Michigan is a poor state and will become increasingly so without a shift toward statewide free-market policies, author Jonathan Williams of the Washington, D.C.-based American Legislative Council told a Mackinac Center audience on Oct. 19.

As part of the Mackinac Center’s ongoing engagement with individuals in the mid-Michigan region, the Center hosted its latest “Club Mid,” with Williams as the guest speaker. Held at the Mackinac Center’s headquarters in Midland, Club Mid events introduce regional supporters and others to intriguing public policy ideas and speakers.

Williams, a Michigan native and Northwood University graduate, is co-author of the book “Rich States, Poor States” with world-famous economist Arthur Laffer — originator of the Laffer Curve — and Wall Street Journal writer Stephen Moore. The book is a 50-state examination of state competitiveness and the link between economic performance and state policies.

The audience of more than 80 people heard that “Rich States, Poor States” ranks each state’s previous 10-year economic performance based on per-capita personal income, state migration and employment. In terms of economic performance, Michigan finished 50th among the states. The book also contains a forward-looking index and state ranking system. In 2010, our rank in this category was 26th among the states, up from a lowly 34th the year before.

Williams cautioned the audience not to celebrate the improvement, however. He argued that Michigan’s improvement was not a function of sound policies being adopted in the state, but by other states’ adoption of bad policies, such as large tax hikes.

Williams noted that Michigan is one of four states that provide lessons on how not to govern. Goverent spending, tax increases, powerful unions and punitive regulations all contributed to transforming Michigan from a prosperous to a poor state.

Attendee Norman Burmeister of Remus was delighted at the event and told Center staff that he found the speaker’s facts “hard-hitting” and even “startling” on occasion. “You need this information,” he said.