(3) and all of our full-time staff believe strongly that the policies they advocate will benefit the bulk of the citizens of Missouri. (I would say that they benefit all of Missouri, but when we oppose things like tax credits, it’s obvious that at least one party stands to lose in the short term: whoever was going to get the tax credit.)


I will not be ashamed for standing up for what I believe to be right, and I won’t ask you to feel ashamed for anything that you believe, although we disagree. You suggest that our institution is characterized by a lack of intellectual honesty, and there is a consistent thread in your reply that we are ignoring obvious truths. Have you read any of our policy papers? Indeed, do you have any specific reasons to disagree with us other than gut feeling and personal distaste? You use terms like “disgusting” and “abominable,” but you won’t find such vitriol in our policy papers, I assure you. I was hoping for a rational dialogue; I really expected you to be more civil than this.


As for being wrong on purpose, I never accused you of having ulterior motives just because you disagree with me, and rest assured that I would argue for the elimination of the earnings tax no matter my occupation, whether I continue working for the Show-Me Institute, or return to my college job of driving a cab. I am sincerely interested in any substantive criticism that you may have regarding our work.


Just as I know that the people I hang out with outside this office largely agree with everything the Show-Me Institute does, I assume that most of your friends disagree with us. If you can’t point to any specific flaws or contrary academic research, please share my request with anyone you care to: Where, specifically, are our facts or analysis wrong?



[name removed to protect the innocent]March 18 at 6:15pm

You are messaging me on my personal Facebook page. Get over it. I don’t know you, I didn’t ask to be messaged by a stranger who didn’t like what I had to say about his worthless work.


I have no respect for you, your institution, nor do I wish to pretend to. You have no positive affect on my life. You are not my friend. You are not a friend of my community. I do not have to be polite nor does my rudeness make my opinion incorrect; just as your faux politeness does not make you magically correct.


All you want to do is convince me that you’re right; all you want to do is convince me that your institution is legitimate. You and your kind do not know how to have a real discussion nor a real debate. I am not going to condescend to debate with a paid propagandist. I am not going to respect someone who, point-blank, lies to me.


You are blocked. I hope I never have to come so close to slime again.



So there you have it! I have now been blocked by three different people on facebook. Does anybody that I am currently facebook friends with think that this would ever have happened if my interactions with these people had been all irl?


19 Responses to I tried reaching out to someone who disagrees with me politically.

  1. John W. Payne

    Blog this at Show-Me Daily.

  2. Kyle Walton

    I can’t hear you, lalalalala

  3. Timothy Ian Hely

    While the un-named party did seem to come off pretty angry, I think he did have a point in the second message: “I don’t know you, I didn’t ask to be messaged by a stranger”. It is really, really easy, thanks to the anonymity of the internet, to act and speak much differently then you would in person, and it is also really easy to take things the wrong way. I can’t begin to claim to imagine exactly how this person feels, but I think it’s pretty obvious that they didn’t appreciate being messaged about this, and may have felt like they were being attacked. Knowing you in person, I wouldn’t possibly think you were attacking anyone about anything, but here’s a complete stranger (as far as I know). I think it is admirable to reach out to someone who may be particularly narrow-minded about something, but I would have done it a bit differently… in the first message, I would have tried to keep it super-short, quick, and apologetic, and asking the person if they would be interested in discussing it further before really getting into any details. Worst case, they still say no, and you forget about it, or they might even open up a little more: acting like you’re interested in their ‘opinion’ more than trying to ‘correct’ it – which is how I can imagine the other person may have interpreted your messages. Anyway, I don’t know about any of that stuff lol

  4. Carlos Madrid

    What does he mean you people?! ;o

  5. Michael Martinich-Sauter

    Thank you for fighting the good fight.

  6. Lee Sharpe

    There will always be asshats, of a variety of political persuasions.

  7. Caitlin Hartsell

    Someone strongly (and with only the support of adverbs) voiced his feelings on the internet… He definitely didn’t expect to be held accountable for it.

    He probably was just embarrassed of being called out and was not willing to take the time to participate in a logical, level-headed debate. Its hard to break the narrative that anyone conservative/libertarian is anything other than an unintelligent sell-out. You probably rocked his world view and blocking you was the only way he could handle it.

  8. Bill Hartsell

    Since this is a comment about an urban tax, you can probably find meaning in the urban dictionary:

  9. Andrew Veen

    Wow. I guess my judge of character is off. I had you pegged as one of the best people alive, but I guess you’re slime. How awful.

  10. Eric D. Dixon

    It’s nice to see the left’s ideals of liberal tolerance and pluralism in action!

    It’s always striking to me how people like this guy and joe gnatek are so certain that we’re lying and dissembling for a price, and how stunningly incorrect they are.

  11. Carlos Madrid

    You didn’t know Josh was abominable and disgusting?

  12. Caitlin Hartsell

    Also, to Timothy’s point: This “innocent” person posted something on a public facebook wall. Josh very easily could have publicly called him out and shamed him with politeness. Instead, Josh took the higher road and messaged him privately. If the “innocent” person doesn’t want to have to account for outrageous comments, he shouldn’t post them publicly.

  13. Tony Roller

    Damn, who knew I was related to such slime! Shame on you cousin, for your open minded, extensively researched and well defended logical position! How dare you try and open a polite and rational discourse on an important policy debate when your opponent is only trying to conservatives look bad!

  14. Tony Roller

    (That said, I would like to plead the case that not all political liberals are small minded people who just want to hate on liberatarians and pro-business groups. I am very liberal, however I think it’s safe to say that whatever policies are currently being pursued in St Louis are not solving the problems faced by most people. I think an open and honest dialogue on economic policy is crucial, and both sides need to be willing to admit to their own past failures and move forward with new solutions. It is extremely selfish, self congratulatory, and just plain Easy to denigrate the efforts of someone else you ideallogically disagree with without offering any solutions of your own.

  15. Nick Novak

    I’ve never understood what makes certain people so furious when it comes to political matters. I think a mistake that many people make when they meet someone who disagrees with them is that they assume the opposition’s intention is to make things worse. But what sense does that make? When someone disagrees with me, I assume their goal is also to “do good,” but they’ve just come to different conclusions on how to reach that goal. That usually allows me to keep my cool in emotionally-trying debates.

  16. Andrew Veen

    Nick: I feel that the first step in any political discussion I engage in is to acknowledge that they seek the greatest good and assert that I do, too. I then state my definition of greatest good according to the discussion at hand. If they still maintain that I advocate wholesale slaughter of the poor or other such nonsense, I just change the subject and mention that if they ever actually want to have the conversation I’m game for it.

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