Past, Present, Future

We’ve been talking a lot about our history at the Mackinac Center lately. I think it’s part of the psychology surrounding anniversaries — we love to think about how far we’ve come. Sometimes it’s preferable to thinking about how far we still have to go.

But it’s just as important to look at the future at times like this. That’s why we chose to write about the year 2047. Quite frankly, I can’t wait to live in that version of Michigan! If we achieve even half the goals we have set, we’ll have one of the freest, most prosperous states in the union. That’s something to get excited about.

I’ll be in my fifties by the time 2047 rolls around. From here, that seems like a long time to wait; I have the patience of the proverbial millennial. Some of the policy seeds we’re sowing may take decades to take root, but those ideas are always worth the investment of time and energy, even if we never see the payoff ourselves.

Pension reform is a good example. In 2047, when pension debt has long since bankrupted states like California, Illinois and Connecticut, states that took an unpopular but proactive stance — states like Michigan and Utah — will be thriving. It was a long, hard slog to enact the reform, and it’ll be even longer before we see the full effect of its benefits.

There are a lot of long, hard slogs in my personal life, too. I can think of so many fun and practical ways to spend the few thousand dollars I put into my retirement account every year. I’d love to buy a grand piano, pay off some of my higher interest student loans, go on a shopping spree or take a trip to Europe. All of those things are more fun than watching a retirement savings account slowly accrue interest, but I took my financial literacy crash course. I know what will be waiting for me at age 70 if I’m willing to spend a little less now.

The same is true of my mission to eat less sugar and my frequently broken resolution to exercise instead of watching Netflix. I know the better I am about those habits now, the better off I’ll be when being healthy is no longer a given. But it can be hard to see the brighter future if you’re too bogged down in the present. When that’s the case for me, I like to imagine myself at a point in the future, looking back on where I took my life.

I may still eat more sugar than I should, but at least I don’t eat peanut butter and chocolate chips for breakfast every day anymore. And I can be proud of my retirement account — I’d love to have more in it, but it wasn’t so long ago that it was entirely empty. I’ll get where I’m going eventually, and so will Michigan, but only if we keep pushing for a better future.