[Photo of Lawrence W. Reed]

Lawrence W. Reed

President Emeritus

After serving as President for the Center’s first two decades, Lawrence W. (Larry) Reed, became president emeritus of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Midland-based research and educational institute on September 1, 2008. The Center's mission is to equip Michigan citizens and other decision-makers to better evaluate Michigan public policy options and to do so from a "free market" perspective.

On September 1, 2008, Reed assumed the presidency of the Foundation for Economic Education, headquartered in Irvington, New York. In this article, FEE: A Lighthouse for Freedom, FEE's history and importance were highlighted by Reed.

Reed holds a B.A. degree in Economics from Grove City College (1975) and an M.A. degree in History from Slippery Rock State University (1978), both in Pennsylvania. He taught economics at Midland's Northwood University from 1977 to 1984 and chaired the Department of Economics from 1982 to 1984. He designed the university's unique dual major in Economics and Business Management and founded its annual, highly-acclaimed "Freedom Seminar." In 1982, he was a major party candidate in the general election for the U. S. House of Representatives from Michigan's 4th district. He moved to Boise, Idaho in 1984 to direct a policy institute there before moving back to Michigan to head up the Mackinac Center in December 1987.

Under his leadership, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has emerged as the largest and one of the most effective and prolific of over 40 state-based "free market" think tanks in America. He served a term as president and 15 years as a member of the board of directors of the State Policy Network, a national organization whose membership consists of those state-based groups.

In 1994, Reed was invited to give the Commencement address to the graduating class of the Colleges of Education, Health, and Human Services and Extended Learning at Central Michigan University (CMU) before an audience of 6,000. CMU conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Administration. In 1998, Grove City College (his undergraduate alma mater) bestowed upon him its "Distinguished Alumni Award." In 2008, he delivered a Commencement address to an audience of 3,500 at Northwood University and received a second honorary doctorate, Doctor of Laws.

In the past twenty years, he has authored over 1,000 newspaper columns and articles, 200 radio commentaries, dozens of articles in magazines and journals in the U. S. and abroad, as well as five books. His articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Baltimore Sun, Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, among many others. Reed's most recent book is Striking the Root: Essays on Liberty. Since 1978, he has delivered more than 1,000 speeches in 40 states and 15 foreign countries, including one at Peoples University in Beijing, China.

Reed's interests in political and economic affairs have taken him as a freelance journalist to 69 countries on six continents since 1985, including five visits to Russia, five to China, four to Nicaragua, three to Poland, five to Kenya, and others to such places as Cambodia, East Germany, Mozambique, Haiti, Japan, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, Greece, Italy, Australia, Slovenia, Croatia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Singapore, Israel, Egypt, Malaysia, Vietnam, Iceland and New Zealand.

From firsthand experience, he has reported on hyperinflation in South America, voodoo in Haiti, black markets behind the Iron Curtain, reforms and repression in China and Cambodia, the recent stunning developments in Eastern Europe, and civil war inside Nicaragua and Mozambique. Among many foreign adventures, Reed visited the ravaged nation of Cambodia in 1989 with his late friend, Academy Award winner Dr. Haing S. Ngor; recorded an authentic native voodoo ceremony in a remote region of Haiti in 1987; traveled with the Polish anti-communist underground for which he was arrested and detained by border police in 1986; interviewed presidents and cabinet officials in half a dozen nations; spent time with the contra rebels during the Nicaraguan civil war; and lived for two weeks with the rebels of Mozambique at their bush headquarters in 1991, at the height of that country's devastating civil war.

Reed was elected in 1994 to the Board of Trustees of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in Irvington, New York -- one of the oldest and most respected economics institutes in America and publisher of the journal, The Freeman, for which he writes a column entitled "Ideas and Consequences." In 1998, he was elected chairman of FEE's board of Trustees and reelected chairman in 1999 and 2000.

In 1993, he was appointed by Governor Engler to the Headlee Amendment Blue Ribbon Commission. In 1994, he was named to a task force of the Secchia Commission on Total Quality Government, which was charged by Governor Engler with the mission of streamlining Michigan state government.

In December 2007, he was named Visiting Senior Fellow with the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

His spare-time interests include reading, travel, flyfishing, hiking, skydiving, and animals of just about any kind.

The Appeal of Socialism

Most economists now seem to agree that socialism as an economic theory is seriously flawed. So how do you explain the continuing embrace, by both major American political parties, of some form of socialism? … more

Does the President Run the Economy?

Striking at the Root

To make progress in creating and sustaining a free and prosperous society, reformers must first correct many deeply rooted problems in labor law and in our education system. … more

Democracy or Republic?

Mackinac Center President Lawrence Reed responds to a high-school debate student's questions about the Electoral College and the nature of American government. … more

Tax Cuts and the Economy

Are Michigan Citizens Undertaxed?

The primary stimulus of a tax cut comes from the incentive effects with regard to work, thrift, and investment. … more

A Reminder to Politicians: It's Not Your Money!

As the economy slows, many lawmakers and pundits want to scale back the size of President Bush's proposed tax cuts and "moderate" the cuts already enacted by Gov. Engler and the Michigan Legislature. But politicians happily engaged in budget surplus spending binges ought to remember that those tax dollars rightfully belong back with the people who earned them. … more

Have Michigan Legislators Learned from California's Mistakes?

As price controls come off this month, Michigan consumers will begin paying the higher, market-level rates for natural gas that the rest of the country has already been paying. State legislators have wisely resisted calls to re-impose economically harmful, California-style price controls, and instead are wisely proposing tax credits and other market-friendly solutions. … more

Make a Toast to Privatization

Decades after the Prohibition Era ended, 29 states still prosecute a kind of mini-Prohibition of their own. But Michigan's liquor laws only choke off out-of-state competition and limit responsible consumers' choices. … more

Keep the Electoral College!

Electricity Deregulation

California officials remain in the dark about how to properly deregulate electricity, but Michigan's plan proceeds more smoothly. … more

Michigan Senator James Couzens's Wrongheaded Opposition to Tax Cuts

Michigan Sen. James Couzens opposed President Coolidge's growth-promoting tax cuts in the 1920s. Proven wrong, he lost the support of citizens and his party. Will Michigan's senators make the same mistake today? … more

Prohibition-Era Law Is Example of Nanny State at Its Worst

It's time to repeal an outdated state liquor law that does nothing but give monopoly status to in-state producers, raise prices, and limit choices for responsible Michigan consumers. … more

New Year's Resolutions for Michigan's New Legislature

Here are seven New Year's resolutions Michigan's new Legislature can make to ensure greater prosperity and opportunity for all citizens. … more

Coming to Terms with Term Limits

Contrary to what some observers are arguing, it is far too soon to declare Michigan's experience with term limits for public officials a failure. … more

Cleveland Passed 1888 Test of Character

As Values Collapse, Government Grows

Promoting ethical values such as honesty, respect, and personal responsibility ought to be a top priority for freedom-loving Americans. The alternative is a nanny state that passes ever more laws to restrain citizens' poor behavior. … more

The Quackery of Equality

"Free people are not equal and equal people are not free" is a profound truth that politicians forget when they try to force economic equality through punitive taxes and regulations. … more

When "Local Control" Means Control of the Locals

A proposed amendment to the state constitution, billed as a way to limit state interference in local affairs, would actually lead to costly litigation and greater government intrusion in the lives and businesses of Michigan citizens. … more

Policy Makers Must Remember That Incentives Matter

People respond in powerful ways to economic incentives and disincentives. Public officials must keep this in mind when crafting or revising tax, welfare and other policies that either reward or punish responsible behavior. … more

Judging How Justices Are Chosen In Michigan

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is the proper response to those who wish to change the way Michigan Supreme Court justices are selected. … more

Low-Income Housing: Legislation Crowds out Private Development

Counting the Cost of Prescription Drug Price Controls

Those who argue that price controls will make prescription drugs more affordable ignore lessons from Canada and other countries, where such measures have led to poorer quality health care. … more

Toward a Civil Society

(The Mackinac Center first published a version of this commentary in July 1996. As the 2000 presidential election approaches, its re-issuance is especially timely.) … more

Keep the Internet Tax-Free!

A plan supported by Governor John Engler would invade consumers' privacy and severely hamper the fledgling Internet economy that is leading the way to growth and prosperity. … more

The Census: Inquiring Minds Want to Know . . . A Lot

The U.S. constitution requires the federal government to conduct a national head count every 10 years, but many Americans are wondering why census officials ask so many nosy questions. … more

Internet Purchases: To Tax or Not to Tax, Here Are the Questions

Has the growth of tax-free Internet sales hurt state revenues or education funding? Is it "unfair" for sales over the Internet not to be taxed while other sales are taxed? Would imposing new taxes on the Internet do serious damage to the ability of this new form of commerce to thrive? Does the growth of tax-free online shopping pose a threat to traditional "bricks-and-mortar" retailers? This study addresses these and other questions in order to provide state, local, and federal policy-makers with the intellectual and empirical ammunition they need to keep the taxman at bay. … more

Socialized Medicine Leaves a Bad Taste in Patients' Mouths

Canada's socialized health-care system ensures that everything-including hospital food-becomes fodder for political battles. U. S. policy makers should resist calls to further socialize America's market-oriented health system. … more

Where Are the Omelettes?

Freedom brings the greatest human happiness and prosperity, as the bloody history of Russia, Cambodia, and other centrally planned societies shows. … more

Celebrating Free Enterprise and One Hundred Years of Kodak Moments

With the introduction of his Kodak Brownie camera in 1900, entrepreneurial genius George Eastman put photography within reach of average Americans for the first time. … more

K-Zoo's "Legacy of Flight": Will Taxpayers Be Taken for Another Ride?

What Is Real Compassion?

The original meaning of the word emphasizes personal involvement with the needy, not impersonal and ineffective government programs. … more

Private Banks and Preventing Another Great Depression

Corporate Welfare in Greens' Clothing

Anti-Jitney Laws Take People for a Ride

Detroit and other cities that outlawed "jitneys"-low-fare transportation service providers-at the urging of higher-priced taxi and bus companies should repeal their bans and let jitneys legally serve poor citizens who need a ride. … more

The Crash of 1929: Could It Happen Again?

The 1929 stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression caused widespread suffering in Michigan. Could such economic disaster happen again today? Only if government pursues the disastrous policies of the 1920s and 1930s. … more

A Ferry Tale of Two Cities: Lansing and Muskegon

Does it make sense for Michigan taxpayers to subsidize a Wisconsin-based Lake Michigan ferry business so that it can unfairly compete with an unsubsidized, Michigan-based, ferry service? … more

Economic Freedom among the States: How Does Michigan Compare?

A recent report ranked the 50 states according to how much economic freedom each government allows its citizens to enjoy. How free are Michigan citizens? … more

Detroit's Reform School Board Would Be Wise to Privatize

Detroit should join Chicago, Philadelphia, and other big-city school districts to contract with private firms to save money and improve the quality of such support functions as busing, custodial, and food service. … more

Are High School Economics Textbooks Reliable?

A review of the 16 most-used high school economics textbooks in Michigan reveals that many contain gross errors and dangerous myths about the market economy and the proper role of government. … more

Taxation by Litigation Threatens Every American Business

The Clinton administration that is contemplating a new lawsuit against tobacco companies is the same administration that has denied veterans' requests for coverage of diseases thought to be related to smoking. … more

"Living Wage" Law Is Public Policy at Its Worst

The people who push these cockamamie ideas never seem to ask why any employer would hire someone at $8.23 if that person's services are only valued in the marketplace at, say, $5.00. … more

Note to Michigan Municipalities: A Tax Is Not a User Fee

The Michigan Supreme Court affirmed that the voters intended to place limits on taxes and governmental expansion. … more

Home School Heroes

Investing In Ideas

Investing in ideas – the right ones, not just any ideas – is a long-term investment, but one that has a return every bit as tangible as the purchase of stock. The return on that investment – a stronger, freer society – is the one yield that won't raise your tax bill and will go a long way to assure that your children live as free and prosperous citizens. … more

Keeping Michigan on Track

  The close of the twentieth century finds Michigan in a position that seemed impossible barely a decade ago: record low unemployment, a thriving economy, growing educational opportunities, and a sense of accomplishment and high spirits. But much can be done to make Michigan an even better place to live and work.
  This report's five sections offer the Governor and the Legislature 41 specific recommendations that will strengthen property rights protection, reform labor law to protect worker rights, improve education for Michigan children, spur economic growth and development, and enhance the state's transportation infrastructure. … more

Take Out a Contract on Detroit Metro

A nationwide survey of air travelers recently ranked Detroit Metro Airport dead last in quality and convenience. Contracting out the airport's management to a private firm-as other cities have done-could solve Metro's woes. … more

Home School Heroes

Children whose parents take an active role in their educations are among the most academically successful. The thousands of Michigan parents who teach their children at home should be applauded for demonstrating the ultimate in parental involvement. … more

Curb Rights

Michigan to Washington: Privatize Social Security or Let Us Opt Out!

The looming bankruptcy of Social Security threatens the retirement security of millions of workers. Michigan lawmakers should call on Congress to either privatize the system or let states design alternate plans. … more

School Choice: 1998 is the Year!

More than 65 percent of Michigan citizens favor allowing parents to choose the schools their children attend. Which political party will have the courage to take the lead on educational choice initiatives? … more

A Tale of Two Presidents

Great Myths of the Great Depression

(Editor's note: This publication was updated in April 2010.)
Students today are often given a skewed account of the Great Depression of 1929-1941 that condemns free-market capitalism as the cause of, and promotes government intervention as the solution to, the economic hardships of the era. In this essay based on a popular lecture, Mackinac Center for Public Policy President Lawrence W. Reed debunks the conventional view and traces the central role that poor government policy played in fostering this legendary catastrophe. … more

Charter Schools: A Reform That Deserves Support

An audit that found flaws in Michigan charter schools suggests the need for more education reform, not less. … more

The Gold Standard and the Great Depression

Did the gold standard in any way "cause" the Great Depression? … more

Balanced Budgets and Depressions

Do balanced budgets cause depressions? … more

Regulation and Monopolies

How does one respond to the idea that government needs to regulate monopolies? More specifically, in laissez faire economics, is there any time when government would intervene "for the consumer's good"? … more

Student Loans and the High Cost of College

What is your opinion of government student loan programs? Aren’t they helpful to students who can’t afford the high costs of college? … more

Contracting for Food Service: A Recipe for Success

Perceptions of Failure

Lessons from Down Under

We can learn from how the Kiwis "down under" restored economic growth and productivity after decades of failed statist policies in New Zealand. … more

Flatten the Tax Before It Flattens Us

Simplifying the tax code to require a single, flat rate would charge the economy with billions of dollars in productivity now wasted on tax paperwork. … more

Minimum Wage Hurts Jobless by Making Work Illegal

No legislature can make a person worth more by making it illegal for job providers to that worker less. … more

What is Real Compassion?

Is it a mark of compassion to favor government aid programs for the poor? A look at the effectiveness of these programs and the traditional meaning of compassion help us tell the difference between those who just talk about compassion and those who actually practice it. … more

Waste Not, Want Not: Can Municipal Wastewater Be Treated Privately?

Pre-Existing Condition Mandate is Unhealthy Policy

By forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, a proposed Michigan law may make health insurance harder to get, not easier. … more

Let's Get Moving on the Roads

Everyone agrees that Michigan's crumbling roads need to be fixed. The state needs to make road repair a higher priority, continue recent cost-saving and efficiency measures, and adopt other recommendations that apply market forces and sound economics to road funding. … more

Can Michigan Keep Its Status as a Leader in Education Reform?

In Michigan, the same constitution that reads the "means of education shall forever be encouraged" is also the nation's strictest in forcing parents who choose an alternative to the public school system to pay twice for education. A tuition tax credit plan would provide some relief and address some of the flaws of a voucher system. … more

School Bus Privatization Rolling Along

Grover Cleveland: Could He Be Elected Today?

Historians usually give high marks to American presidents who expand the frontiers of government. Democratic President Grover Cleveland worked tirelessly to limit government and expand individual liberty in the late 1800s. Could he win election today with that philosophy? … more

Toward a Civil Society

Government consumes 41 percent of personal income-an indication that ours is an increasingly political society. Restoring civil society means seeking more to solve our own problems and looking less to government. … more

End the War Between the States

States are battling one another with arsenals of corporate welfare that use public money to attract select new factories and businesses. These counterproductive and discriminatory incentive programs should be replaced by more broad-based tax cuts and government reforms. … more

Wanted: A Line Between Public and Private

Most people think government should do some things, but not every thing. Expanding government programs for things like "job creation" and "economic development" blurs the line between public and private. … more

Michigan's Privatization Revolution

Almost every duty of local government has now been privatized, somewhere in Michigan. Privatization is emerging as a bipartisan, good-government initiative. Communities can benefit by merely considering the privatization option. … more

The Electric Car Seduction

Alternative fuel subsidies and mandates distort the market signals that help make new technologies successful in the first place. … more

The Quackery of Equality

"Free people are not equal and equal people are not free," is a profound truth that politicians forget when they try to force economic equality through punitive taxes and restrictions. Michigan's former inheritance and intangibles taxes are examples. … more

Michigan Needs Discussion of Right to Work

Some consider freedom of choice a serious threat to organized labor. Michigan law denies many workers the right to choose whether or not to support a labor union. The twenty-one states which guarantee this freedom to choose through right-to-work laws also enjoy greater economic growth, job creation, and real wages. … more

Teachers as Entrepreneurs in the Classroom

American education is still burdened by the thing that caused the economies of Eastern Europe to disintegrate-central planning that all but obliterates individual initiative and accountability. Private-practice teaching is an innovation that gives teachers more freedom and incentive; provides administrators more flexibility and cost savings; and allows more choice and improved education to students. … more

The Children Are More Important than the System

An initiative to provide Michigan public school students and parents greater choice in school selection would benefit students and schools. Opponents of school choice defend the existing system and status quo, and find themselves opposing freedom instead of helping to make it work. … more

School Reform: Lessons From Michigan

Block Grants Are Not the Answer

If you wanted something done in your community, would it ever occur to you to send a check to Washington, D.C., so the federal bureaucracy could take a cut before sending back the rest? … more

Stadium Subsidies Strike Out

Government subsidies for a new Tiger Stadium amount to corporate welfare. Other big businesses have to raise their own private capital-why not baseball? This article makes the philosophical and economic case for private sports facilities. … more

A New Day for Michigan Schools

Two new laws take effect in April 1995 that will help Michigan's 1.7 million school children and their parents. Will schools take advantage of the newly created freedoms and opportunities? … more

Washington Should Learn from Michigan's Budget Cuts

Michigan's turbocharged economy is a result of courageous government streamlining and downsizing. If the federal government is serious about "reinventing," it should follow Michigan's blueprint. … more

The Role of Government in the 21st Century

What do economics, experience, and political philosophy tell us about government and its proper role in society? In this time of great change in Washington and in the 50 states, Mackinac Center for Public Policy President Lawrence Reed addressed that critical question before a field hearing of the United States Senate Budget Committee. This transcript of his testimony, founded on seven key ideas, is inspirational. … more

Welfare Reform: Have We Gone Far Enough?

Welfare programs are one of the most unpopular of government activities. Though Michigan has made progress over the past four years, the real challenge lies ahead: making assistance to the needy a private initiative instead of a government responsibility. … 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

Understanding Charter Schools and the Constitution

Public Act 362 of 1993 authorized charter schools and did not violate the Michigan Constitution. Charter schools are a creative way to make changes within public schools. However, luring private schools into the public domain with tax dollars is a danger. … more

Comparable Worth or Incomparably Worthless?

A comparable worth scheme imposed on the economy would arbitrarily abolish the role of supply and demand in the labor market. Markets set wages better than any artificial, political contrivance could ever hope to. … more

Not One Cent for Tributes in Lansing

The Michigan legislature regularly spends taxpayers' money on resolutions of tribute for an array of special interests, individuals and groups. … more

Should the Blues Buy the Accident Fund?

The state of Michigan should privatize its workers compensation insurer, but not by selling it to a quasi-public entity that enjoys many government-granted privileges. … more

The Christmas Eve Hijacking

The Michigan legislature squandered an opportunity to reform education when it arrived at a Christmas Eve "compromise" package that largely reaffirmed the status quo-a watered-down charter school program, limited parental choice, and almost no cost containment. … more

The Hazards of Cigarette Taxes

When government seeks new revenues, "sin taxes" are among the first proposed. It should be recognized that cigarette taxes are regressive and smokers already pay the full costs of their habit. … more

Putting Incentive to Work in Education

The Mackinac Center's innovative Education Credit Account concept encourages schools to work harder and smarter to give parents hope for higher education for their children, whether they choose public or private schools. … more

Real-life Stories Show Need for School Choice

Proponents of educational choice should not allow the opposition to depersonalize the debate. This commentary cites instances that show how the absence of choice hurts children. … more