Shepherding Freedom

(Note: Following is an edited version of Lawrence W. Reed’s remarks at a Nov. 3 ceremony to dedicate the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative, established by a $1 million gift from the Morey Foundation. The Morey Initiative will be led by Michael D. LaFaive, the Mackinac Center’s director of fiscal policy.)

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s staff and board of directors, we welcome you to the Center and to today’s dedication of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative.

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Some of you are here for the first time, but all of you, I’m sure, know us well as a think tank full of economists. Now, I don’t want anybody to be intimidated by that so let me tell you a story that keeps us humble:

A man walking along a road in the countryside comes across a shepherd and a huge flock of sheep. He tells the shepherd, "I’ll bet you a hundred bucks against one of your sheep that I can tell you the exact number in this flock." The shepherd thinks it over. It’s a big flock, so he takes the bet. "973" says the man. The shepherd is astonished, because that is indeed the precise figure! The shepherd says, "OK, I’m a man of my word, take one." The man picks up the animal and begins to walk away.

"Wait!" cries the shepherd. "Let me have a chance to get even. Double or nothing that I can guess your exact occupation." The man says, "Sure!" "You’re an economist for a think tank," says the shepherd. "Amazing!" responds the man. "You’re precisely right! But tell me, how did you deduce that?"

"Well," says the shepherd, "put down my dog and I’ll tell you."

We’re also humbled by the famous definition of an economist offered by the very wealthy businessman, Bernard Baruch. He said that an economist "is a guy who thinks he knows more about money than those of us who actually have it."

This is a seminal moment in the 18-year history of our organization — for multiple reasons. The gift of a million dollars is truly a gift that will keep on giving for years to come. The beneficiaries will be not only the Mackinac Center but to a far greater measure, they will be the people of Michigan who deserve better, leaner and smarter government. It marks a tremendous vote of confidence in what we do, from a great and valued friend. It will ensure a stream of important work — both visible and behind the scenes — that will impact the shaping of Michigan policies on taxing and spending, economic development, and the delivery of services. That work will reverberate beyond Michigan, offering a model for sister organizations in other states to replicate. And it may even inspire other friends of the Center to make new investments in us of similar magnitude. All of that underscores the fact that we are a firmly established, stable and permanent institution that will be here to help make Michigan a better place for you, your children, and their children too.

The Morey family of Winn, Mich., has been very close and special to the Mackinac Center from its earliest months of operation in late 1987 and early 1988. I can proudly say that my personal relationship with the family patriarch for whom this conference room is named, the late Norval Morey, goes back a decade more than that. Norval lived the American dream, and he believed in it. He started a successful, worldwide business from scratch, just 40 miles west of here. And through his support of the Mackinac Center, he invested in the ideas that help make that dream possible for others.

When a great man like Norval Morey conducts his life and raises a son in such a fashion that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, his legacy only grows. Norval would be very proud of his son Lon for growing the company and keeping the faith on issues of importance. Lon, like his dad, is a common sense, straight-shooting, down-to-earth, humble patriot who loves his state and country. He gives generously to improve the lives of people and to preserve their liberties. As head of the Morey Foundation, he is a good and faithful steward of the abundance which his family’s hard work has produced. He doesn’t seek attention for the good things he does, but we wanted to give him some today anyway, for he richly deserves it.

Americans have a love-hate relationship with government. We don’t worship it, but we do want it to do certain things and to do them well. We don’t like it when it lords over us without good cause. And over the generations, Americans have become notorious for often poking fun at it. Indeed, Americans have given rise to a cottage industry of one-liners and witty criticisms of it. You’ve heard them by the bushels. The chaplain of the Senate was once asked whether he prayed for the senators as he looked upon them and he replied, "No, I pray for the country." Another wag said that "Government is double taxation. First it taxes your income, then it taxes your patience."

But we should all understand, as I know Lon Morey does, that it isn’t enough to simply be a critic. President Reagan once said, "We are a nation that has a government, not the other way around." Two hundred years before, Ben Franklin described the government he had just helped craft in Philadelphia as "a republic, if you can keep it." As responsible adults in a free society, we have to be involved. We have to be constructive. We have to offer solutions. We have to recognize that there are indeed many good people in government who need and desire the best ideas for making things work. This is why the Mackinac Center was founded 18 years ago — to be a thoughtful critic when that’s required, to offer helpful advice when it’s needed, to educate and inspire whenever possible, to praise when it’s deserved.

With Michigan facing serious economic challenges, the fiscal policies of its state and local governments loom as critical factors in shaping our future. We must get many things right if we are to restore our state’s economic health and vibrancy. Lon Morey’s generosity will go a long way toward that end, and we simply cannot thank him enough.


Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.