The late Joseph Overton was senior vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy at the time of his passing in 2003. Overton played a key role in establishing the Center as a growing, productive and influential think tank through his direction of its research projects, staff operations and strategic planning. He also authored a variety of Center studies and commentaries. His model of public policy change, posthumously named the "Overton Window," has gained national currency following his passing.

His tremendous contributions to the Mackinac Center and the free-market movement ended with his untimely death on June 30, 2003, in an ultralight airplane crash.

Overton had a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Michigan Technological University and a juris doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He was a member of the State Bar of Michigan and was appointed by Gov. John Engler to the Michigan Appellate Defender Commission upon recommendation by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Before joining the Mackinac Center, Overton held a variety of positions at The Dow Chemical Company, including electrical engineer, project manager, and quality specialist.

Overton studied and promoted free-market principles for more than a decade. He also traveled broadly, visiting Poland, Nicaragua, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Colombia, Malawi, Mozambique, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, India and the People's Republic of China.

Michigan Public School Teachers Launch a Non-Union Revolution

Mr. Smith Is in Washington

Too many people continue to invest in the fanciful hope-call it the Frank Capra Theory-that someday Mr. Smith will go to Washington, end the corruption, and restore our liberties. … more

Michigan Public School Teachers Launch a Non-Union Revolution

Public schools and their employees don't win many battles against the Michigan Education Association (MEA) union, the political and financial behemoth that dominates Michigan public education. But recent victories over compulsory unionism in two charter schools could signal a new dynamic in Michigan's public school system. … more

Listening to Truth

As proponents of central planning weave new and seductive visions of political society, we need calm and reasoned scholarship to speak the truth in defense of liberty. … more

Advancing People and Privatization

Privatization is a major vehicle through which Michigan can transform itself from a coercive, politicized society whose outstanding trait is its voluntarism and resourcefulness in solving problems on its own. … more

Advancing Privatization and People

At its core, privatization is about people. It is about government being considerate of its constituents by a) funding only those functions that it absolutely has to through the onerous mechanism of taxation, and b) if it enters into areas it should not be in in the first place, it should work in the most cost-effective way possible. … more

Vouchers or Tax Credits for Full School Choice?

Does Giving Government Unlimited Power Really Protect the Environment

The Michigan Legislature recently gave the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality carte blanche to impose staggering fines on property owners for alleged environmental violations. This is a terrible idea given the department's past abuses. … more

Westwood Letter

Dear Members of the Westwood Board of Education: It has come to our attention that your district is suing the state of Michigan to prevent parents and children from choosing schools outside your district. You are concerned that the schools-of-choice program that the Mackinac Center for Public Policy helped establish is leading to increased segregation in your district. … more

Targeted Corporate Incentives Do More Harm than Good

A Tax Credit Is Not a Voucher!

Opponents of school choice for Michigan's children are misrepresenting tuition tax credits in order to recycle their shopworn anti-voucher arguments. … more

School Reform: Giving Parents “Credit”

Changing Michigan's Constitution: An Idea Whose Time has Come

Other states are racing past Michigan in improving education by giving parents freedom to choose schools. A Universal Tuition Tax Credit and constitutional amendment can keep Michigan from lagging behind. … more

The Big Picture: Civil Society & Privatization

Juvenile Justice Requries Juvenile Responsibility

Shocking juvenile violent crime trends will not reverse until local communities are given wider latitude to ensure certainty of punishment and other deterrents to criminal behavior. … more

Lessons from Outrageous Laws

The laws uncovered by the Mackinac Center's Outrageous Law Competition will make you chuckle. Underlying them are two serious lessons which teach us about government's response to crises and the role of special interests. … more

The Prison Boom: New Options for Michigan

The prison business is booming in Michigan-fifteen percent of the General Fund. Can taxpayers afford the bills that mount from business as usual? Michigan can save hundreds of millions of dollars by trying what other states are already doing. … more

MEGA Problems: A New Industrial Policy Bureaucracy

In a stunning retreat from free-market principles, Governor Engler asks Michigan to join the bandwagon of states in which government picks the industrial winners and losers. The MEGA plan will not work, and may have unintended negative consequences. … more

Should Michigan Become a Right-to-Work State?

Labor reform that brings Michigan law up-to-date is not something to be feared. Giving workers freedom of choice in union membership would be a plus for the Michigan economy. … more

"Discrimination" at Private Clubs in Michigan

What was conceived as a protection for women in Michigan country clubs has become another entry on a long list of meddlesome and ultimately counterproductive restrictions on personal freedom. … more

The Other Educational Choice

Exempting Michigan's public school teachers from the Public Employment Relations Act would resolve the strike issue, remove barriers union policies have erected, and open the door for the advancement of good teachers. … more

MESSA: Insurance for Political Power

In more than 300 of Michigan's 524 K-12 public school districts, costly health insurance for school employees is administered by an organization whose practices are secretive and monopolistic. … more

Send the Cash, Keep the Change

Genuine school reformers say, "Change the system so schools can work better, and we will be happy to fund them." Unfortunately, many of those in the government education monopoly say, "Send the cash, keep the change." … more

A Closer Look at Proposals A and C

The two property tax proposals on the November 1992 Michigan ballot provide a glaring distinction: one is a property tax cut and the other is not. Proposal C, despite one drawback, represents the best hope in years for real property tax reduction. … more

Global Warming: Can Politicians Take the Heat?

Public policy on the environment should not be driven by "bad" science or the absence of good science. Politicians must weigh the evidence and reject emotion, propaganda, and hidden agendas in the global warming debate. … more

New "Civil Rights" for the Handicapped

Efforts to help the handicapped with legislation requiring employers to reconfigure their worksites are another example of good intentions producing bad results. … more