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.

The Big Picture: Civil Society & Privatization

Advancing Civil Society: A State Budget to Strengthen Michigan Culture

At its core, the budget of the state of Michigan is not about money-it is about people and the way they organize their society. This line-by-line analysis of Michigan's 1995-96 state budget reflects a principled vision for Michigan culture by asking this question about each budget item: Should this program or activity be done by the authority of the state and financed by taxes, or should it be done by its individual citizens acting in voluntary cooperation and private contract with one another? The study recommends over $2 billion in spending reductions (over 7 percent of the state budget) achieved by eliminating unnecessary and counterproductive programs, rolling back unjustified program growth, and contracting out for services that can be handled more efficiently by the private sector. This landmark analysis will help citizens, candidates, and officials of any state craft budgets that promote the strengthening of private institutions and civil society. 97 pages. … more

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

MEGA Industrial Policy: An Analysis of the Proposed Michigan Economic Growth Authority

Michigan has seen stellar economic progress due to Governor Engler's free-market reforms. Is MEGA a reversal of the trend? Should government pick the winners and the losers? This report analyzes proposed MEGA legislation. 16 pages. … 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

Political Drift or Paradigm Shift?

During the elections of 1994, the voters spoke with uncommon clarity about the role of government in their lives. Governor John Engler was re-elected to be a risk-taker, not a caretaker. In this advisory document, the Mackinac Center recommends several specific measures for education reform, labor law reform, and economic development. 5 pages. … 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