Opinionated @ CFE

Conversations Versus Lectures


Despite being on the same end of the political spectrum, there is a stark contrast between Sutherland Institute and the Utah Taxpayers Association. Most of this boils down to tone and attitude. Another aspect is the level of engagement with the politically involved, and how ideas are found and developed. In the end, it’s the difference between a conversation and a lecture.

A lecture is a one-way street, presenting your point of view and ignoring or shutting down feedback. This restricts the sources of ideas to just those whom the lecturer has hand-picked, often in a way that reinforces their own biases. All too often, it comes across as condescending arrogance. This, unfortunately, is exactly how the Utah Taxpayers Association operates. There is no debate, no discussion, and almost zero interaction. You’re expected to accept their obviously superior point of view without question or discussion.

Sutherland Institute provides a sharp contrast to this. They regularly interact with politicos of multiple political perspectives and seek input on new policies they may not have thought of. These policies are then discussed openly to try and find a good solution. It’s a conversational tone, one in which understanding is actively sought. This is the opposite approach that the Utah Taxpayers Association takes, seeking a problem and then trying to find solutions via a collaborative process.

I feel like Sutherland Institute is adding to the dialog, whereas the Utah Taxpayers Association is merely trying to shout everyone else down. Which do you think is better serving the interests of our state?

2 Responses to Conversations Versus Lectures

  1. I came to the knowledge of Sutherland and UTA during the voucher contentions several years ago. As is normally the case they were on the same side in that debate but written discussions with each organization couldn’t have been more different. I argued (possibly wrongly now that I look back) vigorously against vouchers in the online debate that raged in Utah’s blogosphere. Paul Mero and others from The Sutherland Institute always responded to my arguments thoughtfully and with respect even though they thought I was up in the night. UTA never bothered participating in a conversation. They published their assertions, ad hominems, and straw-man arguments then ignored any counter-arguments.

    I like your question about which organization better serves the interests of our state. SI does engage the public more directly through classes and their policy advisory boards but I don’t know that they are any more influential than UTA with the press or local government. I prefer the Sutherland Institute because I’ve talked to their officers and staff and have found that they really are trying to be principled conservatives. UTA is more obviously pragmatic in supporting conservatism when it benefits their business clients economically. That said, their work on tax issues has generally greatly benefited Utahns. When they are wrong they are usually obnoxiously wrong but Utah is a better place for residents and businesses because of UTA’s efforts.

  2. The biggest problem I have with the UTA is that I know they are willing to either cherry-pick the facts or outright lie in order to make their case. This calls into question pretty much anything else they do. It’s a real shame because I think a lot of their work on tax policy was pretty good. It wasn’t until a few years ago that their tone took a sharp turn towards shrill. I’d like to believe their current work on tax policy (especially since it already largely conforms with my existing biases), but their past history creates a giant cloud of doubt.

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