Joseph Lehman: 'Good Government Is Limited Government' (2:33)

“This is the beginning,” said Scott Woods. On April 15, Woods and his family made the journey from their hometown of Clare to Midland, Mich. They joined an estimated 500 people in front of the county courthouse for one of the nation’s tax day “tea parties,” demonstrations meant to call attention to unprecedented levels of spending by our representatives in Washington.

Woods remarked: “Guys and gals up on [Capitol] Hill, are spending our money, our kids’ money. It’s time to pay attention to those facts.” Those concerns were raised by several speakers, including Mackinac Center President Joseph Lehman.

Lehman discussed the government’s response to the housing and financial bubbles. “And now,” he said, “some would have us believe that the cure for those bubbles is another bubble, inflated with your tax dollars — a bubble of tax dollars and debt that is so big that they admit some of us won’t live long enough to pay the taxes that it’ll take to pay for that bubble. That’s what happens when people lose control of their government.”

Lehman then offered a starting point: “You already know there are serious problems with our government, and the point is to fix those problems. It starts by recognizing that good government is limited government.”

He also encouraged the crowd to hold the political class accountable for what happens following the tea parties. “Every politician will tell you he or she has an idea for how to get out of this economic mess,” he observed. “But the one question we should be asking each of them is, When your idea’s in place, will government be bigger or smaller than it is now?”

For Woods, it’s about looking ahead and setting priorities. “It makes better sense when we teach our kids how to spend their money,” he said. “We teach them, ‘Watch what you spend your money on. You spend it today; it’s gone tomorrow.’ ”

A better tomorrow — and avoiding the mistakes of the past — have been concerns of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy for more than 20 years. By logging onto, you can read the Center’s proposals to solve government policy problems, so that a good beginning at a tea party becomes a policy revolution.