This article originally appeared in the summer 2001 issue of IMPACT!, the quarterly newsletter of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Recently I heard a profound aphorism which has stuck in my head ever since: God whispers to us in nature, speaks to us in his word, and screams at us in our pain. Although all but the Mackinac Center's most ardent supporters would agree that our publications fall far short of Scripture, there are some interesting parallels in the public policy arena.
My grandfather had the proverbial eighth-grade education. Born and raisedand lived, worked, and diedon a southwest Michigan farm, he never read von Mises or Hayek or even Adam Smith; he couldn't draw a downward-sloping demand curve or articulate the problem of cost calculation in a socialist economy. But he was sensitive and humble enough to embrace the salient lessons quietly whispered in a simple life close to the earth. He fought to defend his cherished liberty in the Great War, he fought to defend it in his state and community when he returned home, and he was faithfully responsible to his wife and children, leaving a legacy of freedom, honor, and achievement.
Those insensitive to the natural order need something more. As proponents of central planning weave new and seductive visions of political society, we continually need calm and reasoned scholarship to speak the truth in defense of individual liberty. Every bright social planner who believes that property rights are an antiquated notion as suburbs expand, or that increasing complexity of society calls for increasing complexity of government, must be met with an equally bright defender of freedom. To those who will listen, the evidence is clear when properly presented.
Unfortunately, some are hard of hearing.
Right now the public policy gods are screaming at the California Legislaturealong with a large percentage of the state's electrical utility customers. Utility regulation passed there defies common sense and every known tenet of political economy. Andwe should not be surprisedtheir ignorance has caused one of the worst energy crises in recent memory. Then the clever minds at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation used our tax dollars to send flashlights to California businesses to lure them to our state, leading some of us to debate who really has the lowest-wattage public officials.
Experience is the best teacher, but it also charges the highest tuition. Hopefully, as the Mackinac Center is increasingly successful in education reform, we will one day restore some sanity to the school system and produce young people more sensitive to fundamental principles of sound public policy. Hopefully, we will elect more public officials who will listen to truth. Hopefully, our motto will never become: "In the Legislature, no one can hear you scream."