The Russians and summer reading lists

Matt Paprocki
3 min readSep 8, 2022


One in 2 Ukrainians knew someone who lost a family member or was killed by the current Russian invasion, according to a new poll by The Wall Street Journal.

Half the country has now been irrevocably affected by the ongoing war.

In addition to having a family member killed by the Russians, there are plenty of good reasons for Ukrainians to dislike Russians. Displacement, constant bombings, economic devastation.

So not surprisingly, they don’t like each other.

The poll shows 76% of Ukrainians have an unfavorable opinion about Russians.

That seems about right.

But what shocked me is how those numbers compare to politics in the United States.

When Democrats were asked their opinion of Republicans, nearly 87% had an unfavorable opinion of Republicans.

To put that another way, if someone was attacking your country, killed someone you knew and you had to move, your opinion of them would be more favorable by 11 percentage points than if once every two years they chose to vote differently than you.

It gets worse: a majority of respondents said Republicans were “closed minded,” “dishonest” and “immoral.”

That is a toxic cocktail for ever finding mutual ground.

Imagine getting a recommendation to buy a car from someone who is “corrupt and a liar.” The value and the condition of the car become completely inconsequential.

It turns out, Republicans have the same unfavorable opinion of Democrats (86% unfavorable). The only difference is instead of “closed minded,” Republicans view Democrats as “lazy” and “unintelligent.”

The reasons for these strong unfavorables were shown in a study conducted by a Boston College neuroscientist.

The study took two groups in conflict: Palestinians and Israelis; and Republicans and Democrats. It found in both cases, each side felt their own group was motivated by love. When asked what motivated their rival group in conflict, they said “hate.”

They call this concept “motivation attribution asymmetry.”

It exists far beyond war and politics. It is why we hate our rival sports teams and Chicagoans believe the Green Bay Packers’ are dirty players and the St. Louis Cardinals are cheaters. Meanwhile, our team is the only team that “does it right.”

And the problems with “motivation attribution asymmetry” are: first, it is a logical fallacy because both sides cannot be correct that their team is motivated by love and the other is motivated by hate; second, and worse, it stops all negotiations.

If you believe someone’s internal driver is hate and evil, it’s probably not someone you want to sit across the table from.

It is why you never invite someone you hate over for tea.

But that is exactly what we need to be doing.

As free market advocates, we need to be having conversations with people who disagree with us — often in places where we aren’t welcome.

It’s one of the reasons why my favorite place to publish op-eds is the Washington Post. The majority of WaPo readers are liberal and progressive. A lot of their readers don’t agree with me.

One commenter, Jims2727, said, “You’ve been had, Washington Post. Matt Paprocki is President of the Illinois Policy Institute […] and Paprocki is just one of their shills.”

But the Post has over 65 million readers. While they all won’t agree with me, and a lot don’t want me there, they all read my argument.

Our goal is not to preach to the choir. It’s to create converts. To make the argument about how the free market lifts up the poor and marginalized, and show them the reason we want limited government is because we love our neighbor.

But to get them to understand our true motives, we need to invite them for tea.


P.S. My 5-year-old daughter, Fiona, just finished her summer reading list. When I took this picture, she said, “Daddy, can you send this to your friends that you are working to fix Illinois with?”

In a moment of weakness and pride, I answered ‘yes’.

Here is my wonderful little girl, Fiona Rose, in front of the list of 75 books she read this summer:



Matt Paprocki

President @illinoispolicy the nation’s leading state-based think tank.