How We Respond to Our Environment in the New Year

What trends, opportunities and threats will advocates of liberty face in the coming year and decade? That’s a question I worked through recently at a meeting with leaders in the think tank world of State Policy Network. Equally important, we considered, how do we prepare for those developments?

In other words, how is the sociopolitical world changing, and what must our organizations do to maintain our successes — or better yet, build on them? This question is always apt, but especially after an election that ushers in new leaders, some of whom may alter the expectations for policy reforms for years to come. If the trend in politics moves toward bigger government and less individual freedom, the easy response would be to say “no.” But our principles are more important than the political fortunes of any individual or party. They’re also inclusive; they do not rely on any one demographic group maintaining or achieving power; and they deserve our best efforts to see sociopolitical challenges as opportunities to work smarter and harder.

So as we look toward the start of the last year of this decade and welcome new leadership in Michigan government, what trends should we prepare for?

The Pew Research Center recently explored several areas of sociopolitical change. Three of them, in particular, give Mackinac opportunities to shape the future:

1. Millennials are more liberal but less likely to affiliate with a party.

The Mackinac Center has always advanced principles over politics and encouraged a vibrant intellectual debate over the issues. If partisan identity is less important to millennials, that is good. We can work with them to build a community of people who seek innovative answers to complex problems, regardless of party.

2. Americans are increasingly disengaged from religious institutions.

As a Christian who firmly believes that individual liberty is birthed from our God-given rights, it would be easy for me to see this development with alarm. Yet the Mackinac Center’s policy solutions are built on principles that are grounded in both secular and religious terms. The principles of free enterprise can unite diverse coalitions of people.

3. Nearly 50 percent of children now live in a single-parent household.

I talk frequently about the “success sequence,” a concept I borrow from the Georgia Center for Opportunity. Simply put, access to a good education and gainful employment leads to stronger families, which can reverse multi-generational poverty and give people what they need to thrive. During our 30 years, the Mackinac Center has worked for increased access to educational opportunities and employment, particularly for the vulnerable and neglected. We will continue to share this compelling narrative with Michiganders.

In short, the next year and decade will require us to examine our assumptions, change the ways we communicate, and pursue our mission with nimble steps and a heart full of optimism.