“We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom,” the scientist E.O. Wilson has observed. Newspapers, radio, television, magazines, email, social media platforms, podcasts, text messages, the list goes on. Humans create more information than any person could ever hope to consume. Just one data point: YouTube users upload 500 hours of video every minute.
No wonder writer Martin Gurri says we face a “digital tsunami.”
People who support the Mackinac Center care about the future of the United States and feel a laudable obligation to stay abreast of major political and policy developments.
But consider the tsunami of government actions one could try to track: legislation, statutes, mandates, regulations, advisories, executive orders, court opinions, etc. Multiply these by the number of governmental entities: cities, school districts, counties, taxing districts, state and federal agencies and more.
It might be possible to tune out the digital tsunami to some extent, but there’s no such luxury with government edicts. They carry the force of law, with serious consequences for one’s person, property or business — to say nothing about the trajectory of the country and our freedoms.
How does one keep up or discern what’s important?
I suspect this is one of the reasons you follow and support the Mackinac Center’s work. We picture our role as a lighthouse: We seek to highlight critical facts, helping people navigate a sea of information.
While we review every bill in the Michigan Legislature — nearly 2,500 bills annually — we do not chase every passing car. We prefer to focus on opportunities for strategic wins and long-lasting effects.
For example, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her intent to ignore the Legislature’s role during a state of emergency, we recognized an irrevocable shift in the balance of power under the Michigan Constitution. Yes, we were also concerned about the content of her emergency orders and their consequences for Michigan society. But the greater danger was having a governor who could arrogate power with few limitations. (Gov. Whitmer confirmed this fear by stating she would have used the Emergency Powers of Governor Act to suspend a state requirement that schools help students reach a certain level of proficiency in reading in the third grade.)
The Mackinac Center’s policy experts and strategic thinkers ask several questions when we select issues and priorities for our work:
• Is this a viable idea, or will it take time to develop?
• Does it significantly increase economic opportunity?
• Do we have expertise in this area?
• Does it affect personal liberty?
• Does it change the structure of limitations on government?
• Does it expand or constrict the footprint of government?
• Are we on offense or just playing defense?
• Can we demonstrate how this policy will help or hurt people?
• If the Mackinac Center doesn’t do this, who will?
To paraphrase management guru Peter Drucker, leadership includes doing things well and, more importantly, picking the right priorities.